Rants from Rapid City: Episode 1, Barry's Brain--like two bobcats in a burlap bag

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Blog entry by BarryW posted 09-17-2007 07:52 PM 1495 reads 0 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Yessireebob, I have my own blog over on blogspot. That’s where I’ll probably do most of my posting from my shop stuff. Yet, I suspect I need two blogs…this being the second one because I have two minds….major ones at least…and then a host of minor ones. Some of my minds I tossed out a long time ago, thank gawd.
Then again, they sometimes reappear in the strangest places full of thoughts and fears. These whacky minds I’d thought I tossed out are some from kiddhood…foolish minds…minds full of real garbage.
But I digress. I said I have two minds. Yes. One mind is a practical kind of fellow who follows logical paths to their conclusion. The other mind is just a plain nutjob full of creative juices who sometimes writes and sometimes makes…whatever.
I read something Frank wrote about Japanese woodworkers. Their clans. Their craft. I pictured in my mind these guys running around the country…a few prized saws, planes, tools in a pack…ready to build something for Mr. and Mrs. Bigatazaki or Mr. and Mrs. Littletanaka. And then I pictured families of woodworkers doing the same thing…and factories of woodworkers…like the Chinese guys making planes. And I’m thinking about the world in general and letting my mind go to places I’ve been on the web. The auction sites where whole woodworking factories are up for auction. What happened to the people who worked in those factories? What happened to the American woodworkers who had spent their entire lives in these factories only to have the company close down. Production gone. Jobs gone. I remembered looking at a guy’s prized homeshopmade guncase on this website and how much he speculated how much he might get for it if he sold it. Then I searched gun cabinets on the net…finding that the guy was way overpriced…gun cabinets from somewhere, nice ones, good wood, starting about 7- 800 dollars. And what about the Chinese and all the other countries in the world….the piano manufacturing once a part of this nation now gone elsewhere. Latvia. Italy. Korea. Japan and now China. I’d heard a about a guy making the world’s largest concert grand pianos in a California workshop for $600,000.00. David Rubenstein is an amazing craftsman. Who is going to buy such an instrument when a 9 foot Latvian product costs 80 grand and an excellent German grand costs 150 grand and an American…well, it boggles the mind. I talk about grand pianos because I’ve played numerous large instruments in my life and while their were sound differences, each had their own set of joys. And can Americans keep these industries going with the price of American goods and services sky rocketing?
Could I make any money as a woodworker making this or that in my soon to open homeshop. And am I doing this for money anyway? And what about my aesthetic? My artistic mind…my pianist mind…my poetic mind.
I was grabbed by Krenov’s writing years back…something that got ahold of me like woodworker’s heroine….one guy, searching for good wood, making a small shop, doing what he loved to do. Scraping wood to a fine finish with hand tools…and just enough electricity to power a few large tools…the rest of the creation with hands and mind. I was reminded of my guru’s teachings…my poetry professor, G. S. Sharat Chandra, at Washington State University….sadly now passed away in 2000 in Missouri…and what he taught me about being…poesis.
Am I doing this for money? or am I doing this out of personal need/expression. Is this my poetry? And why have I been sucked into this gottahaveeveryelectrictoolintheworld attitude. Why can’t I just be that Japanese guy with a rice bowl and few worthy tools?
I am a large man with large appetites in many areas of my life. I now suspect that I haven’t controlled my appetites they way I should have…that someplace along the line I haven’t learned the kind of discipline I needed to learn to be really good at anything…though I have to admit I wrote some great radio commercials at one time in my life…funny and effective stuff. Who cares?! And I had a decent voice that sold alot of cars, boats, jeans, furniture in the American marketing disaster void of progress. Who cares?!
And why do I drive the neighborhoods in the old parts of town drooling over trees I could never have and reminded of the walnuts and elms and maples and lindens zipped down for so much firewood.
So, Mr. Practical Woodworker Mind of Mine, how are you going to wrap up this rant today? You built this box of words…now close the lid on it. Well, I know I don’t have all the experience I’d like to have to build a piano or a harpsichord…yet. And I know that I have a small slice of patience. Perhaps with this direction…something I’ve gone over and over in my mind for years and years…that maybe…if I just shut up… close the doors of the other minds that invade my thought processes…that maybe I can build something that will satisfy me for more than five minutes. But there’s always the next poem, the next project, the next big thing…and what about Naomi? Tune in next week, friends, for another thrill-packed adventure of “Rants from Rapid City.” (cheap organ music swells in the background) ANNOUNCER: “Rants from Rapid City” brought to you by DaimlerChrysler makers of Jeep and then soon not to be Jeep or something like it AND every huckster toolhawker in sight…making empty-pocketed woodworkers over-extend their credit cards since Diner’s Club invented them….AND by GOD: Let’s see you make 50 billion visible galaxies. (cheap organ music up and out.)
ANNOUNCER: We now return you to your own mind, already in progress.

