And Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday Sunday too
As this week begins for some it means coming to a close for others and especially those with me who are currently finishing up their rocking chair making. Tomorrow is the last day and there is still much to do to conclude. Creative work is always high-demand work and learning in the same sphere creates its own dynamic dimension most people today may never experience.
Planing oak with spokeshaves and hand planes may be alien to most in our modern culture and often woodworkers have rarely experienced working with any kind of hardwood let alone oak that has many idiosyncrasies. What is too much of one thing in one wood is often not enough in another. We work through the phases and see a chair front come together and it looks unidentifiable, but then we put the back together and suddenly a chair appears from a pile of sticks. Watching from my bench and listening too I detect a miscut, a wrong direction, the sound of vibrations I oughtn’t to hear and we adjust the angle or the direction and the sounds stop. Experience only comes second by second but then it’s banked for drawing on in future projects.
One thing I thought about today as I painted the new toolbox mostly. Plane chatter is of course an extremely rare and unusual phenomenon capitalised on by heavy planemakers who use the term to describe a completely different condition left by hand planes. These plane makers have attributed this condition to thin irons and lightweight planes which is actually grossly inaccurate and untrue. Most woodworkers bought into this not realising that it was their inexperience in using hand planes that more caused the problem than what was in fact being blamed. The plane makers know this but of course are not likely to admit it because it would indeed damage sales. Beyond that though, power planers do leave a surface that is unacceptable as a finished surface but no one rally complains about the fact that all planers leave a finish that looks very similar to that of a plane that chatters. The minute undulations left by planers doesn’t look dissimilar to plane chatter and yet ot covers the whole surface of any wood that comes from a machine. Don’t you think that that’s odd? On my toolbox that I have been making I hand planed every surface to a level that I wanted as a replication of features I saw in the original toolbox. Undulations and starts and stops by hand planes are some of these conditions. there was however one part of a board that I missed and when I put the paint and finish on the section the whole surface had a very distinct parallel lines that went the full width and length of missed section.
The intenseness of creating a rocking chair of this type and to this standard always charges the atmosphere of the shop regardless of anything. I of course sense it and try to discharge it wherever possible so as to make certain that people do indeed find the balance between the demand and the process that should have a positive and enjoyable experience for all. We banter back and forth lightheartedly and a smile brake from time to time. I put myself in the students place and envisage some of what they feel. learning anything makes demands on us. In my case high demand might be mastering new software on my computer and for others this might be a breeze. On the other hand mastering a hand skill is to strain and retrain my hand to a manipulation it finds unusual and difficult but I have a confidence I can make the transition because of my experience.Your hands like mine are made for manipulating many things and by design we create what no other creature can. The fingers pick, place and manoeuvre fineness directed by the hand and the arm and the brain sends messages to nerve endings that make the brush flick and the needle point and pierce and the knife sever to the line the boundary of which you define. When I work I wait for the edge and the point to penetrate and adjust according to sense before I lift and press and shift the tool in the material. The fine point is never finer than the fineness of the sense directing it. By sense we make sense, and there we discover value levels we define by the value we place in accuracy. It’s important for students to develop sensitivity and that’s what has been happening though out this week.
John’s beautiful box is a wedding gift for this coming weekend
It would be inadequate for me to try to describe the internal fineness of John’s work in the formation of joinery and such and also his working with different hand planes and chisels,; things like that. His book-matched panels and materials used throughout were all cut with a tenon saw he recut the teeth on using the methods we recently taught via YoutTube with the latest technique teaching we did for saw teeth and the recutting of them. What impressed me mos and impresses me most is his attitude to what others might consider adversity. I have a couple of perfectly good bandsaws that would have cut the pieces down the centre in a heartbeat but John cut them with the tenon saw. Some pieces were too wide and he cut them with a panel saw. This sets him apart because he knows that the bandsaw robs him of developing skill. He sets a standard for himself not a yoke of hardship as some might suppose. He chooses developed skill. he understands the self imposition of this and that’s what makes him so very different. I’ve picked my own battles through the years that have helped me develop character along with my skill. It’s all a matter of choice and it’s been that that makes me a craftsman.