Reflections on technology and woodworking #2: Distraction

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Blog entry by Douglas Bordner posted 04-15-2007 10:47 AM 1111 reads 0 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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Well to recapitulate, I began reflecting on the journey to LJ, essentially with the installation of high speed internet after some 16 years on dial-up, the last ten of which my primary job description involved the daily use of computers for design work and administrative tasks.

New vistas opened and I spent several days getting project photos together, posting to LJ and photo sharing sites. Together with this effort, and a fascination with The Woodwhisperer Podcast and other internet attractions, my wife has begun to worry. Earlier I made an offhand comment to the effect that I should have stumbled upon this community in January when I have to run a salamander for an hour before I can run belt-driven machinery or use glue. That would have been better than discovering this all just when peas and lettuce need planting, the mower needs set up, the snowblower needs Stabil and the kick-off to a bathroom remodel (my first) is scheduled.

But really that is just a little bit of the iceberg. Deb hit on the biggest chunk of ice on the first comment out of the chute.
Now I know myself, and I am a pushover for addictive behavior. I in my heart of hearts know that there is something in the tinkering repeatedly with some joinery detail, stripping and refinishing a piece three times, etc. that falls right into the obsessive-compulsive addiction arena. Same for tool collecting. I can join wood with shot brad nails, Incra doves and box joints, rabbets, dowels (got a couple of jigs), a biscuit joiner, Miller dowel system, Kreg Jig. Please Mr. Bartender, just one shot of Festool Domino before you cut me off.

But at the end of the day, rather than having a big pile of empties and a dufflebag of regrets, I am fortunate enough to have a gleaming example of my handiwork, that I can sell, gift or set aside to tinker with anew on another day. And I have inched that much farther forward in pursuit of something that is a soul-builder rather than a soul-reaper – and that thing is


Now in specific relation to the internet, armed with the knowledge of my own propensities, I have to be aware of my goals, and keep a weather eye on the tipping point between gleaning inspiration, wisdom and cameraderie and falling into the rabbit hole ala “Alice in Wonderland.”

The other part of the ice mass, is just plain old distraction. The other day, after the weather finally broke I sauntered out to the garage to fiddle with the Kreg jig I bought, and to make an ugly box to store the 11 loose forstners I have somehow managed to acquire in my recent peppermill foray. Before I got started I found red rust on the jointer bed. Had to clean that up, scour and wax the bed. The dust collector’s plug broke. Trip to Lowe’s. Bandsaw needed a good cleaning and adjustment… and so on.

If the whole time I had been experimenting with every new tool and process, I had rather stuck to a handsaw, chisel and plane, I very likely could be banging out handcut doves like Frank Klausz. I think about a story I read about Yung Cheng making his first tool from a broken file and sharpening it on concrete. And what about those Hepplewhites and Sheratons, working in a cold dark room by sunlight or lamplight, with handtools, creating glorious work that has stood the test of centuries.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no galoot, in fact generally I can count on a gouge or tearout anytime I take a plane to face grain. I really feel that I need the speed and repeatability of power tools to get where I want to go. The bottom line for me is that technology (like so much in this world of trial) is a blessing and a curse. I need to be cognizant of it as a means to an end and not an end in it self.

I ran across this creed today, attributed to John Ruskin,
“A belief in working with the head, hand and heart and mixing enough play with the work so that every task is pleasurable and makes for health and happiness”

Sounds like the ticket.


-- "Bordnerizing" perfectly good lumber for over a decade.

5 comments so far

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4155 days

#1 posted 04-15-2007 01:06 PM

all of that and fancy graphics as well!!

So much to do and so little time – family, woodworking, gardening, other hobbies, and those darned living requirements. Sounds like a well-balanced life actually. “All work and no play….” is not the way to live and yet so many people choose to walk (or run) their journey in this manner. In the end though, what do they really have to show? And is their heart and soul alive?

I like the validation for your addiction: at the end of the day you aren’t just surrounded by empties. A good justification, if you ask me :)

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View jockmike2's profile


10635 posts in 4240 days

#2 posted 04-15-2007 02:26 PM

Thanks Doug for the msg and kudos you gave me.fact is you’ll do fine if you stick with it, listen to what people suggest, take what you want, throw the rest away. Keep moving ahead trying new things. You’ll do fine. jockmike, mike to my friends

-- (You just have to please the man in the Mirror) Mike from Michigan -

View scottb's profile


3648 posts in 4321 days

#3 posted 04-15-2007 06:38 PM

without the heart, there is no connection between the head and hands…

Lumberjocks as addicts? No ;)

-- I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it. - Van Gogh -- --

View Douglas Bordner's profile

Douglas Bordner

4024 posts in 4058 days

#4 posted 04-16-2007 12:49 AM

I had to put the graphics in the page if only in homage to Kurt Vonnegut. I hope he is pleasantly surprised to find there is an afterlife. All the boho writers of my formative years have passed now :(

-- "Bordnerizing" perfectly good lumber for over a decade.

View Bob Babcock's profile

Bob Babcock

1804 posts in 4080 days

#5 posted 06-30-2007 07:09 AM

It’s amazing that I keep finding gems I’ve not read. I missed this the first time around. Great read Doug. Thanks!

-- Bob, Carver Massachusetts, Sawdust Maker

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