-- /\/\/\ BarryW /\/\/\ Stay so busy you don't have time to die.

10 comments so far

View WayneC's profile


13754 posts in 4093 days

#1 posted 09-18-2007 12:44 AM

Great rant Barry and one that will take a while to digest. Working in the software industry, I see the same thing happening with the technical jobs leaving the country and the justification that American workers are too expensive. Makes me wonder what we will have left in 20 years; fast food and retail?

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View Mark A. DeCou's profile

Mark A. DeCou

2009 posts in 4401 days

#2 posted 09-18-2007 03:09 PM

Hey Barry. When you blog in your other site, you might just drop us a note here, with a link back to your blog. There are so many blogs on woodworking outside of lumberjocks that I can’t remember to check them out. However, if you cross link here for us, we can find your notes elsewhere. I’ve had to reduce my internet reading to just lumberjocks, as I just don’t have time to do much else since the site has grown so well.

Your thoughts here reminded me of a recent show on the Woodwright Shop, where Mr. Underhill used Thoreau’s philosophy on woodworking to make a great show on philosophy. The one thing he said that stuck with me was his discussion on staying “singled-minded” when woodworking. Mr. Underhill is not known for his methodical and systematic execution of complicated joinery and woodworking. We all watch him because he is entertaining, not because he is good at woodworking.

He noted that being “single-minded” was what he lacked in woodworking. I already knew this from watching him the past 20 years or so, but it was cool that he admitted it himself. It was funny, as he said he was thinking about his lack of concentration while he was cutting a board with a handsaw, and noticed that while he was thinking about concentration, he had wandered from his cut line. I think for many of us that do woodworking, the better we can stay focused on one thought at critical times, the better our work is. I am ADD, or ADHD in many other aspects of my life, but when it comes to concentrating on a critical detail, all the planets line up, the clock seems to stop, and my mind focuses exclusively on the task. When I am not in that mode, I have learned to stop and do something else. The only times I have ever drawn blood in the shop was at the times I wasn’t concentrating singly on what I was trying to do.

Enjoyed reading your thoughts as well,
glad you are here,

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

View Mark A. DeCou's profile

Mark A. DeCou

2009 posts in 4401 days

#3 posted 09-18-2007 03:13 PM

Good point WayneC. I was reading Karson’s blog on the big auction in Virginia. I couldn’t help but be sad at the jobs leaving our country in the shut down of another furniture works. We are a vanishing breed. Sometimes I feel like a good buggy whip maker with a shop next door to Mr. Ford’s new Model-T factory. In other words, “no future.”

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

View RobS's profile


1334 posts in 4302 days

#4 posted 09-18-2007 05:22 PM

A well named rant from the appropriately named “Americanized” city labeled “Rapid”. Everything is in the “here-and-now” and with the “what-have-you-done-lately” attitude. I will always look forward to the slowly developing tale from a “not-so-fast-there-sonny” town.

Good points and good read, thanks.

-- Rob (A) Waxahachie,TX

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4156 days

#5 posted 09-18-2007 07:00 PM

Mark, I have often concentrated on concentrating and lost track of what I was really doing..
but when that moment is really “in the moment”—wow. Life is grand!!

