Deep Thoughts - Reader Beware #5: Fear and pride in the workshop

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Blog entry by Sandra posted 06-04-2013 12:45 PM 1807 reads 1 time favorited 20 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 4: Label - retentive Part 5 of Deep Thoughts - Reader Beware series Part 6: Online friendship »

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 anything resonates with you, feel free to chime in.

9:10 – I think this is my first morning blog entry

Yesterday, I jointed and planed 12 boards of rough maple for my workbench top. I’m respectful of the danger any power tool presents, but I’m quite comfortable using both my planer and jointer. The boards were heavy, and as I started to tire, i reminded myself to watch my footing around the sawdust and the cord, and made certain that my hands were nowhere near the infeed of the planer or the blades of the jointer. I do wear gloves (no lectures please) They are very snug with a rubberized coating and in some ways they make me feel safer because I’ve dropped pieces of wood while in the process of getting a nasty splinter. Some of the boards were quite heavy and wide, and the gloves allow me to handle them better.

Each time I took a break, both tools were unplugged.

So my next step is ripping the boards. This is where my fear and pride go to battle. Last night I posted a forum question about ripping the maple, and had some wonderful advice. I was just about ready to head to HD this morning to pick up a different blade for my TS when another thought popped into my head, “crap, if I buy a thin kerf blade, will it be compatible with my splitter?” I don’t think it will. I’ve had the splitter and pawls on my TS, and off, and then on again. The splitter/kerf issue explains why I struggled the last time I used the TS. Never dawned on my until just now. I’ve looked into getting an aftermarket riving knife for my TS, but then I’m afraid that if I’m using something that wasn’t intended for my particular saw, will I be putting myself in unnecessary danger?
I have read everything I could about table saw safety and I have actually practiced hitting the off switch with my knee, but the thing still scares the fluff out of me.

The logical thing to do would be go out and check the danged manual for my Bosch TS. Will get to it.

If I use the TS, I should use feather boards. I’ve never used one and don’t even own one. (Add to the list for HD)
A year ago, it wouldn’t have bothered me to admit that, but somewhere along the way I’ve developed some type of newbie pride where I think I should know about feather boards.

Or I could use my bandsaw. But then i’d need outfeed support for sure, and the last time I used the bandsaw, I wasn’t happy with the results, so something needs adjusting. I’ve read my Bandsaw book numerous times and have more info on blades than I may ever need (no – I don’t have a woodsclier yet)

I think I”m seeing a trend here in my ramblings. Back when I knew nothing, every new thing was great. Now that I know a bit, I’m feeling less confident.

I have a neighbour who has a beautiful basement workshop and he builds incredible furniture. He has offered to help if I ever needed it, but here’s the insane part. i’m proud of the work I’ve done so far, but I’m afraid to ask for his help. Why?? I’m a reasonably sound-minded adult, usually quite capable of handling differing opinions and sorting through BS. I know for certain that this guy would never look down his nose at me or make me feel stupid, so why the fear? What’s the worst that can happen? I suppose the worst that could happen is that he’ll point out that I’ve been doing everything bass-ackward and I’ll feel like a dufus. Or he may gasp at the safety risks I’ve been unknowingly taking. I suppose he could unknowingly burst my bubble in which I think I’m making progress.

So, what’s a semi-neurotic woodworker to do? Nothing, of course. Except search for the closest SawStop dealer, and spend an hour looking at accessories, reading reviews and thinking about the fact that I have free shipping for a month on Amazon, despite not being able to afford a new saw in the first place. And looking up after-market riving knives and dreaming about having a shop wired for 220. I know i can’t buy my way out of my fears, but it’s fun trying.

Essentially, I’ve frittered the last 2 hours away because of a mix of fear and pride. To make matters worse, I was reading about my TS and landed on some posts on another WW site where they seem to enjoy looking down their noses at plebes like me.

If I could spend as much time in the shop as I do thinking about the shop, I’d have built an ark by now. I even ruined a good night sleep by thinking about how I would get the job done with the maple.

By reading other posts and blogs, I don’t think I’m the only one prone to attacks of shop paralysis.
All the info I need is out there. I’ve had great advice and am reasonably informed.
I just have to get out of my own way, and get it done.
Or call my neighbour.
Or maybe I should really organize the Tupperware cupboard first.

That was a quick 30 minutes. Do I actually have to do something now? Maybe more coffee is the answer.


-- No, I don't want to buy the pink hammer.

