The Zen of Woodworking #1: The Beginning

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Blog entry by BigAxe posted 12-12-2013 07:46 PM 1140 reads 0 times favorited 1 comment Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of The Zen of Woodworking series Part 2: Steps »

Woodworking seems to be the process of obtaining lumber taking it to my shop and converting it to smaller pieces of wood.

I have a pile of small pieces of beautiful wood that I don’t want to throw away because of their perfection and because they may come in handy for some future project. They perfectly clear and straight. And they do come in handy. But I seem to add to the pile more than I take away. And eventually I have to cull it. These pieces make a great fire in the living room. But any grief is soon assuaged by pleasant fire, nice music and a favourite beverage.

I also generate piles of shavings from my hand plane. The making of these shavings gives me pleasure. The long thin shaving which curls up into a tight ball that I generated from the full length and thickness of a board gives me satisfaction. Also some sense of accomplishment and confirmation that I am learning the craft of woodworking.
These shavings are eventually swept up added to the saw dust generated from my other tools and put in a plastic garbage bag which ends up at the curb for the garbage man. I feel guilty about this. I once offered some to a cat person to use as kitty litter. But after careful inspection she declined my offer, it may hurt her cats paws.

However the greatest evil of woodworking is the generating of fine dust particles. These are not pieces of sawdust or shavings that quickly fall on the floor, but material that hangs in the air for hours after it is created. This material gets into my lungs a coats everything in my shop. This is something I did not anticipate when I began this hobby a few years ago. I have made considerable progress in reducing this evil but have not yet to my satisfaction.

I have had an epiphany recently. The goal of woodworking is the process its self and not the finished project. I have too often rushed a project to completion to satisfy some artificial deadline or forced myself to do work when I rather be doing something else.

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874 posts in 1902 days

#1 posted 12-13-2013 12:50 AM

Well said. I used to feel the same way about deadlines, or making things as quickly as possible. I think we are conditioned to this by the woodworking videos and shows we all watch where someone (or a team of people) complete a beautiful piece in a convenient half-hour segment. I think this fosters an unhealthy expectation among new woodworkers that everything is easy to do and will come out perfectly straight and even from the power tools. Probably the lone exception to this is Roy Underhill, but that guy’s just a straight up genius. I would say my own recent epiphany came from the realization that it is incredibly hard and time consuming to make something that comes out as well as you had hoped it would. Then again, if it was easy it wouldn’t be much fun. Sort of like coloring books probably aren’t much fun to an art major.
Well look at that, now you’ve got me going on the zen of it all. Good post I hope you keep this thread going.

-- Bailey F - Eastern Mass.

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