Wednesday, February 2, 2011

snow day

Thank you Mother Nature! A nice change of pace, in the form of a day off. Of course it's not a day off when there's a big project in the shop.

but I should have heeded those cryptic words from the guy at the woodworking store "hard maple, by hand, god help you, boy"

For the last few evenings I've been battling this wood, every combination of planes in my arsenal. I could get a great surface on the straight grain parts, but when it came time to do cathedrals or figure, a tiny nuclear bomb would go off beneath my iron.


tear-out, big honkin chunks of wood, so deep a dark shadow had begun to descend. I started to dread this stuff, even considered breaking my vow to do this one all by hand.

There's a small planer at work, if I just take really tiny passes, it'll be OK

but deep down I knew this was a lesson, Yoda P. Miagee was staring me down, that lethal pair of chopsticks poised at the ready. So I read up, tried the books, they just said sharp iron, tiny mouth, try working perpendicular to the grain. I tried the web, same thing. And then low and behold the answer, on a popular chat room someone said hone often, know what sharp really is. Rather skeptical (they're sharp, I'm sure of that) I trekked through the blizzard back to the (now nice and toasty warm) shop and honed all the irons (I'm not stupid, not ALL of them, just the ones I needed: Smoother, low angle Jack, and Fore.)

Then I hit it again, and it hit me, that's it!

Every thirty to forty strokes in hard maple and the edge is more like a ball peen hammer, nail the wrong spot and a rock hard wedge jams in the throat and releases itself from its arborial abode, with a rending sound of splintering storm damaged limbs. But freshly honed there's little sound at all but a faint swish, the fibers part and a glass surface appears. Now that means disassembly, a minute's honing, reassembly, tuning, fine tuning, back to work for another ten minutes, then all over again. The pratice of this little dance has led to an intimate understanding of the geometry of all these tools, I know a volume more than I did yesterday.

The real satisfaction is the accomplishment, master is proud.

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