LumberJocks

Frustrations of ideals compared with the satisfaction of practicality

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Blog entry by gljacobs posted 1246 days ago 775 reads 0 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I’ve been working a lot more lately in my little hovel of a shop on the cold third floor of my old apartment
building. I reluctantly moved out about 4 or 5 month ago to move in with my gloriously coupon addicted
girlfriend.
My generous brother, who was my previous room mate, let me continue to let me dust up this space
for a few reasons:
he knew I couldn’t store my tools in the only small closet my girlfriend didn’t have any clothes
in; I make sure his cat doesn’t die of starvation when he’s one the road; and he really wants to see me
eventually cut off one lucky digit(just a joke I exercise the utmost care to keep all the lovely little hand sausages that my mother bestowed upon me…thanks ma)

My frustrations are because of my evil last boss who(bless his woodworking heart) gave me my first position so that I could proudly call myself a Woodworker. He would let me use the shop and all it’s golden mechanical treasures after hours and I would work(hehe) myself into a giddy bug eyed frenzy drooling on and routing everything I could get my greedy lil’ hands on. It was a comfortable, roomy place and best of all it had all the big things(and the little things) that I just don’t have the pennies to afford. It was a spectacle..beautiful and pure. This left me wretchedly ill equipped when I ceased to be employed by this man of mechanical means. He helped me probably more than he’ll ever find out.

Now if you haven’t wandered off to the Huntington press, Facebook or whatever else is in your bookmarks
I’ll get to my belabored point which is that I became almost dependent on these wonderful industrial objects so much that now I am learning to become satisfied and comforted in not having this ease of mechanical labor or the vast expanse of the shop, it was like the grand canyon with a dust collector. And as hard, and with as much disdain, as I may have for this road there is no volkswagen van with road trippers there to thumb down and hitch a ride with. I have not the money or the currant job position to afford me the convenience to continue this torrid affair.

This brings me to my next point….I freakin’ love it. I love working up a glossy sweat exercising the same muscles that ed barnsley and every other old time hand tool woodworker has for centuries.
I wasn’t used to the ache at first then I started to long for it.
I’m learning how to feel, see, and hear the nuances of the hand plane and the woods reaction to it.
I still use a few machines but nothing like in the ol’ shop.
The frustration is still lingering a bit though in the very back, out of the line of sight, but I know it’s there. I smell it creeping in when I step back and I almost trip because the drill press stand is to close to the work bench, or I have to “walk” the bandsaw to one side EVERY time I go to use the planer which I can’t even really use because of how much noise it makes for the tenants below me on the second floor or the lumber taking up so much room.

My ideal is the same as most other woodworkers(or maybe it’s not) and that is to have a well lit shop that has a smooth yet worn looking hardwood floor(wide plank cherry preferably(i know)), with radiant heat,and shaker style cherry trimmed windows wrapping the perimeter soaking the shop in the wonderfully smooth, warm glow of the midday sun. There would be a machine room and a separate bench room, and as well a decent bathroom and utility room.

Now despite the mental masturbation that just happened this is a long term dream. The reality is I have a 9 by 10 room filled to the brim with just enough tools to do woodworking on smaller sized projects that satisfy me to the point of standing in the middle of the room, like a creep, smiling a the potential of the walnut and maple sitting on the floor.

The stool I just made and posted is a product of a bandsaw and hand tools. It is the best piece I have made so far and it’s not because it was made by hand tools, but it helps. It’s because of where it came from in terms of my mind in response to a need. I didn’t really need to make that stool, but I felt I had to because of the job and scholarship I was applying for and my lady saying in no uncertain terms that I’d better or dinner’s will start having to cook themselves. (We have a modern version of a pre-war relationship where she cooks, cleans and does laundry. I take out the trash, do yard work, and/or electrocute myself trying to fix the light in the bathroom)
It’s like bukowski writing that novel in a month, when urgent necessity takes hold there are many things that can be done that before seemed like trying to hit an underwater bullseye with a bow an arrow.
I feel satisfied, and I feel as though I should do it again, and if given the chance to go back and pluck the strings with gears, belts and a mechanical melody….sir, I would not.

