Just What Do You Get Out Of It?

I've fought it for a long time but today I lost the battle. I bought a record player and coughed up the cash to buy "Unplugged in New York," and "Wish You Were Here," for at least the 3rd time each. (Cassette, CD, and now Vinyl) Not finding any Pearl Jam saved me from selling my spare kidney.

I fought buying back into vinyl it because I know I'm a completist. I have a huge library on CD and I'm worried dipping my toe the sea of black disks would bring me ruin as I try to re-purchase everything I already own. There have been many times in my life I've had to limit myself before something got too out of control and vinyl felt that way but today I convinced myself of a thing that opened the door.

I am a sucker for making something "feel" special, for making an everyday thing feel like an "occasion" I quit smoking nearly a decade ago but I actually quit smoking cigarettes closer to 15 years ago. I switched to a tobacco pipe and the occasional cigar for most of my nicotine fix. Stopping smoking a pipe made things much tougher because it made everytime I lit up an event. It was something special. There was a process and paraphernalia. It was something that took some amount of skill and practice to look effortless and efficient and others regarded it as something novel or unique.

Vinyl has a very similar appeal. It takes some effort to listen to an album. I've convinced myself it's this pageantry that will limit my completist compulsions. It doesn't have the portability of digital or even CD. It demands some care and attention and not every record is worth all the extra effort. It will have to be an album with which I've already developed a distinctly personal relationship.

But this has nothing to do with my woodworking or my art . . . or does it?

Sometimes I'm asked why I choose to perform most of my woodworking using hand tools and I have many answers for this at any given event:

  • I've spent many years working in surgery and I've helped cleanout and revise many tablesaw amputations. I use hand tools because if I cut my finger off then I was determined to do it!
  • I hate wearing all the ear protection, dust mask, and other errata. With hand tools I can listen to the radio or a podcast and still be productive. (This is somewhat BS. I still often wear hearing protection while at the bench these days, hammer strikes on anything pierce right through) 
  • I like the history, the way it connects me to the past in a visceral way. I can do things the same as the colonists that landed here a couple hundred years ago and I can understand better the way they worked a thousand year ago. 
  • I like the independance. The fact that I don't have to rely on a power grid. After the EMP goes off practical hand skills will be a commodity. 
  • I find it gives me greater control over the outcome, I can pay more attention to the details and I'm more involved in the end product. 
  • Ummm. . . because I can!

Every explanation contains a thread of truth and a hefty dose of bullshit.

The closest to the truth I can get is akin to why I struggled to quit smoking and eventually caved to vinyl.

Woodworking by hand feels special. It feels like an occasion. It's not a skill set anyone can pick up quickly. It takes time in the saddle and dedication to assimilate the skills into your eyes and your hands. You can't fake it 'til you make it. You can't rely on a doctorate or an expensive set of high end tools. You CAN NOT buy your way in. It is a great equalizer.

It takes effort and commitment.

It takes making mistakes and fixing them, accepting them, or burning them and starting over. 

It takes effort and that makes it special. In this world today, something that takes effort and sweat based equity is something worth treasuring.

Ratione et Passionis


  1. My truth/BS answer is "I like that I can be productive hitting things with a mallet, it is a nice change from my job, IT computer support."


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