20 comments so far

View fredj's profile


186 posts in 1818 days

#1 posted 06-04-2013 01:30 PM


Sorry if I annoy you, but don’t wear gloves when using powertools. Splinters are part of the woodworker’s life. I’ve been pulling, cutting, and digging them out for 40 years. Better a painful splinter than a lost finger.

As for you table saw, don’t fear it, respect it as you would a gun. You can buy a hard maple countertop for less than the price of the wood to make it if you can find a counter top wholesaler. I made my work bench when I was 20. Wish I had known that at the time. You could save your maple for something else.

Like you I tend to think too much about things before doing them. Just started a table out of wood I bought 25 years ago.

Good luck !

-- Fredj

View patron's profile


13604 posts in 3342 days

#2 posted 06-04-2013 01:41 PM

our fears can be a good friend if dealt with open eyed

like looking both ways
before crossing a street
even if you hear no traffic
crawling across just in case
makes no sense either
somewhere we need to find that balance

when i start mt day and go to turn on the first tool

a small prayer

‘keep me safe Lord please’

it centers me into what i am doing
and focuses my mind on the work at hand

as far as knowledge goes
it seems to be an endless task
something that never ends
or we never have enough of

through our attention to the task at hand
we gain the feel for the work
and it’s ever changing needs

when you turn on the tool
the spark goes to the motor
feel it going into your hands too
and ‘become one’ with it

when your hands know the work
listen to them
even when your mind
is thinking about
that pink hammer

just because someone rode over niagara falls in a barrel
and survived
doesn’t mean you know how to do that too
regardless of how many times
you watch the movie

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View Sandra's profile


7207 posts in 2076 days

#3 posted 06-04-2013 01:46 PM

Thanks for the smile David. I like the Niagara Falls reference.

And Fred, I see your point on the gloves, and am mindful of the risk. One of the goals in building my bench was improving my skills and confidence, so I really want to build the benchtop.

I appreciate taking the time to comment.

-- No, I don't want to buy the pink hammer.

View Bluepine38's profile


3379 posts in 3086 days

#4 posted 06-04-2013 02:10 PM

This sounds like something I used to resemble for some strange reason. The habit of wearing gloves when
doing carpentry was broken by a supervisor who asked why we would want to wear hand shoes, to the
point that I seldom use them for wood unless it is in log form. The only thing I can say about the table saw
idea is that you will learn to use it, but it will take time and remember to be careful. I was introduced to the
table saw early in life, no lectures, just showed how to use it and put to work. Never saw a riving knife until
many years later, never had a kickback, guess I was lucky. Hope you have many happy hours in your shop,
and yes the hours spent planning and thinking also count.

-- As ever, Gus-the 79 yr young apprentice carpenter

View etumos's profile


11 posts in 1857 days

#5 posted 06-04-2013 03:08 PM

I am in many ways in the same boat as you and some of the other posters. I am an Eagle Scout and a Marine. I learned a healthy hear of dangerous things and activities, beaten in to my head by my father and my leaders. Like Bluepine38, I too was introduced to table saws and other power tools at a very young age.

You MUST find that place between fear and mindless indifference. As long as you fear it you are prone to making accidents, but a healthy respect may save your life and reduce your stress levels. Everyone always says measure twice, cut once. Take the same approach with your tools. Think Twice, Then Cut. Give yourself a quick once through of what your about to do, then do it.

I would kill to have a fellow woodworker as close to me as you do. I am a relatively creative person, but I am not nearly as creative as my father is after his 40+ years of woodworking. There is something about longtime wood workers, they think fourth dimensionally or something. GO TALK SHOP! My bet is that he is more starved for it than you think.

I hope to find a fellow WW in my area soon. I will ask them to come over to my shop and give it a once over to make sure there is nothing that I am forgetting on the basics side. In the meantime I have been spending a lot of time getting things in order.

Good luck with your blog and good luck finding your comfort zone. I plan to keep reading

-- Jason; Auburn, WA

View Bernie's profile


422 posts in 2838 days

#6 posted 06-04-2013 03:24 PM

Sandra – like you, my saw is a wimpy 10 Jet that pulls 1 1/2 hp and I rip thick stock as long as the blade can clear it. If your lumber is that heavy, it will smother the blade to a stop before it kicks back. That’s why I have my saw set for 1 1/2 hp. I could change it to a 3hp, but that scares me. I like the 1 1/2 hp and I’ve learned to work with it. When ripping thick hard woods, I cut slower.

