LumberJocks

Overcoming Woodworking Fear

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Blog entry by Don posted 12-28-2006 03:59 AM 2561 reads 1 time favorited 29 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Today, I’m going back to a project I completed in June 2005, a rocking chair. The end result looked beautiful (to my eyes) until I sat in it, that is.

You see, the problem with my rocker is that it doesn’t rock. Somewhere along the line, I had made an error, or perhaps a series of errors that resulted in the center-of-gravity being too far forward. The result was that when one sat in the chair, it would rock 1/3 forward and 2/3’s back. Very unnatural, and most uncomfortable.

But that’s not the real point of this story. The point is…

Well, there it sat in our music room for a year and a half. It just sat there, reminding me every time I went into the room that whilst I had created a thing of beauty – it was a failure. Occasionally, it would beckon me t sit in it, and at first I did. But doing so just made me angry – I can’t say who or what was the object of my anger, but I was decidedly angry. This is the antithesis of what a rocking chair is supposed to do. One would expect a rocking chair to drain away the tension and stresses of the day leaving one rested and restored. But no – just just the opposite – anger!

With the passing of time my anger wained and I was simply left with a feeling of disappointment. I was disappointed in myself for having messed up, but I was even more disappointed that I didn’t have the courage to fix it or scrap it. And scrapping it was the most likely next step, because frankly, I didn’t have a clue how to fix it. Friends suggested adding weights to the rear of the rockers, or shortening the rear legs, but none of these well intentioned solutions seemed feasible to me.

The next emotion was fear. Fear? Yes, I was afraid to tackle a restoration, because I didn’t really know how, and I was afraid that I would destroy the only positive that the rocking chair offered me – I liked how it looked in our room. I also feared any interest the rocking chair generated with visitors to our home. I kept moving it out of the way where it wouldn’t easily be seen, but my dear wife would move it back. She couldn’t understand that I had given birth to a ‘still-born’ and just didn’t want people to know.

Then a few weeks back I stumbled across the Lumberjocks site. Wow! What a great bunch of woodworkers – I was stunned. And one of the wonderful outcomes of this discovery was making contact with William Kappel. I contacted Bill about his offer to provide free rocking chair instructions and mentioned my experience. He responded with an offer of help and some detailed suggestions on how to rectify the problem.

That’s all I needed, advice from someone who had specialized in making rocking chairs, but more than that, someone whose specialty was rocking chair balance. So today, I started the restoration. I am fairly confident I can fix my chair. I’ve cut the rockers free of the chair and am now crafting some new ‘rocker-blocks’. It will take me a few days, but at least I’ve overcome the fear-factor.

Thanks William Kappel.

-- CanuckDon "I just love small wooden boxes!" http://www.dpb-photos.com/



29 comments so far

View Karson's profile

Karson

34891 posts in 3088 days


#1 posted 12-28-2006 04:13 AM

Don: I looked at your picture of the rocking chair. And, it seemed to me that sitting in an at rest state, the chair seemed to be standing too upright. Almost looking like at regular chair. I guess that is the problem that you are trying to fix.

Good luck in your endeavour.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware karson_morrison@bigfoot.com †

View Don's profile

Don

2600 posts in 2865 days


#2 posted 12-28-2006 04:26 AM

Yes, indeed, that is the problem. Whether I can actually rectify this remains to be seen, but at least I’m no longer afraid to give it a go.

Thanks, Karson.

-- CanuckDon "I just love small wooden boxes!" http://www.dpb-photos.com/

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 3002 days


#3 posted 12-28-2006 06:39 AM

Beautiful Chair…I specialize in uncomfortable chairs! At least you can fix it.

View frank's profile

frank

1492 posts in 2894 days


#4 posted 12-28-2006 12:52 PM

Hi Don;
Ha! Throwing the ‘fear-actor’ to the wind is the finding that all is well and yes I can do all things! Never having built a rocking chair I can still appreciate your sense of anger at completing a piece that failed to meet your standards, some call this a woodworker’s ‘rite of integrity’.

I also have a piece of wood, a rustic table that sits in my office right here beside me, that has never lived up to what I desired it to be. To some who see it, it appears beautiful, but to me it just has not yet arrived as complete. So I continue to think occasionally of what if and how to, as the piece waits silently and my mind screams at me to do something. Someday I answer back and maybe tomorrow.

Don, I liked your writing here, as to me at least I can hear your heart talking, as the spirit of the artist is poured out….keep showing the human side in sense of failure and great gain as this is when we excel. Maybe we should start a section where we post what we call failures and then show how we plan to overcome in spite of what me, myself and I says.

By the way, the French word for how your rocking chair looks is: ‘somptueux’ which can be translated as ‘pulchritudinous’....having great physical beauty and appeal!

Have a very good day!!!!
GODSPEED,
Frank

-- --frank, NH, http://rusticwoodart.tumblr.com/

View Don's profile

Don

2600 posts in 2865 days


#5 posted 12-28-2006 01:13 PM

Wow, Frank, where do you find these words? And to define somptueux as meaning pulchritudinous doesn’t help this Aussie/Canuck. How about attractive, beauteous, beautiful, comely, fair, good-looking, gorgeous, handsome, lovely, pretty, ravishing, sightly, stunning, or something that is characterized by having great physical beauty and appeal.

Unfortunately, I think all of these words are over the top when describing my rocking chair, because I’ve concluded that in this case you can separate beauty from function. There is something decidedly ugly about an object that fails to live up to its purpose. Her beauty is only skin deep.

I spent a few hours today starting to rectify that – we’ll see.

