|Project by Dan Lyke||posted 07-23-2012 01:41 AM||2116 views||3 times favorited||11 comments|
I think it must have been nearly two years ago at a Sonoma County Woodworkers Association meeting. There were a couple of presentations that evening, there was a presentation about a router lathe that was used to mill spindles for a spectacular cherry cradle in that year’s Artistry in Wood exhibit, a few from a guy who made some gorgeous inlaid doors, a talk about rasps (yes, even grab-bag evenings at the SCWA are usually amazing), and David Marks suggested spoons as an “I want to hang out in the shop but don’t have any other ideas” project.
We (Charlene, my partner and all things, and I) have a group of kids whose families have been through the local homeless shelters that we do projects with, and we thought spoons was a grand idea. Hand tools! Scrapers! Coping saws! How could this go wrong? So I posted to our local Freecycle group that if anyone was pruning a fruit tree it’d be fun to get some of their cast-offs, and I got a box of cherry branches.
Well that box of limbs got tossed in to a corner and moved from place to place, and we didn’t have enough volunteers to drag in to watch the kids use coping saws (the facility that we do this program at has some rules about adult to child ratios and use of tools that are kinda stifling, but also probably not unreasonable), but in the mean-time one of those kids whose parents we’re on good terms with said he wanted to make a bow. I downloaded instructions for a basic oak bow off the internet, and he quickly lost interest ‘cause the various archery programs we helped hook him up with had fiberglass bows for him to use, but…
In the mean-time, every time I walked by that half-finished bow in the shop I tossed it on the tillering stand, drew a few marks, and hit it with the plane or the spoke shave to move it along. And I realized that there’s something amazingly calming and centering about pulling curls off a stick of wood with a well tuned plane or spoke shave. It’s great to put together a chair or a cabinet or whatever, but the quiet contemplation of “let’s pull a hundredth of an inch off there and see what happens” is like a well executed Tai Chi set.
This last week, Charlene brought her developmentally disabled brother up for a stay. I love the guy, but he lives in a group home, operates at a pretty low level, and after a week babysitting I… well… It is this just about annual ritual that reminds me that I am not a nice person. I can play at being a nice person. For a long time, even. But, after a while, I start to have dark thoughts.
When that happened, I retreated to the shop, grabbed one of those cherry sticks, and started in on it. It started with hand tools: pull saw, spoke shave, scrapers, although on the second one there I slapped that sucker in the milling machine with a bullnose bit to route out the bowl.
But even at that, David Marks is right: There is something amazingly calming and soothing in going from a block of wood with bark on it, and cutting away everything that doesn’t look like a spoon. Shaving handles, scraping out bowls, sanding off the saw marks, and finally applying the walnut oil and seeing that wood go from “that’s nice” to “wow”, and the stress level go from “I’m gonna lay waste” to “ommmm”.
So: Two spoons, in cherry. With a new appreciation for the wooden spoons and salad servers we’ve bought by the handful. It turns out that this would have been a horrendously bad idea to do with the kids: Cherry is hard wood, there’s a lot of cross-grain cutting, I ended up using everything including from the angle grinder to mallet hammered round chisels to a lot of time just sitting there listening to a podcast working sandpaper on the thing, so it’s good to try it myself before I foist it off on children. But it worked for me.
-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California, http://www.flutterby.net/User:DanLyke