Monday, October 28, 2013

Law of Distraction

Now that we are all in the thick of our projects, the bench room has quieted down.  People are focused on the tiny details of what they are creating, not wanting to make any mistakes now that they've invested so much time and energy.  But this level of concentration for 8 hours a day, 6 days a week requires superhuman abilities.  Or other things of less importance to do.

While some go outside for a smoke break, others linger in the reading room looking at old year books filled with pictures of former students' work.  Tall students reach for the climbing things, doing pull ups, as they pass through the room. Sometimes we wander over to someone else's bench to chat or watch them work.

I like to believe I'm productive so I make easy tool/wood helper things out of some free purple heart.  But most times, I reach for my smart phone and check facebook.  I tell myself I'm staying connected to home but I when I'm home, I know it's also how I stay connected.

While on a beach walk with a friend, I spoke of these distractions.  She related a story about a young nephew who called the things that pull us away from something "attractions".  Hmm...I really like that.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


Definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.

This is what Laura reminded me of when I called her over for the umpteenth time to check my hinge mortises.  Last week during her lecture, she stressed the importance of getting the top and bottom hinges lined up so that the line through the pivot points are vertical.  But because my door is concave, the sides of my cabinet angle outward and the edges of those sides are shaped at an angle.  Thus, it's difficult to get a good reference point for the knife hinges.

Plus, I have to deal with someone (me) who has difficulty taking anything slowly (or listening to Laura when she tells me to use a wedge for a guide).  And this process is soooo... slow.  Two days of measuring, checking measurements, slightly chiseling, slightly filing, fitting and refitting, and then finding a gap in the mortise or a hinge that's not aligned.  I call over Laura again and ask her to tell me what I don't want to hear:  "yep, you should do it over." Patch kit comes out.....again. 

Somewhere in all this I asked Laura:  "how do people do this day in and day out?"  Her response:  "that's what you're doing."

Yes, I am. 

doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A Woodkorker's Hands

My hand

Things men have made with wakened hands, and put soft life into
Are awake through years with transferred touch and go on glowing
For long years.
And for this reason, some old things are lovely
Warm still with the life of forgotten men who made them.

D. H. Lawrence

The other night I was introduced to a man as a student of the woodworking program here in Fort Bragg. His comment after we shook hands:  "You have woodworker hands".  In my other world, this would have bothered me but nowadays it gives me fodder for a blog post.

I've asked a lot of my hands over my lifetime and it shows. After years of abuse, they're now more dry, rough, and hardened than they ever been.  And for over two months now, these hands have been through the worst beating ever.  They've been sliced by a variety of sharp blades to the point where I'm running out of band aids, bruised from forgetting to keep my hand out of the way while pushing my plane through wood, I've had splinters underneath fingernails that make me want to scream, and of course there's that arthritc thumb that's in constant pain.

Yet throughout all this abuse, these hands are becoming a delicate tool. A tool in which I'm learning to use to feel wood. They are acquiring a sensitivity to the bumps and ridges the machines or my hand planes leave behind.  They're understanding that edges that have been gently rounded over are "friendlier" than edges with 90 degree angles.  They are learning to slow down, touch each piece of wood lightly and gently, as if everything mattered.  And it all does matter.  Because these rough, dry, woodworker hands are allowing me to create things of beauty.

So whatever your hands find to do, they must do with all their heart, there are thoughts enough to blow men's minds and tear great worlds apart...   Don't worry what you are not doing, because your voice cannot command, in time you will move mountains, and it will come through your hands.

John Hiatt

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


We are all past the stage of choosing our project.  For some (me) it was rather easy.  I've been looking at the "Krenov" cabinets for years and coming into this program, my plan was to build a very sweet and small one with dovetails and beautiful grain patterns.  I've even saved a space on my wall at home where I envisioned three cabinets would hang.  But now, so much has changed.

Laura gave us guidelines to follow as we thought about our project: sweet, small, solid, and simple. In the past, she has stressed the importance of making sketches, technical drawings, and mock ups but she also encouraged us to allow the project to evolve organically through choice of wood or design.  That's what happened with this beautiful piece of Japanese oak.

When I first walked into the wood room, this piece of wood caught my eye in a big way.  I wanted it.  But someone said how rock hard it is so I walked away knowing I could never cut a dovetail into it. Then came Jim Creger....a big guy with big arms.....and good taste in wood.   Originally, he wanted to make a cabinet as his sketches show.  But along came another Jim.....

Jim Budlong, who suggested he make a table instead.  To him, that's what the wood is meant for.  Agreeing, Jim Creger has now started down a different path with his project. 

I imagine all of us are experiencing this change in direction to some degree.  We have an idea of what we want, we make a plan, and set out to make it happen. And then something gets in the way and throws us off.  Some can shift gears easily, as Jim has, while others will dig in their heels and keep their heads down to stay on their original path.  Either way, we are all choosing what is right for us at the time. 

And as one friend commented awhile ago....that's kinda like life, isn't it?