You do have another option right there in your shop – the band saw. I know the cuts meander and wander a bit, but cut slow and then take that wavy cut to your jointer and true it up. While remodeling my kitchen last year and adding a chunk of the barn to it, I was blending the original kitchen floor, the pantry floor (added on shed at one time) and the barn floor. The barn floor was 3 1/2 inches lower then the high point 58 inches away, so I had to cut these serious tapered 2X4’s and I did cut a lot of them. I ran them on the band saw just outside the line and brought it to exactly where I needed them on the jointer. They were perfect. I put one down every 10 inches and laid 3/4 ply over them. Haven’t heard a squeak.

This method might waste a little lumber, but it worked for me.

-- Bernie: It never gets hot or cold in New Hampshire, just seasonal!

View DAC's profile


148 posts in 1997 days

#7 posted 06-04-2013 04:37 PM

fear nothing but fear itself. fear leads to accidents and other problems. respect leads to understanding.

-- Wood is a zen like experiance.

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

29235 posts in 2339 days

#8 posted 06-04-2013 05:19 PM

I have spent days stressing over something I need to do. Even if my mind is saying that I am blowing it out of proportion. I do believe that it’s better to be too cautious than barrel in and screw something up. On the gloves, although not generally favored, I do consider it somewhat a personal decision. With lathes, drills, mills and the sort I would never wear them. When it is below 20 degrees in the shop, I probably will be wearing them myself.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View DocSavage45's profile


8559 posts in 2843 days

#9 posted 06-04-2013 05:33 PM


I may know a thing or three about negative thinking, anxiety and in my case ANGER. We all have our own journey in the world of wood. Critical thinking is great but only for problem solving. It has to do with what parts of the brain you are using. Otherwise the triggers kick in our early (childhood) defense systems. It’s a totally different place if you are in opposition with yourself?

If I assume…well you know that phrase….LOL! And if I don’t it becomes an adventure?

I use mechanic and woodworking metaphors in my “other work”. In helping another to gain insight I ask “What’s the difference between a Master Woodworker and the apprentice?” Then let them process it. After the processing I say “The apprentice asks, “When will this be done?” And the Master replies ” It is never done. It is just where you are right now”.

When I started the wannabe furniture maker journey I called every woodshop that was listed in the yellow pages or if someone knew someone. I was turned down EVERYTIME! For different reasons, even though I offered to work for minimum wage! Talked to a man who said “Get a Grizzly catalog” And I did. I’ve purchased a couple hundred books to learn from, and met Charles Neil along the way. I have most of his DVD’s. It’s close but not like having someone there to guide me. I expect MANY MISTAKES.” But things Charles repeatedly says or does stick with me.

Hey ..just thought of a solution for the gloves. Watching Charles work I observe gloves Michael Jackson style!

I understand you have concerns. Just taking that step forward, and backward and forward again will take words and book learning into knowledge.

If I had your knowledge resources available to me I’d beg to learn..yep! I’d clean his shop (and I hate to clean) . He probably can tell you about the many issues and strengths of a band saw. I just asked “Blackie the band saw box maker” about my issues with a band saw.

Now I have to translate words into experience, and knowledge.

I know you have courage, and you like a challenge. You have come a long way…and you and I have a long way to go? We must use the non verbal side of our brain.

“Drawing on the right side of the brain” is a helpful tool

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View fredj's profile


186 posts in 1818 days

#10 posted 06-04-2013 07:08 PM


Right after posting about not wearing gloves, I realized that while working in my shop at home I often wear sandals, flip-flops, or go barefoot. Things I would never have let an employee do anywhere where I have been a supervisor.

If you feel like your TS is underpowered try ripping just over half the thickness of the wood, then flipping it over and cutting it again from the other side. Your wood will have to be square for that to work, but it’s easy and safer than having to push very hard to make a cut. I have 2, 1 1/2 HP TS and a 3 HP. I find the 3HP to “feel” safer as it cuts everything much easier.

-- Fredj

View revwarguy's profile


130 posts in 1902 days

#11 posted 06-04-2013 07:17 PM

My take on what you wrote, Sandra, is that you were simply thinking. Not being philosophical, stressing, neurotic, or any of that – make no apology for thinking.