Like Soetsu Yanagi says in his book “the unknown craftsman”, there is a place for machines: in the preparatory work saving one time and leaving the finish work for the hands.
If you’ve made it with me this far I thank you for your patience, interest, and your curiosity.
Thank you for putting up with my analogies and my ramblings, rants , and digressions.
Let me know of your journey, your path, your struggles with this issue.
Let me know if I’m messed up and make know sense.
Feed back is good, discussions are better, and constructive debates are best.

Yours in wood
Garett



10 comments so far

View tt1106's profile

tt1106

99 posts in 1702 days


#1 posted 1245 days ago

Alas, the frustration of the unrealized. I think you would find that many of us are working in areas that don’t meet our needs but meet our budgets.
Carry on, beautiful work.

-- -Todd

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gljacobs

76 posts in 1321 days


#2 posted 1245 days ago

I just hope the unrealized and content doesn’t end up a realized malcontent.
Hey thanks for reading.

View William's profile

William

8977 posts in 1476 days


#3 posted 1245 days ago

You asked for other’s journeys, so I guess I’ll share a small piece of mine. You have to be patient with me though. You see, I too, am a rambler. I’m married with eight kids, so no, not that kind of rambler. I do ramble on with my words though. Actually I think I ramble on to the point of being a nuisance at times.
I was a mechanic for years. I loved it. I never wanted to do anthing different. Circumstances have made it impossible for me to do mechanic work anymore though. Actually, at the time I started working with wood, circumstances were preventing me from doing much of anything. So I wound up with the amazing opportunity of getting a huge shop for less money per month than a lot of people give for their car notes. I seized that opportunity with no idea what I was going to do with all the space.
Ah! Things have a way of working themselves out though. In the beginning I was giving the suggestion to build birdhouses. So I did using just the minimum of tools I had. I was bored out of my mind. I mean seriously. I considered a couple of times about slicing all five finger off the hand I have no feeling in. At least this would be a good excuse not to build another $#%& BIRDHOUSE.
Fast forward less than three years. You can go to my profile and see photos of the shop now. It has an unbelieavable amount of tools, and wood. Now to look at all this, most people would think I was rich to have built this up so quickly. No I’m not rich. I have been very blessed though. I’d love to walk each person here through my shop tellling all the stories of how I came about owning various tools sitting in my shop. In short, I’ve done a lot of trading, waiting for killer sales, and lucking up on yard sale steals.
The wood? I have gotten wood from all over the place. Most of it has been free. Some of it I’ve gotten from my brother sort of as payment for him using my shop for his work. Several deals I asked about a few pieces of wood from someone and wound up with truck loads of it in a “take it all or none” deal. I’ve gotten enough wood now that I try to help others with wood when I can. I enjoy that because I remember what its like trying to aquire wood without taking out a bank loan.
The wood work? The wood work is therapy for depression issues I have stemming from…..
Nevermind, that one is a very long ramble that noone wishes to hear. The wood work is therapy. I love my woodwork to the point that it is an obsession. Some of us just get wood working in out blood at some point. I don’t know if it gets there through splinter, or from the sawdust we breath, but it gets there. When it gets in your blood, it’s there. You get to a pont where you’ll do wood work somehow. Because of hard times, I’m looking at possibly losing my huge shop in the near future. I’m already making plans though just in case.
I’ve priced storage rooms. I have to have somewhere to store my tools. I may have to pull them out one at a time to get a job done. I may have to work outside, weather permitting. Whatever I have to do though, I will continue woodworking, on some scale, somehow. So I understand your feeling of pride no matter where your projects take you, whether they be simple or detailed.
So my friend, let me say this. Do you love the wood? If you do, then it is all worth it. Wood can become your mistress. My wife never worries where I’m at when I’m not in bed. She’s knows I’m with my mistress. She knows I have severl mistresses. Their names are oak, mahogany, walnut, and pecan. She has seen me run my hand across some of my mistresses’ grain and watched that look of mental orgasm on my face. She has slept all night by herself while I spent the night with my mistress. Woodworking is much more than a hobby, a past time, or a skill. It is a love. It is a passion. For those of us that know of this passion, it makes better men (and women) of us. It consumes us. It is almost like a marriage in that there are fruits of this love. The fruits of it, like children, can outlive us. They can be passed down for others to enjoy long after we are under the grass if we built it so.
Wood. Wood is a living thing. It lives as a tree before it is cut. It lives as energy as it burns. It lives as houses once they’re built. It lives in small project (like you stool), to be used after they’re built. It forever breathes, moves, inspires, and shows it’s beauty to whomever wishes to see. It can be beautiful. It can be of utilitarian use. It can support amazing amounts of weight. It can shelter us. It can move us, in more ways than one. It can also lay as a lump waiting to be discovered and can rot away if noone does.
I must apologize. I ramble too much. I get so wrapped up at times in my own projects though that I foget the amazing properties of wood. Then I read something like your post above and it all comes back to me. Thank you for reminding me what I should never forget. Wood is an artistic medium that connects the world in so many ways that many people never realize. Some of us do though. I, a redneck in a huge shop in the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River know it. You, a guy in a cold third floor, small room in Maine know it. I know of guys in the plains of the midwest that know it. I’ve heard of folks in walking distance of the Pacific ocean that know it. I’ve even read of others on the other side of the ocean that know it. Take pride in that. We know and understand something that others take for granted. Past generations may have called that wisdom. I call it blessed.
Have a good day. I will be adding you to my buddy list so I can see what you turn out of your third floor room next so I can be inspired again, and reminded again what makes us wood workers so special. Thank you.

