Flow

Folks don’t seem to realize this. It took me a long time to figure this one out. Good flow in the shop, like a stream running downhill, makes for good work. Now I’m not saying there aren’t bumps and rocks in the way, things that deflect us for a time from our appointed goal. But I know that working at the bench is always easier when my tools are where they’re supposed to be, my jigs are handy and not taken somewheres else, when my  head is in the game and not a million miles away. I find that everything from sharpening to cutting a mortise goes more simply when there is good flow in the shop.

Flow comes from the physical placement of things. Getting things right at the bench so the work flows from your hands without thought. But flow also comes from inside. Allowing myself time at the bench to make my focus right, to slow down from the pace outside the shop, to discover the mood of the day, and direct it to the end I have in mind that day.

Flow comes then from inside and outside and some days things flow and some days I’m a rolling stone in the river. Some days are smooth. Some days I stumble along like everyone else. But I know what I’m after at least. I am after that flow. Slowing down enough at the bench to be certain and sure and productive. It’s a good feeling to have.

Taper Oak Chest Inlay

 

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The stool class starts today. Breathe deep.

 

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Dovetails

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Dovetails. This symbol of woodworking excellence. What a pain in the butt.

They’re fussy. They require concentration and skill and enormous patience. At least if you want to do them halfway well. I do have students who after trying tail and pain by hand, turn to the router and dovetail jig. I get this. I never had clients who could afford hand cut work. This was out of everyone’s price range. I used sliding dovetails for their pieces instead cut with a router and bit.

But I understand as well the dovetail joint’s virtue in teaching accuracy and slowing down. This helps me at the band saw and the router table. In the end, I advocate my 5 minute dovetail as a means of getting our heads to the bench, slowing down, and training our focus to get tight. Because the work we do at the bench has a tight focus to it.

It depends entirely upon one’s intention while at the bench. If it is to build good work at a pace, then finding methods that work whether by hand or with a machine seems to me a fine choice. Check out the furniture of Greene & Greene and the Hall Brothers building for them. No dovetails used. All finger jointed drawers and cases.

If on the other hand, one’s intention is simply to be at the bench then hand cutting everything makes good sense too. Pace doesn’t matter then.

Simply answer this question: does it feel good to get work completed that you can feel proud of? Then use all the tools in your kit. {Note: I stop short of programming a CNC to cut mine, if I had a CNC.} If product isn’t your goal but process is, then mill your wood by hand too. But always ask yourself before you dive in: What do I want from this project?

If it’s a gift, get ‘er done. If it’s a gift for you, take your time and enjoy the ride. Either way you’re at the bench and that’s a good thing.

Dovetail chest Matthew DMP #12 013

Distance Mastery Student Matthew Kanomata’s Dovetail Chest

 

 

 

 

 

 

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If I Only Knew

If I only knew how easy it is to fix [insert problem], I would have done it years ago. The problem is not the problem in need of a solution: the drawer that needs planing or the joint that needs re-tuning or the door that needs to be built. It is turning my attention to this issue at hand that is the problem. It is getting me to slow down long enough to turn and face it. It is turning the battleship that is my attention and then moving forward.

Usually when I do, I find a solution, I dive into the work, I may make a couple of mistakes and fix those and get the job done much faster than all the complaining about how much work there is to do.  If I slow down long enough to focus on the issue, it oftentimes gets fixed in a jiffy.

Now turning that battleship, that’s the trick part. But so satisfying when I do.

 

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Classes

Another reminder to take care of yourself. Take care of your curiosity, get out there and exercise your brain, use your hands to feed your mind. Build something of value: your sense of accomplishment. Build your knowledge.

Join us a for a variety of classes and workshops at the Studio this Winter. From Complete Novice classes to a Masterworks Class. Build a Bike Rack or Tune your Hand Planes, we have classes for all levels of students.

Design Strategy workshops are one day affairs. Good fun as I show people that they too can draw and design. We’ll be working on Dining Table designs.

Anyways, Happy and Better New Year. Check out all the offerings at www.northwestwoodworking.com.

 

 

Front cover 1

Get your copy of Handmade at http://www.woodworkerslibrary.com/woodworking-books/handmade-creative-focus-in-the-age-of-distraction/

 

SAB Detail Inlay

 

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How Long?

Someone asked me how long it took to write my new book. It’s like asking how long it takes to cut a dovetail. The actual work may last only an hour or two, but the preparation takes years.

