Pursuit Of Perfection

"One minute was enough. Tyler said a person had to work hard for it, but a minute of perfection was worth the effort. A moment was the most you could ever expect from perfection." - Fight Club by Chuck Palahnuik

Woodworking for me is akin to the pursuit of perfection. I thought about this today as I started breaking down some pine stock to build the next project. (More on the Stanley Miter Box rehab soon) 

For me there is no more true moment than when you drive a handsaw into the fibers of a board. If you over-think it there are a hundred factors that go into every cut you make, and the more perfect you make your cut, the less work you have to do on the other end. 

A square, vertical saw cut is much easier to clean up on a shooting board. 

So I try to practice perfection every time I make a saw cut. Most of the time I succeed to varying degrees, and sometimes I fail. Sometimes I fail miserably. Perfection comes closer with practice and dedication. Perfection comes closer with every step towards mastery, with every hour closer to my 10,000. It's the satisfaction I get with hand tool woodworking that I never quite achieved in years of plugging in my tools. 

Don't get me wrong. If your path is a powered path, that is fine with me. I don't expect you to take my judgement and use it instead of your own. I have my share of power tools and I use them on occasions when I think they're the right tool for the job, and sometimes they are. They certainly excel at repetition and drudgery. 

The only thing that every bugs me is when I hear a primarily power tool woodworker wonder why anyone would care to rip a board by hand with excuses like "It''s so much slower," and "It takes so much effort" and the mentality that it's a tough thing to do. When I get the occasion to do public woodworking demos and I'm working with hand tools, people react like it's a magic trick. Like I'm David Blaine levitating before their eyes. Kids love it and enjoy the work at face value, adults are cynical and keep looking to see if I'm tricking them somehow. 

There is no trick to working wood by hand. There is skill, dedication, and practice, but there are no wires, hidden switches, sleight of hand, or misdirection. 

I was ripping some of the pine stock I broke down in half to glue up into panels and I got the notion to shoot a video with my phone to see just how long it takes me. This was standard grade home center pine 1x12, the section is three feet long. The rip saw is about six TPI and was sharpened a few months ago, last fall I think, it's not quite due again but it's getting close. I've always sharpened this saw myself so it's not supercharged by a professional. I'm not what you would call a particularly "in shape" individual so there's no special conditioning or diet involved. Double bacon cheeseburgers do help.

I'm trying to make sure no one thinks I'm tricking them when they watch this. If there's any other questions go ahead and ask and I'll be happy to answer them. I'm just pleased to know I can make this cut myself in roughly the same amount of time and speed if I'd taken the time to set up and use my table saw. 

When I want to move faster on a project in my shop, I don't back down and start plugging in "tailed apprentices." I stop taking so many documentation photographs and get to work. Power equals faster is not necessarily an irrefutable truth.

Ratione et Passionis


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