Wood Talk Online – #27

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We covered a bunch of topics in Episode 27, including The Wood Whisperer Network, Kaleo’s new baby Taz, Christmas gifts, Matt’s Stretchy Pants, Chris Schwarz’s new book Workbenches, the new Woodworking Magazine announcement, flattening workbenches, and new changes at The Woodworking Channel.

We also answered a few great emails. David wanted our opinions concerning copying other woodworkers’ designs. Brian has a small shop and needs some pointers for using the space efficiently. And finally Tony asks about using a fence with his new #7 plane.

And don’t forget to download your free issue of Woodworking Magazine.

If you have a woodworking question, please feel free to email us at WoodTalkOnline@gmail.com or call us at (623) 242-2450.

10 replies on “Wood Talk Online – #27”

Hey Guys, yes it is Woodwork – a magazine for all woodworkers, that was hashing out the idea of copy written work. I think FineWoodworking also hit the subject around the same time. I liked your approach to the “ethicality” of the practice of reproducing work.
It is inevitable that we borrow this or that from previous artist’s pieces, but when we do and if we are aware of our homage, give credit.
And yes Matt, you will love Workbenches. I want to build the honkin’
French bench to initiate my new shop. She a beauty!

I agree with Vic – the discussion and suggestions on ethics was on the money.

This was an information-packed episode, and I enjoyed it tremendously. Keep the format, as it is a winner.

Thanks, Marc and Matt.

I believe Marc used an excellent example on music regarding what should be considered an original piece or a copy. If I am not mistaken after many law suits regarding song plagiarism there are some rules on what constitutes a copy. A song may have the same basic rhythm, same progression and similar melody and with a couple of melody changes still be considered an original. It would be interesting to know if there are any legal precedents regarding what constitutes an original woodworking piece.

Regarding filling in the hand tool gap… the Furniture/Cabinetry program in which I’m enrolled at the University of Cincinnati does this quite well. The guy who runs the program is quite a galoot and insists that we know how and when to use hand tools. The first few quarters of Furniture Construction require the students, in addition to the project being built, to learn and to produce a hand cut joint, half-laps, dovetails, etc. starting with trueing and milling the stock to propert thickness using planes, cutting with a back saw, chopping and paring waste with chisels… it was a little hard to swallow at first, working away with a plane when you’re sitting 5 feet away from a machine that could get the stock trued and milled in a matter of minutes but it paid off 100% when it came time to assemble machined mortise and tenon joints on a table and I was able with a few seconds of chisel work to clean up the shoulders of my tenons and produce an absolutely seamless joint.

Oh dear, another “copying a ‘design'” thread.

I’m kinda amazed that, even when a woodworking magazine takes out the subject, they don’t bother to get someone who knows what they’re talking about. I mean, they’d never do a finishing article without involving a finishing expert, would they? So why don’t they get an Intellectual Property (IP) attorney involved in these discussions?

So I’m not an IP attorney, so I essentially don’t know what I’m talking about. But I do work with alot of them; one of the things I do at my company is review inventions and see if they’re worth patenting. And sometimes the off-the-clock talk has taken up the subject of woodworking.

Bottom line: we live in a capitalist system. It assumes, and encourages, that suppliers will compete, and compete aggressively, with one another. That will provide consumers with the greatest variety of goods at the lowest possible price.

In other words, just because you want to do something that may piss off one of your competitors, you don’t have to give a rat’s arse about his delicate sensibilities. You want to take a product of his, copy it, make lots of money at his expense? Go ahead. It’s a dog-eat-dog system, and in general there’s nothing preventing someone from copying one of your products. My favorite example of this were those Razor scooters a few years back. A clever idea that caught on big. Unfortunately, they were also relatively easy to manufacture, so soon the market was flooded with imitations. That probably annoyed Razor, but just annoying a competitor is not only not prohibited, but is actually encouraged by our system.

Now Marc touched on the question of misrepresentation. You offer a good for sale, say it’s entirely your original design, when in fact it’s not? Well that’s misrepresentation (fraud). Similarly, if you say something is hand-crafted by Sam Maloof and in fact it was made by you in your basement, that’s fraud too, even if you find someone stupid enough to believe it.

The problem woodworkers get into with this is that they want to assert some type of IP right on their ‘design’. They created it, so don’t they own it? Maybe. Just about everyone asserting an IP right wants to use copyright, because it’s the easiest. You don’t even need to do anything: a “work” acquires copyright as soon as it’s created; i.e., when it’s “affixed to a tangible medium”. And copyright lasts a long time: now it’s out to 80 years after the death of the author, if I remember right.

But the list of things coprightable is pretty narrow. Title 17, the Copright Act, can be found at http://www.copyright.gov/title17/. You won’t find “furniture” under the list of things copyrightable. Many woodworkers consider their products “art”, but you won’t find “art” under the list of copyrightable stuff, either.

But what about sculpture, isn’t furniture similar to sculpture, and thus copyrightable? Well, Title 17 calls furniture a “useful article”, because it’s actually useful for something besides just looking at . The applicability of the “sculptural works” provisions of Title 17 to useful articles is very limited:

“the design of a useful article, as defined in this section, shall be considered a pictorial, graphic, or sculptural work only if, and only to the extent that, such design incorporates pictorial, graphic, or sculptural features that can be identified separately from, and are capable of existing independently of, the utilitarian aspects of the article.”

