Sunday, May 15, 2016

It Becomes Part Of Your Story.

A few treasured mementos from the Studley Exhibit. The work apron I wore in costume and a small pocket "tchotchke" with embellishments cast directly from the molds of details from the cabinet. 
There are events in your life where time plays one of it temporal tricks on you. It seems to stretch and thin in a way that both speeds up and yet manages to burn details into your memory.

Without getting too spiritual, I've always believed that phenomenon occurs when you are standing in exactly the right place you're supposed to be. These events can be either obviously significant or weirdly benign, but the connection to your life's story exists. 

It happened playing in a forest near a campground with my cousin Mark. It happened the day I got into my first serious fist fight in sixth grade. Sledding down a hill in Bemidji Minnesota in fourth grade. A foot race with my little brother on a family vacation. The day I married my wife and the way the sun shined through the stained glass windows of the church during the ceremony. The hours leading up to and during the very different births of each my three daughters. Standing in an operating room, watching smoke start to roll out of the back of the anesthesia machine, and having the wherewithal to unplug the electrical cord and avert disaster while others panicked. My first car accident (my fault). Being an overrated teenage asshole to my father as he tried his best to understand and deal with my overly-complicated psyche. Getting kicked out of a theology class for arguing with a nun about whether or no I was going to keep my shoes on. (I was not raised Catholic, I just ended up in a Catholic school for a while. Long story.) 

Good, bad, bitter and sweet, the moments write your story. 

Roughly a year ago I added a whole weekend of those moments to my life. Being a part of the H.O. Studley exhibit has become one of the solid cores to who I am as a craftsman. The cabinet and the workbench and the company of Don Williams and the rest of the crew. I don't have words, and that's not usually a problem for me. 

To this day I will still read someone on social media say something dismissive about the lone surviving works of a distinctive master and I will sit back an wonder. Some folks just aren't meant to understand I guess. I wish I could develop my experience into a virus that could infect them with the same understanding I've come to find. 

Then I realize I just have to be proud of the fact that I do get it, and there are other people who are smarter than me, who I respect and look up to, who get it too. 

It's a rare thing, standing witness to greatness. A year ago I was allowed to punch one of the stamps on my card. Afterwards you can't just walk away, you carry it with you always. 

Thank you Don. I can never say it enough. 


This photo courtesy of Narayan Nayar

Tuesday, May 10, 2016


This video is a couple tics over two minutes. It's rough and shot on a whim using my cell phone with no production set up at all. The lighting strobes because I guess I have to replace the ballast in one of my fluorescents, and there's a quick bit of slow-mo thrown in at 25 seconds that sounds like cheep Sci-Fi movie effects.

I shot it to prove a point. Give me two minutes and we'll talk about it.

I build  a lot of things for others, right now I'm building a boarded chest needed in my house. I'm ripping about 1 1/4" off a board so I can turn it into trim. I'm doing it by hand. I like doing this demo because I often hear about how slow hand tool woodworking is compared to power tools.

The three minutes it takes me to mark out the cut, holdfast the board to the bench, locate the wedges to keep the off cut from falling on the floor, and make the cut isn't far behind setting a tablesaw to the right measurements, making sure you have your push stick, and making the cut.

But here's the story in my shop.

I have a tablesaw. I make use of a tablesaw. I'm not dogmatically beholden to any one way of working though I do dislike routers, I own one of them too. Woodworking is about problem solving, and more options lead to more solutions. I often use my table saw for rip cuts on stock four feet and shorter (I will occasionally push it up to six feet but not often)

For rip cuts in longer stock, I tack the board to the bench and grab a Disston.

This runs counter logical to some, surely you'd want to use the machine to do the work on longer boards more than shorter ones. So let me explain.

For a long time, at least as long as I've paid attention, beginning woodworkers get the advice to buy a tablesaw, put it in the middle of their shop, and build their workflow around it. Usually this means a dedicated place for the saw with all the standard apparati surrounding. An outfeed table and a variety of crosscut sleds. Sacrificial fences and organized storage for a stacked head dado cutter. Piles of jigs to cut miter slots, tenon cheeks, enough to fill several books for the jig inclined.

I've set up my shop around this tablesaw archetype in the past, but it's not the way I work. When I moved into my current shop I shifted my thinking. The Earth isn't the center of the Universe, and neither is the Sun. In the Universe of my shop the warm toasty center is the piece I'm building itself. Most of the time that means my workbench is the center of my workflow. My tablesaw is on a locking wheeled system and rolls in from the side and back out of the way again.

This means no regular outfeed table or accessories beyond things like a push stick. Setting up to cut a 10' long rip cut means positioning it in the shop with run in and run out space on either side of the blade. It also means fashioning an outfeed surface or a well trained helper to "catch" the boards without causing binding and kickback.It only makes sence in the face of a production run of some type.

Shorter boards don't require this much fore thought therefore ripping long lengths of board by hand is the quicker and simpler way for me to work.

Question everything and be the best snowflake you can possibly be.

Ratione et Passionis