12 Lighthearted Questions for Paul-Marcel St-Onge of Half-Inch Shy

I have recently added an arsenal of Festool products to my shop.  But before I made this significant investment I spent a lot of time reading and watching videos. If you have done any research on Festool, or many other woodworking tools, you’ve undoubtably come across Paul-Marcel St-Onge’s blog:  Half-Inch Shy.  His comprehensive videos were such an important of my research, that after watching him for hours on end I just had to ask him some lighthearted questions.

1- What was the first Festool item you purchased?

I had no tools or shop to speak of really; was borrowing tools from my dad so my first purchase was kinda big: CT-22, RO-125, PS-300 Trion, and TS-75.  The Trion was a now-broke-man’s bandsaw for the first couple curvy projects.

 2– Have you ever made a Hockey stick?

No… I wouldn’t know how to pre-load the stick with goals anyway.  It would be an interesting project to try a bent lamination for the blade.  Closest I get to ‘making’ a hockey stick is fiberglassing the shaft when it gets a nasty gouge in it; sure helps it from snapping early.  Learned to do that watching videos from JamestownDistributors on fiberglassing boats for repairs.

3–What tool do you think Festool is missing from their inventory?

What!? Hey, if they are missing something from inventory, I didn’t walk off with that Domino XL; nope, wrong guy!

I use the RAS-115 to sculpt often enough; a friend of mine and I have played with the idea of buying an extra dust shroud for it and modifying it so you could use a more aggressive blade rather than just a sanding pad.  Seemed to need more engineering than spare parts and duct tape would accomplish.  So that’s what I’d like to see… adapt the design of the RAS to make it easier to really hog off material for sculpting and not end up looking like Fozzie Bear.

 4- Did you have shop class when you were in school?

Well, that’s what it said on the schedule, but it was amazingly lame.  I had high hopes of liking it back then, but the class was dismal.  When I later started getting interested in woodworking, I remembered how bad that class was and wondered if it was woodworking I didn’t like or the class.  Blame is squarely on the class now 🙂

 5–What methods do you use when you are indeed a ‘half-inch shy’?

That’s always an interesting challenge, especially if you’re off by a Metric measure… I used to get really upset with myself about mistakes like that.  Still do, but at least the fix is an interesting (if usually time consuming) challenge.

Some things I’ve done…

  • Depending on where I’m at in the project, adjust the other dimensions so the short piece is the correct size 🙂
  • Put the missing material in the back where a clean joint makes it very difficult to find.
  • Buy marshmallows, chocolate bars, and Graham wafers and burn the part in question to make s’mores.

6–What is it with IT guys and woodworking?

That’s an easy question! In software, I spend a lot of time writing code that gets replaced 6 months later.  In fact, right now, I finished code to be released that is scheduled to be pulled in January.  There is no longevity.

Woodworking lets you build a project that is complete and can last generations.  It also lets you express your own designs… I like designing software so that carries over to the physical wood medium.  Then there’s problem solving; there’s a lot of that in software so the challenges of a woodworking design that has some tricky parts is another point of interest.  For example, on this diamond-shaped cabinet I’m making now, there are some parts of the design I’ve hardly thought about other than “I need nickel rods here”, but have no idea how they’ll get attached yet.  As I get closer to glue, I’ll think about it more 🙂

7– What tool have you bought and have never used?

I bought the ‘cool’ templates for the Leigh D4R jig and have never used them.  They make whimsical ‘dovetails’.  I may still use them someday, but they really have more a place in making toy boxes or hope chests for kids.  Not all together sure why I got them.

I try to buy when I need something not buy in case someday I need it.  That statement, however, is completely disregarded when I see shiny Bridge City things.

8–Is it about the tools or the wood?

Both!  I like nice tools, whether it be nice power tools or, especially, nice hand tools.  But if you have nice tools and butt-ugly wood, what’s the point?!

I have too much wood stored in a separate garage bay simply because I saw it and liked it.  Really don’t have the room to stockpile nice stock, but some of those boards won’t have equivalents available around here.  Here being Arizona; about the only indigenous stock we have are Nopales… ever dovetail Nopales? exactly…

For example, I have some very nice quarter-sawn Sycamore boards 16-18″ wide by 12′ with a lot of rust colors and spalting.  In this case, I bought the boards then thought of a project for them.  Very likely my next big project partly because I need the cabinet and because I want the space back in my shop!

9–Do you have any buddies, other than the online community, that are into woodworking?

