As we begin this month of August, I am finally feeling as if things are getting back to 'normal'. Defining what that means isn't always easy, but after months of distractions and preparations and then our actual move, it feels pretty good.Everything essential to our daily living is just about done. Furniture is here and in place, boxes are put away and shops are set up. The most important thing though is that our 'creative places' are clean and comfortable and ready to be ...
A Hard Year in 2015 Wife's Courageous Fight with Colon Cancer and the Eulogy I wrote for Her Funeral
For most of 2015, I don’t remember posting much, or writing much in my blog. I don’t even really remember thinking much about doing it. I Just didn’t have the energy for that. We did a full-on fight against Colon Cancer, after it was discovered as the reason for my wife’s cough that wouldn’t go away. This was quite a shock for both of us, and the adjustment took some time, and was exhausting. Shelli had a bad cough that started about Thanksgiving in 2014, ...
I had a man write me once after an article showed me using galvanized pipe clamps. “No, no, no, no, no, no,” was what he wrote. Then he went on to describe what a knucklehead I was for using them and how many other wrong things I did in that article on gluing up. I wrote him back. I tore up that letter. I wrote him back again. Again I tore up the letter. Finally after a time, I put my thoughts down to him. Simply put, I said this: Please come to my shop and see what I do. My appro...
What causes us to look round the next bend? What makes people want to fly or cross the ocean or play with fire? Why do you do something and then do it again just to see if the results will be the same? Why ask why? All these questions are asked because of a simple if not altogether human trait. This urge pushes us to try things to see what will happen. Like a dog putting his head down between the rocks to sniff out a scent. What is there? What was there? What might be there? Is it that ...
The value of a classical education is in the laying of a foundation for your work to follow. One learns joinery in order to learn accuracy plus patience and the myriad ways there are to build. For instance, there are a dozen or more ways to build a box, but each situation requires an evaluation and then a decision. Your decision on joinery will depend upon factors like your knowledge or skill, the available tooling options, economy or speed, enjoyment, and finally how late the project is. [If...
Fine woodworking is not crafty. It is craft. It takes time, effort, and a commitment to excellence. It requires persistence and a willingness to overcome failure, repeatedly. It takes practice and patience and then more of both. It is as rigorous and as rewarding as learning a musical instrument or teaching your body ballet or the tango. It is formal and full of expression. There are rules to follow and rules that bend. It is cumulative in its knowledge and yet so vast that no one can know al...
Tools are meant to be used by humans. I think that we learned to think by using them. By using tools, our hands made a connection to our brains and then our curiosity gene dove in and our minds grew because of this. We discovered so much about the world poking about in it with our hands. And by using the power of the wedge, we learned to do all sorts of things from carving to cleaving to sawing and planing. We are humans and that means we need to keep making that connection between hand an...
In Pete Dexter’s book Deadwood, Wild Bill Hickok’s partner, Charley Utter, is thinking to himself, “He liked having a drawer, it was a neatness you could see just sliding it open.” Making drawers requires a precision and calm missing from some other jobs around the shop. Cleaning out the dust collector comes to mind. Or hand planing some misbegotten wood like a rowed grain khaya. Drawer building on the other hand needs careful measuring, straight parts, and clear thinking to do a good job....
Design starts with a pattern in the sky, a curl in the stem of a plant, the swirl in a coffee cup. It starts with an idea. There is no one single place from which it begins. And so the designer must grab serendipity when it strikes and use it as a stepping stone, a starting point, and then choose from the infinite number of choices then possible. Inspiration is serendipitous. Design on the other hand is hard work and trials and errors and execution. It is iteration and reiteration. It has ...
Think about how you look at others’ work. You don’t look for every mistake. You look at the scope of the project, the effort required. You consider the time spent on design. You see the form, the choice of wood and think about the time taken to mill the lumber. The hours spent on joining pieces together and the detail in the joinery and the weeks spent on shaping and sanding and how the hardware is hung. You step back and look at the whole piece and you know in your heart how much...
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