If we do get philosophical and look at why we do what we do, for me its the thinking part that is the main attraction. There is a real pleasure that comes from figuring out how to make something happen – imagine something that wasn’t there before and then bring it into reality. It is almost therapy for me, allowing me to shrug off all the other concerns of the day and occupy my mind solely with accomplishing a goal that will result in a feeling of satisfaction. Additionally you can enjoy the gratitude that comes from giving the item to someone who appreciates it. The more you do, the more confidence you gain such that when you can’t figure something out, it becomes a fun challenge to solve, not something to fret about.

You’re not alone in this, and you don’t have to repeat everyone’s mistakes – you can learn from your neighbor or the vast amount of information here on LJ. Sure, as soon as another human is involved there are egos and politics that can creep in, but if you can learn to ignore that stuff, there is real joy in sharing (receiving as well as giving) that comes from it. I blog just about everything I build, mostly for the wonderful email correspondence that results in even more sharing of information. Yep, there are the trolls, but learning to laugh at human frailty is just another benefit that comes from this!

I think for some the attraction is more sensual – they like the way a plane feels as it slices across the face, or the way you can bring up a shape from a gouge or chisel. These folks lean more toward hand tools, of course, but I think there is a little of that, as well as the problem-solver in all of us. Power tool folks enjoy the peace of mind that comes from the concentration of moving material along a cutting edge.

Impatience comes from looking at a project plan and thinking “This ought to take about 2 days” or whatever time you guess. Then, when it took longer that you thought (which was based on poor information at best) you are dismayed only because you set your expectation up to fail, not because of your lack of skills. If you can adopt the attitude that “things take just as long as they take” no more, no less, then you can relax and enjoy it all more.

Perhaps instead it should be “think twice, cut once.”

-- "72.6 per cent of all statistics are made up on the spot." - Steven Wright

View Craftsman on the lake's profile

Craftsman on the lake

2791 posts in 3438 days

#12 posted 06-04-2013 11:03 PM

Don’t ignore splinters

To add to paranoia… I developed osteomyelitis in the first digit of my index finger from a splinter. It’s an infection that almost destroyed the bone. The prognosis. Cut it off. I opted the for the long shot option. I had a pic line put in under my arm into an artery and down into my heart. My wife and I did a 1 hour task each day for 8 weeks of injecting various syringes and antibiotic into the line. Doing any exertion would move the line so I was layed low for that time. The antibiotic killed all the bacteria in my intestine and I developed c.diff which is a nasty and dangerous infection of the colon. I started to bleed. Enough that I ended up 4 days in the hospital and had to have a blood transfusion from loss of blood. I was laid up with severe anemia for a few months. The bottom line is that I spent roughly August through February trying to fight this. Netflix got a real workout. It was oak and a splinter that I don’t even remember so it couldn’t have been that bad. The MRI and operation on my finger to clean out the infection verified a puncture, probably by a splinter.

-- The smell of wood, coffee in the cup, the wife let's me do my thing, the lake is peaceful.

View DocSavage45's profile


8559 posts in 2843 days

#13 posted 06-05-2013 12:32 AM

Wow! scary!

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View DIYaholic's profile


19620 posts in 2676 days

#14 posted 06-05-2013 01:18 AM

Perhaps you are over analyzing your respect of your TS and turning it into a fear of it!!! ;^)

Does your neighbor, the woodworker have a “better” TS??? Perhaps a helping hand on a “better” TS will help to quell your fears. Ya may even learn something!

Don’t let….
(What word am I looking for?)
No, that’s not it!
“Foolish Pride”, yeah that’s it!
Don’t let your foolish pride prevent you from learning from another woodworker. Yes, you will still be able to say that YOU built YOUR bench!!!

You will figure it out. You’ve figured everything else out so far!!!

-- Randy-- I may not be good...but I am slow! If good things come to those who wait.... Why is procrastination a bad thing?

View jumbojack's profile


1676 posts in 2625 days

#15 posted 06-05-2013 02:11 AM

Gloves, I wear them sometimes, and I am VERY aware that I am doing so.
Feather boards, GET them, use them, it is one less thing you have to do. I think they make for a safer cut. I trust you have sufficient outfeed on your TS. it is essential.
Coffee with a neighbor cant be a bad thing. You dont have to get together with the premise of getting ‘help’.
Watch this video, pay particular attention to the part about adjusting the blade on the upper wheel;
You will be amazed at the result.
When confronted by a large job, I fall back on sage advice given by a West Point instructor
“By the inch it’s a cinch, by the mile a trial.”

-- Made in America, with American made tools....Shopsmith

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