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
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