The good thing about the Internet is that you can find tons of information on nearly any subject in seconds. If you can’t find an answer to your specific question, you can find a forum where you can ask, and more experienced people are ready and waiting to share their knowledge. What’s the best way to glue up a tabletop? Where should I stand when ripping a board on the table saw? What’s the deal with referring to lumber as 4/4, 6/4, 8/4, and what does S4S stand for? Pose one of those questions and prepare yourself for a range of responses from all quarters.
The bad thing about the Internet is that you can find tons of information on nearly any subject, and if you ask a question on a forum you will get so many responses from so many sources, you’ll end up having to figure out the way that works best for you. Maybe that’s not so bad. Most of woodworking comes down to problem solving, and learning to solve a problem with the tools and resources available is the most valuable skill you can possess. But on the way to gaining experience, we want someone to make it easy for us, then when we have experience we want someone to validate us. You haven’t really arrived as a woodworker until someone quotes (or swipes) your answer to a basic question online.
I spend way too much time reading woodworking forums, and lately I’ve been wondering how woodworkers would respond to a basic question from another area, such as cooking. It might go something like this:
Woodrow Wannabee: I’m new to this, but I think I’m ready to tackle making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. What’s the best way to get started? What tools do I need, and what’s the best bread, peanut butter and jelly? Also, I can’t decide if I should put the peanut butter on both pieces of bread or only one. Please help, because it’s getting close to lunch and I’m hungry.
H. N. Mighty: Before you can even begin to think about actually making a sandwich you absolutely have to make sure that your work area is complete. Then and only then can you consider things like tools and material. You need a dead flat solid rock maple butcher block counter top from Indiana for your kitchen, or your project is doomed. When you have that, come back and we can tell you about the other stuff.
Bill Ding: Good tools are essential for making a good sandwich. You can’t just pull any old knife out of the drawer and expect good results. You also can’t use the same knife for spreading the peanut butter and jelly and for cutting the sandwich in two. Some people try to get by with antique knives, but I wouldn’t dream of using anything but a set of three handmade knives, a #3 for spreading the peanut butter, a #5 ⅓ for spreading the jelly, and a #6X serrated edge for cutting the completed sandwich diagonally. I get mine from a little company in Maine, but there is a guy in Scotland who makes better ones. I’m on the waiting list, and I’ll let you know in two or three years how much better those are. Of course you also need two special spoons, one to get the peanut butter out of the jar and another to get the jelly out. You need the ones that come from France. Otherwise you risk contaminating the peanut butter with the jelly or vice versa. DAMHIKT, but you wouldn’t want that to happen.
Purist: Technically it’s not peanut butter and jelly, It’s peanut butter and JAM!!! Unless you’re willing to use that plast-icky purple stuff, but you sound smarter than that. Of course, you have to use organic strawberry preserves, and don’t even think about trying to get by with crunchy peanut butter.
Ultra Purist: If it’s peanut butter and JAM, then why in the world are you recommending preserves? In any case, strawberry is for amateurs, I always go with peach preserves from the north east corner of Georgia. And I don’t want to hijack this thread, but almond butter is better for you than peanut butter any day of the week. And no one has yet mentioned the most important part of any sandwich, the bread. If you’re not baking your own bread from organic whole grains you’ve grown yourself (from a field plowed with Belgian draft horses by the way) you have no business trying to make a sandwich.
Pure Food Guru: I used to think the knives from Maine were the best, especially when I was selling them, but I had a recent revelation. I’m now convinced that the new line of knives and spoons from China are far superior. I’m so convinced that I decided to endorse them and feature them in my new videos, but I don’t make a dime on them, really. I just think they’re better. A lot better. Honest.
Tex Spurt: I’ve never actually made a sandwich, but my wife’s cousin’s boss’s nephew’s neighbor said he read in one of the magazines that the biggest mistake people make is in spreading the peanut butter sideways without enough downward pressure. If you don’t put enough pressure on it as you spread, the peanut butter can fall off on the way to your mouth. You need at least 35,000 pounds of pressure or it’s no good. You and three of your neighbors each need a knife about 6 inches wide with a handle 5 feet long to give you enough leverage to get the peanut butter into the pores of the bread.
Technoguy: That’s a bunch of nonsense. With that much pressure you run the risk of extruding away all the PB & J, and starving the sandwich. What is important is to get an even layer of goobers. The Spreadtech 2000 will automatically spread to within .000004” if the humidity and temperature are within accepted parameters.
Tex Spurt: So, you’re saying science is nonsense? I suppose the next thing you’re going to say is that we never landed on the moon, or that cryogenically treated A2 steel isn’t vastly superior to 01 when it comes to making giant spreading knives.
Technoguy: No one in their right mind would try to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich by hand. Get out of the stone age and into the modern world. You may find a poorly spread sandwich acceptable, but my family deserves better than that.
Woodrow Wannabee: Thanks guys, but I think I’ll just run down to McDonald’s for a burger.