Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Curves and Chaos Theory

The popular way to describe chaos theory is that a butterfly flapping its wings in one part of the world can cause a storm on the other side.  In the wood shop that means a small choice made at the beginning of a project can make a huge difference down the line.  That's how my initial choice of making a cabinet with a coopered door feels.  I chose it because I thought it would be pretty (it is) and fun (it was...for the first 2 hours of planing).  I had no idea what I was in for.

With a concave door, comes sides angled outword.  They can be flat or one can take an extra step and give the sides a slight curve, as Casey Moffitt did on his cabinet.  The top and bottom of the cabinet also needs to have curves to be consistent with the door while paying close attention to the grain on the front edges.  Next comes the drawer box, again curves top and bottom, sides angled just right to fit tightly into the cabinet.

Now the final challenge is those drawer fronts.  Curved and shaped to fit the portion of the drawer box they'll lie in and edges cut at an angle to fit the sides.  But.....those edges need dovetails!  And the back of the drawer fronts have to be flat where the sides meet but wait....the back is curved.  Oh, did I mention the back also has to be straight vertically?  What about the fact that this drawer front is only a little over 2 inches in height and less than 3 inches wide.  In my previous posts I mentioned that I have to do both drawers perfectly to keep the continuity of the grain.  So, if I mess up on the second one after spending a huge amount of time on the first, I get to start all over again.  And it doesn't end there but rather it continues into a chaotic world that has made my head spin continuously over countless weeks.

Throughout all these feelings of upheaval, I not only learned and developed wood skills I never thought I was capable of but I also learned more about myself than I would have liked.  At one point throughout all the lows of making the drawers, Doug Mackay asked what I was working on.  I just pointed at myself and said "me".  We both just quietly laughed, shook our heads, and shuffled back to our benches.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Polka Dots and Stripes

After all these weeks of working on my cabinet and looking at stripes everywhere, I'm in the mood for something different. I want polka dots.

Specifically, I want to use this piece of Japanese Oak.  It's the first piece of wood I fell in love with when I first entered the wood room.  I saw, I wanted.  And I so want it for my drawer fronts.  But even though it's thick enough to get two pieces out of it, it doesn't follow the rule for continuity.  With two drawers side by side, the visually appealing thing to do is to choose wood so that the grain flows from one to the other.  This piece isn't wide enough and there isn't any more.

Thus, for the past two days, I've been working with Madrone, my fallback choice, thinking I was going to add some polka dotty texture to it.  But today, I couldn't stand looking at it's blah-ness and chucked that idea.  I'm feeling stuck.  I want to break the "continuity rule" so I can use that Japanese Oak....or maybe I really just want to break any rule.

We're finishing up week 13 and I'm finding it more difficult to keep at bay the part of me who always wants what she wants.....mostly, to do things her way no matter the outcome. I keep thinking about what Laura said more than once: that this experience will be like a roller coaster.  I never imagined it meant that I would have to continually struggle with myself, who I am versus who I want to be.

The phrase "I want"?  Some friends will ask: "how's that working for you?"  It isn't....not in the wood world nor in the real world.  So it's time to borrow that "let go" phrase from my last post and let go of everything.

Except maybe those polka dots and stripes.  I will be using that oak in my drawers......the bottom, where there are no rules. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Let Go

We have just entered week 13.  Glue ups are happening.  Some with excitement, others with lots of trepidation.  I dragged my feet towards gluing up my cabinet.  I would reach for other things to work on and when I had questions about my more urgent pieces, Jim Budlong was the first to tell me to put it aside and get my cabinet ready instead.  I tried again with Laura a few days later and she told me the exact same thing.  "You're just like Jim!", I wailed.  But now my cabinet is glued up and I'm able to move on to those other things.

One of those things is a small drawer box that
fits inside the cabinet.  This school is well known for its Krenov cabinets but what makes them so special is how the drawer slides in and out of the drawer pocket.  Of course, there's no rattle, but even better is that when one pulls the drawer open, it slides smoothly, and before it's open all the way, there's a slight pull that keeps the drawer from slipping out completely.  That's called "let go".  To get that clean feeling, one has to put in at least 2 1/2 days of very detailed work....at least, that's how long it took me.  And then it took about 2 1/2 minutes for me to blow the box apart....not enough glue.  All that precision work gone. Poof!

After drowning my sorrows with a friend that evening, I dragged myself in the next morning, poured a ton of glue into the joints of my drawer box, clamped it up, and went home....all before noon.  And I didn't come back. That was my first time taking any time off and that's when my epic fail turned into one of those "aha" moments.

Getting some unscheduled rest snapped me out of whatever funk I had been in the past few weeks. After spending weeks on the smallest of details, feeling like I was getting nowhere, doing the work I was doing was becoming drudgery.  And with that feeling, I was quickly getting to the point of not caring.  Too tired, too discouraged.

Now?  Game is back on.  Along with those 8 hour days, 6 days a week, is rest.  Lots of it. Play too.  If I'm going to do serious work, I can't take it too seriously.