My new book is called Handmade, Creative Focus in the Age of Distraction. Find it at Linden Publishing: http://www.woodworkerslibrary.com/woodworking-books/handmade-creative-focus-in-the-age-of-distraction/

The book required almost two years to write, fix it, fix that version, rewrite it, throw it away and make a third version and edit that into what is now a book form.  The stories in it come from my life at the bench and on the hiking trail and with my students and the work that I have produced. It is a book about creativity, inspiration, and the value of failure and forgiveness in this work that we do with our hands.

Join us next Wednesday, November 29, for our DESIGN: Open House for the book launch. We start at 6pm. It’s free, open to all, and will be good fun if you join us.

 

Front cover 1.jpg

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A Shaving

A student asked me about the thickness of shaving. How thick should it be? My reply was that a dollar bill, an American issue bill has a thickness of . 004″. A good shaving should be half that I told her. That’s. 002″ thick. As all new students do, she marveled. How do you make something so thin?

The shaving itself, it turns out, takes little to accomplish. It is a stroke, a quick pass with the hand plane. It is the preparation to make that shaving that takes the hours of practice. It is the practice of sharpening, of honing the edge, of tuning the hand plane, all these things combine to yield a shaving so thin. Without each of them, the hand plane cannot sing. It cannot play the tune that appears so simple, a movement to create a whisper of a shaving.

It is the practice in the end that is the most important part of an activity. So that the act may be accomplished with surety, with confidence, without thought. Thinking about the act itself gets in the way. It is the confidence of the worker that lets the work flow through to the tool, to the paint brush, to the instrument.

 

Bedrock in use w hands

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The Creative Streak

Why do we make things? Why do we do this creative work?

A dear friend came by last night and looked at a kitchen table of mine made some decades ago. She saw the Cloud Rise curves shaped into the edge of its top. She noticed the Chinese foot at the base of the piece. She remarked on the table, admired its shapes, color, wood. These details were ones that I had put in to train myself at the bench. They made no difference to the integrity of the table. It stood still.

There are efforts we make that have nothing to do with structure, with longevity or use. They are done simply because they are important to me, the builder. They are important to how I feel when I’m done with the piece. That I have given it some character, some part of me as well. These painstaking details are done because they inform the piece. They are a gift of intention by its maker. “Here I hope you enjoy this.”

Nothing more. Done as much for me, the builder, as for the eventual viewer who will never know how many hours it took to create the details that her eyes glanced down to and admired in a few minutes of time. It is how it is.

The work was done for her but also for my own selfish needs to satisfy my simple creative urge. That streak of me-ness that will flash briefly and be seen little more.

Read more of my musings on creativity in my new book: Handmade, Creative Focus in the Age of Distraction.

An image of the first chunk of wood I made into a piece of crude furniture.

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Hand Planes

Some folks think of hand planes as artifacts. Some consider them cute antiques. Others have the best of intentions to use them on a project some day.

I consider my hand planes to be time savers. They cut out sanding chores, they shave impossibly thin shavings so I can fit joints together perfectly, they smooth and flatten. I would be lost without my kit of hand planes. Their roles in the shop has increased even as my number of machines have. They can do chores that machines cannot.

Saturday we host another workshop at the Studio on Handplanes: Tuning and Using. Join us for the quiet satisfaction of tuning and then using a hand plane. Can’t beat it.

 

 

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Mastery Show

Two years. Long time, two years. And yet for the graduating Mastery students, I can tell you that it seems like a flash of light that just flew by.

Join us First Thursday, October 5th from 5-7:30pm. There will be work from six accomplished woodworkers on display at the Studio. They have spent two years working, designing, thinking, worrying, stressing in order to make and show their final Signature pieces. Please come by and take a look.

Base Camp Brewing says howdy as well. I hope to see you there.

1-Mastery 2017

1-Signature Gaming Cabinet Shea RMP

 

 

 

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The Backs of Things

I have a cabinet I’m finishing up. It has some nice inlay on the front of it. This is visually appealing and the inlay is raised up so it’s tactile as well. The cabinet itself has tapered lines to it so it has some interest. On this version of the cabinet, I wanted the back to be important too.

I took the time to carry my tapering motif around to the back boards. Spending a little extra time here does not pay off immediately. It takes longer. I fuss more with the fit of the back. But in the long run, every time I see the back, I say to myself, Worth it.

Some jobs are not done for the client. They’re done for me and my satisfaction.

 

Tapered back slats

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