Observations #10: Odds and Ends

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Blog entry by Russel posted 02-01-2009 06:53 PM 1169 reads 0 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 9: The Spirit of LumberJocks Part 10 of Observations series Part 11: Does It Really Matter? »

The last few days in the shop have provided opportunity for some self-observation. My power tools have been ignored while I do some assembly and finishing. And since a piece of sandpaper in my hand to typically pretty safe my mind has been kinda watching me do things.

First, let me say that hand tool work is hard. I’m making a few tables and thought it was a good opportunity to practice flattening the tops using my planes. And, when all was said and done, they were definitely better than when I’ve relied on my power sanders. HOWEVER, when I was done, my arms and shoulders were quite sore. Apparently planes don’t cut through wood as easily as it looks; they require someone to push them. And the repetitive pushing causes a bit of a strain on the old muscles. So while the result is desirable, it’s a lot of work.

Second, hand sanding has become very theraputic for me. I find I enjoy the simplicity of it and the rhythm that accompanies the process. Well, at least until my hand cramps up. Still I’ve found that as I sand, I get a hint of when I’m ready to move to the next grit by the sound the sandpaper produces as it moves across the wood. As the wood begins approaches the point where it’s time to change, the pitch of the abrasive get a little bit higher and a little bit softer. It’s almost as if the wood is saying, “I’m ready for the next step.”

Finally, have you ever wondered what you look like to someone else while you’re working? While cleaning out some mortises with a chisel a picture of my grandfather working at his bench came to mind. I wondered if people saw me working would they think of a meticulous older man fiddling with a part to get it to fit just right? Or, would they just see me hunched over tapping a chisel into a piece of wood? I’d like to think of myself as that meticulous fella, but sometimes I think I’m just some guy pounding on wood.

So as it turns out, this whole woodworking experience is more than just making stuff, but an opportunity to let the mind wander a bit.

-- Working at Woodworking

8 comments so far

View Betsy's profile


3391 posts in 3893 days

#1 posted 02-01-2009 07:56 PM

Russell – I very much understand your musings. There is something about feeling the wood right under your hand that is very relaxing and enjoyable.

I too have wondered what I would look like to someone watching me. I prefer to think I’m the meticulous one to be admired for working with her hands. But I don’t ever ask so as to not bust my own bubble.

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View rikkor's profile


11295 posts in 3871 days

#2 posted 02-01-2009 08:39 PM

So as it turns out, this whole woodworking experience is more than just making stuff, but an opportunity to let the mind wander a bit.

Very profound my friend.

View woodyoda's profile


117 posts in 3454 days

#3 posted 02-01-2009 09:01 PM

Do you think that Michaelangelo mused as he worked hundreds of hours using hand tools and sanding and chipping away….......did he know the perfection of his work or did he know every little flaw that in his work, because he knew that perfection doesn’t really exist?
As you move into the zone of no thought and just being with your work, seeming like it’s hardly even you doing the work, but the work is being done thru you…....the tools, the wood and you all become one. How could you ask for more peace, when you criticizing mind takes a rest and lets you just love your work, that’s why we keep coming back for more….....................yoda

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3819 days

#4 posted 02-01-2009 10:04 PM

I couldn’t agree with you more. While most people find sanding tedious, as you said in this post it is a time when you do not need to mentally focus on the task and can use the time to “let your mind wander”- in a vein similar to mowing the grass (which I also enjoy, by the way). With sanding you can get immediate feedback on your efforts. Basically you are taking rough wood and transforming it into a piece that feels “smooth as glass”. Which reminds me I had planned on sanding a cabinet top today. Thanks for the inspiration.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 3959 days

#5 posted 02-01-2009 11:22 PM

More great inspiration from Russel. Thanks, buddy.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View Karson's profile


35120 posts in 4397 days

#6 posted 05-16-2009 04:05 PM

Russel: Last night as I was sitting at me Table Saw/Work surface I was using a 1/4” chisel and cleaning out mortise holes in preparation of glueing in some ebony plugs. I was thinking – “This is nice, This is quiet.”

Then it was back to the power sander to make more pegs. “Dust Mask, Ear Protection, Loud screaming of the power tools” then back to quiet.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View Russel's profile


2199 posts in 3936 days

#7 posted 05-16-2009 04:11 PM

Yeah, Karson, there is something to be said for the quiet.

-- Working at Woodworking

View a1Jim's profile


117091 posts in 3574 days

#8 posted 05-16-2009 05:35 PM

every body shhhhhhhhh quiet please

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

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