-- CanuckDon "I just love small wooden boxes!" http://www.dpb-photos.com/

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 2987 days


#6 posted 12-28-2006 01:41 PM

It’s funny what a fraction of an inch, or a few degree’s can affect things. Otherwise I think you did a fine job.
I wish I had the talent for writing like some of you people on this forum . My problem is I lack the vocabulary, or at least how to transfer what I do know onto the page, but I think since I’ve been on this forum, it’s been getting a little easier for me. Some of your skills may accidentally rub off on to me, I hope !

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN. http://www.woodcarvingillustrated.com/gallery/member.php?uid=3627&protype=1

View Don's profile

Don

2600 posts in 2865 days


#7 posted 12-28-2006 02:28 PM

Dick, likewise, I wish that some of your skills would ‘rub off’ on me.

-- CanuckDon "I just love small wooden boxes!" http://www.dpb-photos.com/

View frank's profile

frank

1492 posts in 2894 days


#8 posted 12-28-2006 03:25 PM

Hi Don;
The words actually find me as they just come from inside me, all I do is release my fingers to play this keyboard and what comes out often surprises me as well. Ha! Well to me its all about just letting my heart sing, might be the aftershock that comes from staying in the woods too long and listening to the sound of singing birds.

“How about attractive, beauteous, beautiful, comely, fair, good-looking, gorgeous, handsome, lovely, pretty, ravishing, sightly, stunning, or something that is characterized by having great physical beauty and appeal.” Actually that word ‘gorgeous, is the definition of ‘pulchritudinous’ which is then made French by saying ‘somptueux’. But then by saying ‘somptueux’ I said all the above in one word!

Your chair may not rock and roll, but to my eyes her beauty is more then skin deep.
GODSPEED,
Frank

-- --frank, NH, http://rusticwoodart.tumblr.com/

View Obi's profile

Obi

2213 posts in 2925 days


#9 posted 12-28-2006 03:50 PM

Don,
I’m sure glad you posted this, as i plan to create a rocker using Bill’s plans, and seeing that if it’s too far front, or too “upright” there will be… problems.
I understand fully the frustration of spending long hours and then having something go wrong just as the finishing touches were applied. I made a DVD cabinet that had wheels on it. Do to the design the wheels had to be about 1 1/2” inches from the back of the project and the weight all sat on the very back edge of the piece, making it back/top heavy. While attempting to place magnets on the piece to keep the doors closed, they (the doors) both fell open causing the entire piece to tople over backwards. Due to the fact that the doors were both 1” larger than the back of it they hit before the rest of it ripping the hinges from the piece. I usually use wooden dowels and glue except on this piece in which I used little nails and no glue. Not only did the hinges rip out but the shelves all fell out and the only thing that kept me from beating it seriously with the nearest hammer I could fine, was the fact that the customer had already paid me $100.00 and I didn’t want to have to give it back, along with the fact that he was still going to pay the remainder of $300 upon completion. I put the doors in the truck and took them back to the shop. Luckily none of the parts were damaged, so I simply cut of the excess inch, glued up everything, clamped it and waited for the glue to drive. Well, o.k. so one of the doors was demolished so I had to make a new door. It’s drying as we speak, with dowels and glue.
I was once told that a carpenter was one who could improvise.
My Slogan “I can fix it!”
Happy Rocking
P.S. You can fix it

View Obi's profile

Obi

2213 posts in 2925 days


#10 posted 12-28-2006 03:53 PM

Also does the chair need to be moved back some or just shorten the back legs. PLEASE, tell us how you overcame the situation.

View Obi's profile

Obi

2213 posts in 2925 days


#11 posted 12-28-2006 03:54 PM

And on the 8th day God created matches so that our mistakes can at least keep us warm for a little while. hahahaha

View oscorner's profile

oscorner

4564 posts in 2999 days


#12 posted 12-28-2006 03:59 PM

Well, Don I share your delima. I started on a rocking chair, not as elegant as yours, last year. I turned the four post and that is where it ended. You see, the two back post were 42” long and my lathe will only handle 36”, so I had to turn them in sections. I have a 1/2” x 1” tendon on the end and need to drill a socket on the other section to make one long post out of them. The fear factor has kicked in and I have delayed this next step. I know that if I don’t get the socket perfectly centered that the two sections wont line up and if that happens, I have no way to turn it on the lathe to correct it. After reading your story, I will try to overcome this fear and return to building my rocking chair. Thanks!

-- Jesus is Lord!

View scottb's profile

scottb

3648 posts in 3015 days


#13 posted 12-28-2006 04:27 PM

Don – Function aside, the chair looks great. Move the legs back, shorten the rear legs, put on new rockers or just plain chop them off… let us know what comes of it.

Dick – Don’t worry about the writing… (not that there’s a problem with yours) words just aren’t up to the task of “speaking” our thoughts (especially in the extremes!)

-- I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it. - Van Gogh -- http://blanchardcreative.etsy.com -- http://snbcreative.wordpress.com/

View Obi's profile

Obi

2213 posts in 2925 days


#14 posted 12-28-2006 06:16 PM

Some people have the toilet paper with a new word everyday … that’s one way to improve your vocabulary

View Don's profile

Don

2600 posts in 2865 days


#15 posted 12-29-2006 01:46 AM

I appreciate the encouraging comments, friends, but I think I will keep head down on this one until I see if I really can fix the problem.

Michael, the essence of the repair is first, to cut the chair free from the rockers, shorten the rear legs by 3/4”, remove the existing ‘standoffs’ and craft new standoffs, then re-attach. The balance is done by trial & error. By increasing the thickness of the front standoffs by degree until the rocker is at the correct incline with the chair seat at about 20 degrees from horizontal.

Bill suggested that I use a contrasting wood for the new standoffs as the mismatch will look intentional rather than a mistake.

-- CanuckDon "I just love small wooden boxes!" http://www.dpb-photos.com/

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