Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Timing really is everything. 

Don't believe me, look at every major point in your life, when something profound changed, and everything was different from that day forth.

Go on, take a minute to think about it.

So now you get it, just how important timing is.

When did you get into woodworking, when did you really know you would hasten down this path, spend all that money, invest all that time? Did timing have anything to do with it? In retrospect, everything has to do with timing, as if each moment happens and the results are already determined. 

I know, you think,  this has little bearing in woodworking, but wait there's more! It really does...

Imaging the timing that goes into a piece, if you have a nine to five or a business that you run, there's so little time for wood, but you find the time and treasure it, slave over a piece for just moments, sometimes get to indulge in a day. Hours at a time, honing the surface, stalking a fit. and then it's over.

Well if you are an optimist it's really only half over. Or, of course, you're one of those weirdo's who likes to caress the material before it's entombed, immortalized, in a mercy killing of odd chemicals. You have reached a point when you really are no longer necessary, it is what it is and it's time to let it go. That first application of finish.

Sure you've made a couple test pieces, slathered on a few candidates, picked by juried vote (you do have two halves to your brain, you know) the aesthetic and convenience you require most, but until this point you've not sullied the piece itself. It's then you see it, the oil picks up the chatoiance, light glimmers, your tools reflect in the pool, and OH GOD, the color. You knew it was there, you've planned for it, you've planed for it, you've scraped and pared, and there it is, and it's incredible, then it's gone, it's dull, the grain raises, the streaks happen, the glimmer fades, and you know it's at least another two or three weeks before that moment strikes again...

So back to timing...
it's always a good idea to time those last two or so weeks into a period when you can be there an hour or two at a stretch and have too many other distractions, so you don't drop hair and eyelashes and skin cells and saw dust into your slowly evolving finish.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

to the line

I've had a couple weeks away from the shop, torture to the involved. Concentration on the task at hand, frequently interrupted by thoughts of the piece. After 130 hours of serious labor (and serious addiction-fueling cash) I managed a couple days with my table.

In the interim others' blogs have been my vicarious woodshop pastime. I ran across this article (see if I can dig it up) that stressed cutting to the line, not just cutting , but chopping, planing, paring, etc. The fable here is obvious, if you always steer clear the line is never in reach, how can you progress without a little confidence. If you constantly work to the line, your work load is reduced, and your skill level increases. I spent the last two days to the line, and damn I made good lines. Not only does this technique force you to cut, pare, chop and plane with determination, it forces you to concentrate on the action of the tool itself (and of course,the making of the lines becomes obsession). Like driving (not like the schmoes who simply pilot their vehicles whilst gulping down heaping bowls of Captn' Crunch, or liberally applying stop-light-makovers) down a jam packed boulevard slicked with ice and crammed with Bentleys. You know this is your only shot to get it right, and by god you do. You'd be surprised how good you can get, fast! Sure cut a row of lipped, half blind dovetails in a compound angled front, then simply snore through the traditional and totally uninspiring ones in the back, it does make you pay attention so you don't screw up the ten hours you already spent on this piece of tree.

(I do wish to make a note here, the date is now ten minutes until March 6, 2010, and I realized I had the wrong approach: the front set of dovetails turned out muddy... look closely at what you are doing as you do it. CONSCIOUS DECISIONS HERE, FOLKS! The back set is extravagant! Major contrast, dramatic composition, the front, ehhh, not so much. Goes to show, trust the gut instinct!)

I'd bore you with the details of all the work I've done, all the joints I've finessed, all the unexpected twists and turns in the design, all the ego-stimulating, third world GNP priced tools I've used (but I will say, good tools really are worth it, REALLY!) all the times I've dry fit the piece, only to tap it all apart, remove a thousandth of an inch to make it fit better and stick it all back together, just to do it again (and this gets longer and more involved the further you get) the times I've just stood there looking stupid as a neighbor stuck their head in to see where the dog was (Mini just LOVES my woodshop, and she makes a great broom at only two inches off the ground) the meals I've missed, the aches I feel, because you already know these things. I'm not here to teach, or preach or write magazine articles, I just want those of you who have a loved one with this affliction to know what we feel, and for those of you who have it, to recognize, you're not alone.

So instead of a lecture, here's a series of (not necessarily in order) crappy, boring, low quality images from my Jesus-phone for you to fall asleep to.

By the way, anyone know what this joint is called, if not I got dibs!

-edit 10/8/09-
This morning I found a reference to this joint in the back of the Oct 08 Fine Woodworking, it's a Japanese mitered bridle joint named kane tsugi (right-angle corner) and here I thought I'd made up something new...