The Zen of Woodworking #2: Steps

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Blog entry by BigAxe posted 09-26-2014 04:07 PM 1258 reads 0 times favorited 0 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: The Beginning Part 2 of The Zen of Woodworking series Part 3: Adventures with my power drill »

Wood working appears to have a number a number of separate and well defined steps. Each step requires its own tools and skill set.

Step 1: Go into the woods, find a tree and cut it up into boards. Allow the boards to season for two or more years. I suspect many wood workers forgo this step and head directly to a lumber yard. I know of one headstone and probably there are more which reads “Killed by the fall of a tree”. I have bought some lumber from lumber yards, but now I tend to scrounge wood from those who are equipped to cut down and saw up trees. As I kid I use to love to wander into the woods and cut down a few trees and build a camp so I may yet still head off into the woods.

Step 2: Design something to build. This requires using the artistic half of my brain the half that has not really developed. I tend to get my inspiration from others. I try building different things so I am never really get good at what I build. But on my bucket list is the desire to design and build at least one piece that is exceptional.

Step 3: Rough cut the lumber to near finish size and allow to acclimate in the shop for a few days. I pass the boards through my planer to reveal the grain. and select the portion of the wood I want. I use a hand saw to cut to length. I rip to width on my table saw and if necessary cut to thickness on my band saw. There seems to be a basic rule of woodworking that no matter how generous I am in allowing extra length width and thickness the finished piece will alway be smaller than intended.

Step 4: Square up the wood and cut to near finished dimensions. I use my table saw, hand planes and electric planer to do this. (I love using my hand planes). I now have in my hands a beautiful perfectly square and flawless piece of wood. I could sit all day and feel its’ smoothness and admire the grain pattern. And with trepidation I go on to Step 5.

Step 5: Join the pieces of wood together by cutting various joints. I use various hand tools and a router. This requires skill and eye-hand coordination neither of which I have in abundance. As a result my nice pieces of wood are dented and nicked, stained with sweat and in at least one case blood. Right angles are no longer right. I literally have given blood sweat and tears (I was near tears once when I hit my finger a mallet). I also lament for the tree which has spent most of the last century growing in the forest and is now only suited for firewood. But as I assemble my work. I manage to salvage the joints, and do a final planning and scrapping to restore the wood to its natural beauty. I recut the pieces and that I have mangled and hide the flaws. I now have something I can stand back and admire again.

Step 6: Finishing is the final step. With a few strokes of a brush in an instant of time I can totally ruin something I have spent months on. To paraphrase someone on YouTube, finishing can either rescue a bad piece or destroy a good piece. I used to rush into this step, because I was anxious to finish my project. Now I walk away from it and return in a few weeks. Staining and painting requires a whole different skill set, one that I have not yet quite mastered.
But if I master this step as well as the first five I may eventually have something to be proud of and maybe something my grandchildren will admire and pass down to their children.

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