-- http://wddsrfinewoodworks.blogspot.com/

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gljacobs

76 posts in 1321 days


#4 posted 1244 days ago

That was awesome.
Thank you for sharing and please, PLEASE don’t ever hesitate to ramble my way.
I loved your ramblings to the point I wanted to read more and there was none. It’s fascinating and reassuring that I’m not the only wood freak out there. I speak to others and there is NO understanding. Or at least there’s no listening or feedback or conversation. Just, “oh that sounds cool” and nothing.
All I ever want is a two sided conversation.
So Thanks again for your honesty and willingness to share, and for letting me know I’m in good company even if it is across the country.

View William's profile

William

8977 posts in 1476 days


#5 posted 1244 days ago

Since you’ve got a smaller space to work in now, have you considered scroll saw work?
A scroll saw doesn’t take up much space. It is quiet, so it wouldn’t bother the neighbors. With patience, you can create anything your mind will allow you too. It takes a minimum amount of accessories to get most projects done.
Actually, if you happen to try and enjoy scrolling, this is also something you could do at your girlfriend’s place too. You could put a scroll saw in a closet. Now as for the projects, it depends on what you get into. If you go look at some of my projects, you may notice I have recently really taken a liking to the larger ones.
From reading what you have posted, I take it you like different wood species as I do. A lot of scroller will tell you to use plywood for most projects. This I tell you is a matter of preference. I have a bad distaste for plywood. Most of my projects are done with solid wood. I seldom use ply. My favorite wood to work with is mahogany. It scrolls easily. It hold up well. It glues quickly and easily. Above all, it is beautiful with a variety of interesting grain patterns.

-- http://wddsrfinewoodworks.blogspot.com/

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gljacobs

76 posts in 1321 days


#6 posted 1244 days ago

I’ve thought about it, though I probably would get more into double bevel marquetry and parquetry(Silas Kopf or Brian Reed type stuff), if I were to get serious enough to invest in a machine and put it into my current work.

