First, the caveat:
I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about woodworking, trying to make sense of what it is that has always drawn me to it. I’m notorious for over-thinking, overanalyzing and basically spending too much energy navel-gazing. This blog is intended to get some of it out of my head. I’ll be glib, sarcastic and flippant in my other posts. Who knows how this one will turn out. It may be a train wreck, so reader beware! If navel-gazing doesn’t hold any appeal or distraction for you, move on. If you’re allergic to estrogen, move away quickly.
My own personal rules are to not to spend more than 30 minutes on any one post. I can correct a mistake if I catch it right away, but can’t go back. If I post it, I can’t edit or delete. I tend to edit things to death and have been known to delete my posts before it’s too late. (If you’re reading this Monte – you caught me)
If anything resonates with you, feel free to chime in.
My Nanny lived into her 90s and was a great old gal. Hard life is an understatement. She played hockey on the marshes in the 1930s wearing a long wool skirt. She married her husband and by all accounts, things went to sht after that. 7 kids, 2 died, husband left, no welfare, worked as a cleaning lady in the hospital. Working poor in a small city. My mom didn’t have new shoes until high school.
By the time I knew her, she lived in an apartment. She smoked Benson and Hedges cigarettes, read Louis L’Amour novels, went to Bingo and quilted. She was a hoot. She taught me how to play poker, and when she took her morning medication she’d make some comment about taking her “burt control pills” because you never know who might show up. I tried to get her to teach me how to quilt. It didn’t go well. She couldn’t slow her hands down enough for me to follow what she was doing. I bought a book, figured it out and was off to the races. Queen sized quilt for my husband when we were married, one for my brother and his first wife, one for each of my children. Then I got too busy and haven’t touched it since. I loved working with my hands and producing something, so quilting was enjoyable in that regard, but it didn’t float my boat. I didn’t go to bed and dream about paisley and wax philosophical about different fabrics.
I make bread. Bought a bread maker and hated it. I make it by hand, have made sourdough starters that sat in the back of the fridge, made artisan bread, used the steam method. I make it fairly regularly but it’s fallen into the category of ‘something I do as a mother and wife’. I feed my family. We eat crap fairly often, but for the most part we eat home cooked meals at the kitchen table. I’ve got one shot at raising my children and I take it very seriously.
I’ve scrapbooked. Gone to weekend ‘scraps’ bought tools, embellishments and did pages celebrating minutiae.
I was making something with my hands, and I still do some, but in a very scaled back way.
So what is it about wood? When the work/family/life thing gets crazy I tell my friends that I want to be a carpenter when I grow up. Or is wood going to be like the other ‘hobbies’? Jump right in, by the tools, work away and then walk away? At this point I don’t think so.
The gender issue is inescapable, but is a touchy topic. I can’t pretend to understand all women, nor can I even to begin to understand men. For whatever reason, I’ve found men to be more straightforward. For the most part. If they don’t like you, you know. If a woman doesn’t like you, all her friends now and you’re the last to figure it out. Now I want to delete this. Crap. Back to wood.
Last night I was cutting, or is it chiseling? mortises at 11pm. I was in my sock feet in the garage because I had just gone out to put something in the recycling bin. Then I just took a look at my first mortise, then I measured a few things again, looked at the plans, and the picked up a chisel just to put it away. I could have stayed in the garage all night, but knowing that I have to be a reasonably pleasant human being in the morning finally had me hit the hay. I went to sleep thinking about the mortises, how I cut the stretcher pieces for the workbench a bit narrow, and that maybe the shoulders of the tenon would be to0 narrow as a result, and how I should really check that in the morning and adjust the size of the mortises and tenons on that piece.
9:42 hmmm that went by quickly. That’s the point I guess. When I’m working with wood, I don’t notice the time flying by. I was using the chisels with a hammer wrapped up in an old facecloth because I don’t have a whatchyacall it yet. The word will come to me. Mallet. That’s it, I don’t have a mallet yet. So I was figuring out how much easier it was to cut the sides of the mortise because I was cutting with the grain, and how different it was to cut across the grain. When my second mortise fit nicely I was thrilled. Beyond thrilled. My hubby is away (back tomorrow) but as supportive as he is, I really don’t think he would have wanted to come out to the garage after midnight to appreciate that the tenon fit tightly and that the shoulders were flush with the board all around.
I guess that’s today’s deep thought – Nobody expects me to be good with wood. It’s not on the list of things I must do to be a good mother, good wife, good employee, allround decent human. It’s not an obligation and it’s certainly not expected of my gender. Maybe that’s what the appeal is. Who knows. I used to envy my brothers for going to Boy Scouts and doing ‘cool’ things like building fires and camping. In brownies we learned about the Queen mother. Not cool. So I guess that makes woodworking ‘cool’.
9:52. I’m going to instantly regret posting this. AAAAAAAAGH
-- No, I don't want to buy the pink hammer.