We complain about the way our society has developed, and we are saddened by some of our ways of thinking (or perhaps I should say “some of our minds”) but I guess the only thing we can really do about it is live according to our “mind of choice” and avoid the temptations of our current society.

Great blog, Barry. Can’t wait to read more. I love philosophosizing.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View Buckskin's profile


486 posts in 3984 days

#6 posted 09-21-2007 02:05 AM

Whats a guy, or gal, to do? It is a shame that we have outsourced ourselves to a shambles. Every time I think I really need that new electric gizmo for the shop or home I think of folks like Mr. Underhill. Look at the things he produces with a saw, chisel, and hammer.

Great rant and a great read!

Tip your cup to the west for me. I miss the Blackhills and the haunts just across the border from you.

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 4310 days

#7 posted 09-21-2007 05:34 AM

Hum… Generally furniture building jobs in this country pay low wages. So I don’t think it is our wages that are too high…maybe it is just that we pay taxes and more taxes, plus a whole bunch of hidden cost. Maybe our money people have too much control of the government. I better stop or I’ll start poking the bobcats with a sharp stick….

View DaveJ's profile


73 posts in 3919 days

#8 posted 09-21-2007 03:51 PM

If I ever start selling my handcrafted furniture, it’s a given (to me) that they will be sold to people in the top 5% income bracket (or maybe it’s 10% or 1% or 0.1%). It’s not because those outside of this range wouldn’t want it, or appreciate it, it’s just that they couldn’t afford it. I don’t know where the chicken and the egg are in the low income / cheap goods cycle, but if people could only buy handcrafted furniture, most of the population would be standing around in houses with no furniture. The “plight of the working poor” is a very real problem in this country, but that’s not why I’m posting this, it’s just to point out that only those with large discretionary incomes can buy most of our wares. I wish that wasn’t the case, but here we are.

Mark wrote “Sometimes I feel like a good buggy whip maker with a shop next door to Mr. Ford’s new Model-T factory. In other words, ‘no future.’” I agree with the sentiment, but I’d pick on the analogy. We no longer need buggy whips because we no longer drive buggies. Americans do still need furniture (or cutting boards or picture frames or whatever it is that we build), but the family with two kids and combined income of $32,000 won’t be buying our handcrafted pieces. However, there is a narrow slice of the population that can afford it. And some of them would appreciate it.

I’m fortunate to have a good wage from a corporate job, but I choke when I see what I’ve spent on materials for the couple of projects I’ve built this year for our family. While still paying off the remainder of college and our mortgage, and trying to throw more and more into my 401k, frankly I feel guilty spending hundreds for the materials (and my labor is free). In other words, it’s unlikely that I’d buy my own pieces – I need to sell “up” in the food chain.

-- Dave J. Eagle, ID

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 4310 days

#9 posted 09-22-2007 04:31 PM

Ok I’ll poke the bobcats just a bit…I can build affordable furniture. I’ve built lots of nice competitive price quality stuff. What I can’t do is build it and sell it and stay competitive. I build an nice dinning room table at around $650.00 with chairs at $175.00 each. That is not Walmart prices but it is competitive with most quality sets you find in your downtown furniture store. If people went to furniture builders to get their furniture and were willing to wait a few weeks they could get good quality LONG LASTING furniture. I just can’t sell to normal folk after the store owners mark stuff up 100%. Last night I had a great hamburger with real french fries at a local place. It was cheaper than MacPukes. Yet hardly anyone ate there. The fast food joint was packed…hum.
I like hearing you rant Berry!

View sergeantrecon's profile


33 posts in 3635 days

#10 posted 06-09-2008 11:37 AM

I am currently in school pursuing a political science degree but am having serious second thoughts about what I “want to do with my life”. I am still young (28) but as you noted in another blog, I’ve always wanted to work with wood. Sadly, the market is slim and I have to think of my family etc. Soo, what is a guy to do? In this day and age, globalization is a hard fact to swallow, but it isn’t going anywhere but deeper and deeper into our lives. As for the richest 1% that can afford our work, fine, let them buy it and pay my mortgage; they don’t have the skills to make anything worth while, just the genes to have a trust fund.

-- Scouts Out Front!

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