Don’t get me wrong though I have the utmost appreciation and respect for what you and others like are doing…it’s actually mind blowing to me. Just not my style or direction. I’m more into the modern and minimalist style of hardwood furniture and cabinet work.

I’m not counting it out though because it’s always been my position that no matter what your into it’s more beneficial to be well verse than confined to one aspect.
Sort of like Bruce Lee trying every style of martial arts and then culminating what he liked into his one style. Or how Sam Maloof would build his own house and add his touches to it bringing him outside furniture and into mill and architectural work.

I intend to some day build period furniture, Japanese joinery, and my own home maybe even timber frame it just to have the experience and gain the skill.

View William's profile

William

8977 posts in 1476 days


#7 posted 1243 days ago

Well just in case you ever do decided to invest, as you put it, in a scroll saw, I want to tell you that there is no need none whatsoever to run out and buy a very pricy machine like some will tell you. I suggest that anyone who buys a first scroll saw to start cheap. There are plenty that will argue that point with me. I feel though that if you are unfamiliar with it, scrolling is one of those skills that, once you start, you will either love it so much that you do like me an incorporate scrolling into everything you do. Or, you completely dislike it. In the latter case, you put your cheap scroll saw up and have it if the need ever arises for it. In the former, you eventually build up the funds to buy a better scroll saw. Now don’t start thinking you have to spend the big money though. I think you’ve already seen soe of my work. I’m still cutting with what is actually considered an “entry level” scroll saw. I bought it on sale for $59.99.
It’s funny how I got into scrolling. I seem to have left that out in my earlier response.
Less than three years ago I was bored senseless making bird houses and similar projects. My wife told me she was going to get me a scroll saw for my birthday. My initial response was “what the hell do I need a scroll saw for”? I came home and looked up on the internet what I could do with a scroll saw. I decided I would like to give it a try. So she bought me my first scroll saw, a Ryobi.
That Ryobi scroll saw was a story in itself. It was the biggest piece of crap I’ve ever messed with. It walked all over the floor. I had to try and keep up with it to cut intricate cutouts. The blade clamps didn’t hold worth flip. At one point in the game I was wedgeing a piece of sandpaper between the edge of the blade and the jaws of the blade clamp every time I used small blades because the clamps wouldn’t grip the blade good enough. It was terrible. I am glad I started on that saw though. After cutting on it, I feel I can cut on any saw made.
Eventually, I completely wore the Ryobi out. The bearings were toast. The motor was weak. The blade clamps were in pieces. I had to get a new saw. There was no way I was spending a hundred bucks on a new Ryobi though. Long story short, I wound up with a Delta SS250. It’s still an entry level saw, but it’s much better than the Ryobi.

-- http://wddsrfinewoodworks.blogspot.com/

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gljacobs

76 posts in 1321 days


#8 posted 1243 days ago

Thanks for the advice. I’ll check into it…and who know I may just get a Delta.
It’s funny how we get into things that don’t even seem to be something we’d be into because now by your recommendation I may just check it out, love it and start posting stuff you’d be proud of.
That’s why I love getting into and trying new things because ya never know what might strike your fancy.

That’s how I got into costume making and juggling. Here’s a picture of my first costume so far, I made from scratch from patterns and a walmart sewing machine….It was a blast to put together.
The only things I didn’t make were the shoes socks, thimbles, the wig, and the shirt, but I dyed it pink and sewed the lace on the cuffs….oh and the make up, but that’s obvious, I’m no chemist.
I made the jacket, vest, hat, hat pins, gloves, bow tie, hat scarf, handkerchief, and I bought a pair of pants and cut them up the sides brought them in and cut them short and then did the embroidery.
A blast!
Photobucket
Photobucket

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William

8977 posts in 1476 days


#9 posted 1242 days ago

I hope that isn’t what you wear in the shop.

-- http://wddsrfinewoodworks.blogspot.com/

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gljacobs

76 posts in 1321 days


#10 posted 1242 days ago

Everything but the hat it’s a safety hazard.

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