This space is usually reserved for a discussion of some new tool or widget that could help you be more efficient in your shop. This time I want to talk about a different kind of tool. It’s as much a process as it is a product.
Osborne Wood Products sent me some samples of their furniture legs to give a try. I decided to include them in a butcher block table project, using maple offcuts from my shop for the butcher block. The whole process got me thinking about outsourcing and the whole build-or-buy conundrum that seems to afflict small shops. But before we get into that, let’s talk legs.
About the legs
The four maple legs I received came very well packed both with shrink wrap and heavy-duty padding material made from perforated cardboard. The legs were flawlessly finish sanded and ready to go, so all I had to do was add whatever joinery was necessary to include them in my project. In this case, I used Festool Domino loose tenons to join the legs to aprons and feet. Metal brackets were used to attach the butcher block top.
Build or buy?
Using outsourced legs for a project like this saves lots of manufacturing time and it begs the question of why not outsource more? I know many custom woodworkers who have a problem with outsourcing, feeling it is somehow dishonest for them not to make every part of every piece that leaves their shop. But the reality is almost everybody outsources something. You probably don’t forge your own hardware and screws or lay up veneers to make plywood.
In this case, I could have also outsourced the butcher block top instead of doing the very time consuming cutting and glue-up, all so I could use up a bunch of offcuts in the shop. (I had to laugh when Gero Sassenberg sent in his column for this issue, talking about throwing away offcuts!)
Every shop has to find its own comfort level, but using high quality outsourced products like these Osborne legs in no way cheapens the quality of a custom piece as long as you integrate the outsourced products effectively into your design. Outsourcing like this allows you to potentially serve more customers with the same time and resources and it might even free up your shop for more profitable work. Think about it.
For more information on the whole catalog of Osborne Wood Products, visit www.osbornewood.com.
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