I have a friend here in Chandler I met online who is into woodworking.  He makes excellent Maloof-inspired furniture for his home, and is fast at it, too!  Otherwise, my other friends are into everything but woodworking.  Conversations with those friends are like, “what’s your next project?”, me, “blah blah blah”, them, “oh, sounds nice.  A week passes.  Them, “how did that project go?”, me, “got a lot done, got the wood and dimensioned it; ready to start cutting”, them, “what?! i thought you finished it already”. -sigh-

10–Salsa.  Is there a blog for that?

Definitely… this one for Arizona happenings: http://azsalsa.net/.  But when the past week has been in excess of 115ºF, you don’t feel much like going to clubs with inadequate A/C.  Coincidentally, this weekend is a big summer dance festival just over in Palm Springs, California.  Go if you’re close and not stuck dog-sitting!

11–What woodworker do you look to the most for inspiration? 

A friend I made online and have subsequently met: Roger Savatteri.  While he does woodworking, he also does a lot of designs in acrylic resins, fiberglass, metal, basically anything using hand-tools, power tools, CNC, and lasers.  He’s the type of guy who I call to setup an afternoon together in LA (where he’s from) to show him my goofy project design to see if he sees anything aesthetically messed up.  Couple days later, I’ll get a call, “hey, that one tricky part of the design, wouldn’t it be easier to do…”.  Genius.  Also the breadth of his design work appeals to me.

So while there are plenty of woodworkers whose works I admire, Roger is someone I became friends with and feel like I learn a lot from even over a casual conversation.

The only project of his I have photos of are The Ark that appeared in a FWW Design Book (#8 I think).  Bent laminates, veneers, laser CNC, metal working, acrylics and resins; doesn’t look it at first sight.

Ark - front view

Ark – front view

Ark - door detail

Ark – door detail

Ark – Interior Stands

12–What is the stupidest comment you’ve ever gotten on YouTube?

“Hey, nice shop asshole!  Thanks for the great videos; keep it up.”

It was a bit like a sweet n sour sauce: you just don’t know how to take it!  I don’t get a lot of comments on my blog or videos so I shouldn’t complain about this one…  I admit, I was tempted to reply “hey, nice comment asshole! thanks for the great comment; keep it up.” 🙂

Paul-Marcel St-Onge

Do yourself a favor and stop by Paul-Marcel’s blog, Half-Inch Shy and be sure to watched the abundance of valuable videos on YouTube.


4 thoughts on “12 Lighthearted Questions for Paul-Marcel St-Onge of Half-Inch Shy

  1. Like you, I came across Paul Marcel while researching Festool products. As a Australian I really like his off-beat humour and am really impressed by his knowledge and the time he puts into his videos.

  2. I have been mesmerized by Paul’s videos. I love the talent, common sense and the humor. I’ m a brand new woodworker, well I’m really not a woodworker yet since I haven’t cut my first dovetail. I’m so green that I don’t even know how to hold a chisel properly. I’m recently retired but when I was working I had visions of getting starting with woodworking as a great hobby. In fact, I got started the absolute wrong way- I decided I would buy all the tools I needed and get my shop set up I bought only the best and most powerful tools on market. After spending between 15 to 20 thousand dollars, I got a substantial promotion within my company which required flying every week to a different part of the country. I never cut the first board on my 3 hp table saw, never used my jointer, planer, router etc ect ect. The only good thing about this woodworking story( or shall I say non- woodworking story) was I inherited a son-in- law who happened to have some talent in woodworking. I was in Florida and he and my daughter lived in Tucson, AZ. I gave him EVERY tool I owned, power and hand, and he paid for the shipping to Tucson. After retiring I landed in Tucson where my 2daughters and 4 granddaughters are and made my first visit to my son-in-law’s home. I wandered out to his garage naturally interested in how all the woodworking tools were doing. He had dedicated an old detached garage as his workshop. I mentioned earlier that he had some talent in woodworking but I saw immediately he had no talent in taking care of tools, neither power or hand. Every tool had more sawdust on it than a Chicago snow drift ( which was where I was when I retired). After wiping a crocodile tear from my cheek, I went into the house without a word. He invited me to use the tools whenever I wanted there is no way we can co-exist in an environment like that. My retirement wallet is quite a bit thinner than when I was working and power tools sure have changed( sure love what I see with the Festool Systems). I’ m now in the right frame of mind to begin woodworking the proper way. Any advice on how to get started would be greatly appreciated. Tucson is not far from the Phoenix area. Would you have any objection to a shop visit some time? Naturally at your convenience.

    • Bit of a sad story, Terry… it’s why I don’t lend out tools… if someone didn’t have to pay for it, they don’t care for it.

      My email address is on my blog’s “About me” page; send me an email and we can talk about wandering by

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