Day four goes well again!
Today passed quickly yet again and before we knew it we were sweeping masses of hand plane shavings from the workshop floor and benches. It’s amazing how many shavings you get from a few guys using a hand plane.
My day was a little easier today as I decided not to make anything, but catch up on some sketching for my next books. I have a series planned and pretty much written reflecting my life’s work as a craftsman I want to use as instructional books as a mentoring craftsman teacher. When I finally stop traveling the globe (soon) I will settle down and get them completed.
Today I watched from my bench and listened. I watched the men working, rarely stopping, but not at all exclusive to talking or saying something to another. They commit their entirety to a chisel edge on a section of wood 1” wide, cut, and then cut again. They, their eyes and hands, connect to concentrate effort, and there, in a world united by the swoosh of a plane or a hammer-striking blow passing through the air, a common unity exists and shavings from shaved wood spills in silence at their feet. Do shavings unite? Chips from a chisel edge and sawn chips of waste and unwanted wood? I think that they do. As do tools on the bench and in the hands that work them. Sight, sound, smell, touch and taste too become a shared presence of their work; they become simultaneously absorbed and no invasive machines invade the union of heart and mind and soul and strength. They talk of stubborn grain encountered at the tool’s edge and tools they tame it with, or, sometimes, they yield to its stubborn awkwardness. I listen to their decision to sharpen the dull edge of a tool – I hear what they do right and what they do wrong. I pass a comment, the chisel shifts, the tool cuts more equal to the task by just one word – perhaps two or three.
It’s different with woodworking tools
Working with woodworking tools demands every ounce of a craftsman’s attention, yet, as I say, not exclusively, but in an inclusive way. His attentiveness isn’t so much private to him, the individual, but shared by the whole.
When someone leaves the shop no one looks up, but we all sense the missing person in the same way a cat walks by inconspicuous in itself, but you feel its presence there and then you feel its disappearance when it leaves silently, unobtrusively. No one really leaves somehow. Bathroom breaks are minimally infrequent; only by necessity. Money? That can be wasted, paid out, exhausted, but it’s not good to waste time, and no one does. This is singularly our most precious commodity. We share it with one another. Memories are created and lived and kept in tact. My most vivid memories with machine woodworking are memories of near misses and I am thankful for them because they make me conscious, ever conscious, that they are highly invasive and extremely dangerous. When I am in my machine shop I must do everything I can to protect myself from the possible harm they can do to me and to others around me. When I am in my hand tool shop, I find myself at rest. I breath clean, unfiltered air and hear the birds outside in between my mallet blows. We talk back and forth and we share precious accounts that make the memories that will go to five different countries on three or four continents. I find this concept wholly stimulating. Simple, but stimulating. I see my chisels and my new mallet resting on the bench and waiting for my hands to work them. This inspires me to work in my creative workspace. It’s therapeutic in an uncomfortable and difficult world that can at times be very senseless. I was so saddened by the Boston bomb that shattered peoples’s lives with the shrapnel and futility of bitter hate. I can’t make sense of that. It makes me very sad and sorry that this happened.