From my Journal Entry May 2018
My morning bursts open in my head as I walk the river paths through green fields and to my work. Ideas waken in quick successive twists, curves and curls, spinning, spinning, swirling from my brain reminding me of shavings that twist from my plane. Before the pine scent hits full on I’m synchronising a new design I want to try and a project genesis quickly comes together in multiple dimensions. I look through the workshop door, listen to the shavings crushing underneath my steps. They’ve gathered like the russet brown leaves of autumn do in the darker corners of my bench legs, wafted by gentle breezes until they nestle as giant nests. The shavings seem always to speak in hushed tones of work passed done, the colours of mahogany and pine, of stools and chests, when I’m alone in the quiet. Each one is a colour all it’s own, some like striped springs, coils taut, wide, thin, slack gossamer as the wings of nymphs, catching light in slow eddies of dust.
The scents lift my spirits as motes spin in the early sunbeams and I dread days when tools must go away and work sits idly on my workbench as if to wait say for my return. I stop, walk back to the work left, touch the wood to somehow reassure it of my soon-coming return. Then, as if without thought at all, I trace my fingertips limply to the tools too, tug a shaving from a jack plane throat, pinch sawdust to a pile, and pluck up my old plane firmly. I know these things of which I speak as intimately as I know my own mind, my body. I know how they work for me, loyally, unswervingly. They bring prestige, these unnamed otherwise unknown things called merely tools yet seek no reward but only give my reward in daily bread. I looked to the wall filled with racked wood, stacked and packed tightly, dull yet, not bright and stubble rough to my touch, the brushing of my backhand, my inner arm and my soft and fleshy upper under arm. These tiny pinpricks prickle more, spike me with a million tiny barbs but yet a stroke and two more I take and I see grain sparkle as stars , soft, soft as silk and then my fingertips feel no trace of the harshness known just a minute or so ago. And of the now new golden hues, rich, warm, there’s so little I can say but this, “Even Solomon in all his glory was never clothed as one of these!” My eyes behold in the cherry a depth of beauty few woods have with such subtlety; an inner beauty until now no man has seen.
My dovetails were tight today—too tight—too near to perfection yet not quite far enough away to fit right by being just not too tight. I didn’t feel fit to fit them them more just there and then so I walked away and left them there unmarried but close. For a marrying of these two one part must be reduced—perhaps both. Which part is too proud yet I don’t know. I must judge, assess every facet for shine and impressions, pare away the proud highs and judge too my saw cuts to examine myself in the process for the angles must yet match or yet be made to match perfectly as gapless pairings. Rightness can be a difficult thing. A flawed cut means they will never truly match, marry and the evidence of miscuts remain after the man who miscut is long gone.
So I left the two apart on my benchtop, one with pins uppermost in the vise, the other lying nearby. I must reconcile one to the other and only patient thought with sensitivity will prevail. The chisel seems to lay there watchfully between the two, keen edged and ready, glinting as a mirror in the soft evening light and surrounded by my abandoned shavings. There for me is a picture I have always regarded fondly and highly. An unpainted art for sure. Proof that craft is the art of work and that work is in the ongoing of a process. So I look the more to record the scene of loveliness. I wait until it’s seared in my mind lest I forget. The evening arrives ad I have yet to reconcile the pins and the tails. I still wait and watch, but more to see that I am ready and the shavings remain as waftings across my benchtop and as yet unswept floor. My eyes drift from the two parted pieces, I lift my plane, uncertain of the grain. Should I swipe a stroke or yet refrain a while longer? I savour the moment until my thoughts gain strength. It’s not a big step at all but there are no guarantees. It might just be the right thing but maybe not too. I have to feel right, not force the issue, make a mistake, a mis-take, a mis-stroke.
The night seems long to me and I wake to thoughts of reduction. I wake several times and think only of the tight parts. No one else can do this for me. It’s no one else’s task but mine. The distance between seating the parts yet unmarried is but one small inch away, a single stroke with a sharp edge settles the matter, maybe two or three but where to cut to brings unity? Who knows such a thing? Not me. Not yet. I’m unsettled, cannot rest until reconciliation happens. I’m ready to make cuts now. I have waited for patience, for everything to be in order and for full, bright, clear sight. No sense trying in a half light. It needs the full and bright full light of day. The nearer to perfection a joint comes the greater the risk of imperfection is.