In other words, only the aspects of a piece of furniture that could exist independently of the fact that it happens to be on a piece of furniture are subject to copyright; e.g., a certain insignia or logo or artistic pattern that could just as well be on a piece of paper: that’s copyrightable.

But furniture designs themselves? Nope.

Note, however, that furniture *plans* a coprightable. The creator of the plans can prevent other from making copies of the plans themselves and selling them. Folks sometimes confuse this ability to copyright plans with the ability to copyright the object.

There is, BTW, a method of establishing a IP right for a furniture design: a Design Patent. A Design Patent gives you exclusive control over the form and look of the furniture that’s patented. Since it’s more complicated and expensive than copyright, it’s now much help to small operators. But it is used sometimes by the big boys; e.g., Thomas Moser has some listed in the USPTO database.

Probably about the only thing useful to the small guy is a Trade Secret: design a cool new piece of furniture, and keep it secret from everyone. Show it to the big boys only on the condition that they sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA), that prohibits them disclosing it to anyone or from doing anything with the design without your permission. Then, if they decide to buy the design from you, you can work out a deal; they’d probably want you also to get a Design Patent to prevent their competitors from copying it, either. But if you show it to anyone without the NDA, or market it yourself, the Trade Secret is lost, and it is essentially in the public domain (unless you get the Design Patent, that is).

Further on the topic of industrial designs (like furniture) and copyright is this at http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl103.html. Note in particular the phrase “although the shape of an industrial product may be aesthetically satisfying and valuable, the copyright law does not afford it protection”:

“Designs for useful articles, such as vehicular bodies, wearing apparel, household appliances, and the like are not protected by copyright. However, the design of a useful article is subject to copyright protection to the degree that its pictorial, graphic, or sculptural features can be identified as existing independently of the utilitarian object in which they are embodied.

“The line between uncopyrightable works of industrial design and copyrightable works of applied art is not always clear. A two-dimensional painting, drawing, or other graphic work is still identifiable when it is printed on or applied to useful articles such as textile fabrics, wallpaper, containers, and the like. On the other hand, although the shape of an industrial product may be aesthetically satisfying and valuable, the copyright law does not afford it protection. The designs of some useful objects may be entitled to protection under design patent law administered by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Write to Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks, ….

Great episode. Just one question: are you sure that EVERY article that Fine Woodworking published is available online? I thought that in one of your FWW interviews that one of the issues they had with putting content online was securing electronic/internet rights to some of the articles.

Some tips on edge planing:

1. This may seem like using “The Force”, but try edge planing with your eyes closed. If your board is clamped vertically, planing a square edge really is just making sure that your plane is perfectly horizontal. You’d be surprised how well your body can tell when the plane is horizontal if your eyes aren’t screwing things up.

2. Check the edge to see how close it is to square, and if it isn’t, shift the plane so that it is centered over the edge that is higher. This concentrates the cut on the high side and helps bring the edge more square. Check again after just a few passes.

3. Matt, if you are getting knuckle burns, EASE UP!!!! :@)

Marc and Matt,

Great show! Keep up the good work. First let me thank both of you for putting me on the right track with respect to a question I asked you a couple of months ago about the rough cut I was getting while ripping boards on my table saw. I thought the saw blade was aligned but when I checked it I did find that it was slightly out of alignment. Your suggestion also led me to dig a little bit deeper into the issue of blade alignment and I found an article in FW that pointed out that it is important to align the blade at 90 degrees and then at 45 degrees.

The alignment at 90 degrees makes the blade parallel to miter slot. Aligning the blade to the miter slot at 45 degrees tells you whether the top is level front to back i.e, in the same plane with respect to the center of the blade. This turns out to be pretty important if you are making bevel cuts and my saw front to back was way out of alignment.

Following the suggestion in FW I used auto body shims to raise the front of the table up. I actually used a board on top of an old auto jack (the screw type) to raise the front of the table and hold it while I inserted the shims. Then I checked the alignment again at 90 degrees. It now cuts like a champ.

One of your listeners asked about using a fence on a jointer plane to create a square edge. I always had problems with getting a square edge until I watched David Charlesworth explain how to true up an edge. The key according to him is to create a small radius on the micro bevel of your plane iron. This means that it cuts more in the middle than on the edges. (The radius is created by dividing the plane iron into 5 sections and putting hard pressure on the outside edges of your plane blade (one edge at a time) when sharpening for say six strokes, then hard pressure with three strokes on the two sections as you move to the center of the blade and then may one stroke with pressure right in the middle.

If the board is true and and your plane iron is aligned then you can run the middle of the plane over the edge and it will remain true. If it is higher on the left side than the right side i.e., out of square with the face of the board you move the plane over to the left so the center of the plane iron is on the left side of the board. When you plane the board, because the blade is curved it will take a heaver cut on the left side than in the middle and on the right helping to square up the board. It takes a little practice but this really works.

One bit of advice about sharpening that I learned the hard way. If you are using waterstones you have to make sure that they are dead flat or your plane will not work properly. Mine were worn slightly on the edges more than in the center and so when I sharpened the blade it removed more from the center than from the sides. If your stones are even .002 out of being flat you will not get a smooth thin shaving when you go to plane the face of a board.

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