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Mirrors from my Website blog #1: A Community of Believers

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Blog entry by Texasgaloot posted 07-31-2008 04:40 AM 950 reads 0 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Mirrors from my Website blog series Part 2: The Master »

This is again a mirror of my Website blog, www.thewoodshepherd.wordpress.com, which I wanted to share with my Lumberjocks friends…

One of the glorious things about being a woodworker today is our ability to be served by the Internet. Through this amazing channel of funneled electrons, we can blog and Twitter and post websites full of our projects and join together with others in songs of praise over the latest Veritas or Lie-Nielsen acquisition, or remind one another to be wary of the dangers of spinning carbide tips.

Recently I read a blog posted by Christopher Schwarz on the Woodworking Magazine reviewing a brand new Veritas plane coming onto the scene, which led me to a link by the Village Carpenter, a person after my own heart, pondering the “certain something” that draws those of us that are hand tool enthusiasts to prefer (to be polite) human powered woodworking over our electric counterparts.

Just so that there is no confusion: My alternative (older) online persona is Texasgaloot, a term derived from the combination of my obvious proximity along with my decade-old membership on the OldTools listserv. I joined that listerv not too long after a number of luminaries on “The Porch” found themselves refugees from the even older Rec.Woodworking. Rather than accept humiliation and defeat at being branded “Galoots” and “Neanderthals,” they accepted the terms as badges of honor, picked up their crispy Stanley No.-7’s, dovetail saws and marking gauges and formed their own group, still going strong (see www.galootcentral.com.)

As I was permitted to lurk on The Porch and learn from folks who started out as teachers and truly came to be valued friends, I began to realize how close-knit the hand tool community really is. One old tool vendor patiently carried my debt as my first marriage collapsed leaving me destitute, despite the fact that I had his tools in my possession. I kept them carefully wrapped and separated out from my users to preserve them in case I needed to return them, but the vendor insisted that I pay him when I could, which after three or four years, I was finally able to do. Try that at your local big box store!

There is a certain peaceful, spiritual connection that exists among those of us that are members of the Neander-community. Although many of us succumb to the stresses of time commitments and wind up using our table saws and drill presses to help us along (too often, myself included,) we reserve the hallowed finishing process of our hard work for our handwork. As soon as I finally get some decent photos made of my shaker night stand, I will be posting them; it is a project I did the initial milling using electricity, but hand-fitting and hand finishing from there on. The piece is now one of those things in my house I can just look at on a bad day, and it takes the knots out of my rope.

As I move closer and closer to my goal of full-time woodworking, I have done quite a bit of research on the advantages of being in business for oneself. I’ve noticed that advocates for entrepreneur-ship communicate a certain undertone, itself with a spiritual component that links me to the Galoot lifestyle as well. Entrepreneurs talk about two things in the same breath: freedom and control, and it boils down to the ability to have the freedom to control one’s life, rather than to abdicate control to someone else. While working for someone, one doesn’t have the ability to stay connected to Twitter, for example, and may only be permitted to check on one’s friends during “breaks.” In contrast to that is the person in business for him or herself, who has the freedom to go broke or be independently wealthy, the freedom to read blogs without concern over getting fired. Such is the sense of control I seek, and I think our woodworking forefathers knew the peace that it yielded.

The parallels are obvious: With hand tools, we have the freedom to hog huge slices of wood off that $50 cherry board, or to smooth it to a polish that shows your smile. We can chop narrow dovetails or take our time finessing a mortise-and-tenon fit rather than adjusting our trunions to micrometer precision. We have the ability to tell the in-laws, “I did that,” and not mean a whirring, spinning, screaming machine manufactured to leave that too-perfect pattern in the wood.

When I was young, my grandparents kept a cottage amidst the breathtaking Finger Lakes in Center New York State. At least a few times each summer my grandfather’s brothers and sisters would all gather, each bringing beans and radishes and fresh corn from their farms. We would have a great country feast, topped off with my grandmother’s fresh-baked apple and cherry pies. I would eat until my stomach hurt, and then the men would gather in the rockers on the front porch, smoke their pipes and tell lies about one another that were so funny my stomach would hurt all over again. The fragrances of the lake air combined with the lingering smells of supper and pipe tobacco in one of my favorite places in the world formed a synergistic aroma the memory of which I would never part with for any price. That was a time when everything was just right in my world.

As a micron-thin wisp of pine shaving curls from my smoothing plane, a shaving that if tossed in the air would have measurable “hang time,” I sense the connection to other woodworkers, past and present. I come as close as I ever will again to that spiritual experience of tasting a slice of Gram’s apple pie.

-- There's no tool like an old tool...



5 comments so far

View Quixote's profile

Quixote

206 posts in 3106 days


#1 posted 07-31-2008 05:24 AM

” I come as close as I ever will again…”

Poetry…

I’ve restored a few of my grandfathers, and my fathers tools, and am teaching my children to work with them. In no other way can I find something that ties my past through the present into my future.

Thank you for sharing.

Q

-- I don't make sawdust...I produce vast quantities of "Micro Mulch."

View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8901 posts in 3567 days


#2 posted 07-31-2008 05:41 AM

Great entry, thanks for sharing the image.

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana, http://americancraftsmanworkshop.com

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6821 posts in 3447 days


#3 posted 07-31-2008 06:31 AM

Hi Tex;

Well written and conceived!

All to often the business of business gets in the way of what got us started in this in the first place.

I’ve mentioned a number of times on this site where I can stand in one spot for hours and work the edge of a tool and then get those whisper thin shavings you speak of.There’s no concern for anything other than the edge to be worked or the resulting shavings. The sound, feel and sight of it gives great inspiration to reach to a higher level of craftsmanship and understanding of the materials we work with.

And I can equally enjoy spending time organizing an cleaning the space where I love to be. The rest of the world is not a concern in that little part of my world. God help me when I venture outside those four walls though.

Lee

-- by Lee A. Jesberger http://www.prowoodworkingtips.com http://www.ezee-feed.com

View Richforever's profile

Richforever

755 posts in 3188 days


#4 posted 07-31-2008 06:43 AM

Sometimes just sitting in the shop; looking at the project in progress; and enjoying a break from the daily tasks outside is relaxing and refreshing.

Thanks for sharing.

-- Rich, Seattle, WA

View Texasgaloot's profile

Texasgaloot

464 posts in 3168 days


#5 posted 08-01-2008 04:07 AM

Q: I often think about the fact that we can’t really see clearly where we are going unless we can see and understand where we have come from. I think it’s a noble thing that you continue one of the best parts of your grandfather and father in you, and keep them alive for your children.

Lee: I’m still working at a JOB in the big city, driving an hour and a half one way, doing rather mechanical things, yet nothing I see through to completion. Sure, I can hand the project engineer a completed set of plans, but I don’t see houses built or kids playing in neighborhoods. I resent it because it keeps me away from the space you are talking about, which means I don’t have many moments of which you speak. The silver lining is that I truly appreciate those four walls—I spent about 15 minutes tonight (all I could fit in) rubbing oil into a piece of discarded mesquite, and now I feel like I can take on the commute one more time. Thanks for your thoughtful word—it’s like being in “the zone.” (I’m sensing another blog idea!)

Rich: I would take your thought to be an axiom. I like to sit and think about my uncle the carpenter, and wonder if he would appreciate a mesquite mallet or cringe at a router whose motor is as powerful as my lawnmower!

-- There's no tool like an old tool...

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