Filming the Cot Making

This week I made an oak baby’s cot, or at least I began making my granddaughter’s cot for when she arrives. It’s oak, only because I had saved some specially figured oak for something special and what could be more special than a new baby? I got the more complicated work completed so I felt pretty satisfied because presenting the awkward aspects to the videographers is not always as easy as it might look. Oh, so you’ll guess now that I am filming it for an upcoming woodworking masterclasses series too. I suspect it’s more a granddad thing from what I’ve seen. I have truly enjoyed this working and it is easier having completed the prototype—no more guesswork. I completed the prototype last week as I also worked on a secret prototype project I am making from three full sheets of 3/4″ birch 13-ply plywood I bought in a few weeks ago when I made the prototype cot in pine. The work is going well in both camps and the secret project prototype is now fully completed.

The oak cot I am making in two stages so we can all catch up a little on pressing issues we need to stay ahead with. I don’t altogether mind a break between sessions one and two because we’ve all got to stay sane and sanity hinges on not being overwhelmed in our workload. I noticed how sore my hands were this week and how many splinters I got from both the oak and the baltic birch ply. On one hand I had no less than 12 minor cuts and splinters with one turning a bit septic till I managed to retrieve the deeply embedded splinter by surgery with a sharp 1/4″ chisel.

Another achievement was to switch fences on my latest bandsaw with a retrofit fence I quite like. Whereas the last three bandsaws I have tested out have all had the option of switching the fence to a high or low profile, for tall or low cuts, in reality the high profile is not all that advantageous. I like a fence 3″ tall which means it can be used in relation to the lowered blade guard  without flipping it. Whereas the idea seems logical, it was really an unnecessary feature as a 3″ fence is plenty tall enough and if you feel the need for a taller fence you can make a plywood extension in a coupler if minutes. I added an auxiliar fence to my bandsaw to remove the need for fence position change and it works just fine.

It has been a particularly high demand week this week but I have learned through the years to look for silence and silent pockets to immerse myself in. sometimes, all too often in my view, we look to keep busy so as to avoid thinking about issues too much. But we must resolve things that bog us down and the best way to do this is to think through why we are perhaps avoiding it. As a furniture maker I face struggles at the bench day by day and the things I don’t want to do  tend to get stacked up while the more pleasant things get taken care of quickly.

Without silence healing rarely comes full swing and the task of wellbeing and peace is indeed elusive. Silence gives us time to look for answers to issues so we can resolve them one by one. Issues can be emotional or simply practical in physical realms. I have never believed there are such things as multitaskers but I do believe there are quicker thinkers and doers who are apt more than others to prioritise more readily an order of tasks to be done. The multitaskers I speak of facing many issues fail to see that they are often too full of themselves to do one task at a time well—just my thought. I have yet to see someone calling themselves a multitasker achieve half as much in terms of a job well done as someone who knows his limits and follows a task-centred approach to one task at a time. I am not a multitasker except when I am driving my car where I can slip gear, press a clutch, accelerate, look in my rear-view mirror and listen to the radio all at once. But even these are part of the singular process of driving. I cannot use a saw and then plane wood at the same time.

Silence of course is as elusive as peace, yet surprisingly I seem to find both in between each mallet blow and plane and saw stroke. I have found much love in such pockets of isolated silence too—there it is sitting right alongside kindness. My woodworking teaches me the need for more gentleness, kindness and patience. How about that.

A poem on the amusement of birch plywood

CONTRARINESS
Plywood planes in unpleasing ways
Each layered grain strains the plane, the muscle and sinewed hand and arm, shouldered neck and then so too the head.
Contrary by nature, plywood resists the maker in his making, defies the cutting edge, denies the feeling of softness in its fakeness.
Planing plies all effort by its crisscrossed, striated layering. Expect nothing more from it than straining, adverse graining, body in racked paining.
Plywood fights you, bites back with splintered spikes, its hard corners snag you, drag and pull at you.
Plywood is an amazing substance of resilience!

8 comments on “Filming the Cot Making

  1. Paul, congratulations on your new granddaughter. I have 3 granddaughters ages 4, 2, and 5 weeks, and a grandson who is 6. There is nothing in the world like grandchildren.
    While you are a noted Master Woodworker, I believe that this post proves that you are an equally adept home-spun philosopher. You hit the nail right on the head with this post.
    Thank you for your teaching on woodworking and philosophy of life, but also the snippets of your own personal life that you choose to share with this much larger audience. May your life be as blessed as your teaching has made mine

  2. One of the pleasures of woodworking is creating things for the people you love. And woodworking most definitely develops patience! Thank you for this piece.

  3. I am anxious to see the cot to make one to my yet to born granddaugther.
    About multitasks i am with you 100% – “Do not play to many donkeys at once”.
    Thank you.

  4. Paul, I am sat in bead on a Sunday night reading this with a massive smile on my face. I am expecting my first child in March next year and I have been telling my girlfriend how much I would love to build our first cot but was unsure as I am not a seasoned woodworker, knowing that you will be filming a series on this is just such a coincidence and I know feel like it’s now an achievable goal. Thank you so much for all you do
    Regards Robert

  5. THANK YOU, I had someone chiding me about little nicks and scrapes and dings and splinters, “be more careful, that shouldn’t happen ever” and I’m thinking ‘if I was using table saws and electric drills and planers I probably //would// brag about my flawless nick/scrape rate’ but hey, I’ve been doing this for a year now, maybe they had a point I wondered?

    Then you mentioned oak and tracking down splinters and I remembered that a ding or scrape with my tools is a matter of “ow, that was dumb” or grumble because the wood gave way too early or caught suddenly.

    Sometimes you’re playing with a gorgeous section of walnut and the wood works like butter and does everything you want and expect… and sometimes a piece of oak decides it hates you and it’s going to beat you up all day long.

  6. HA! Good for plywood! There is great pleasure in being contrarian. Unfortunately in this case, it’s the woodworker that has to deal the with the consequences while the plywood lives in joy. Seems quite just, HA!

  7. One of the best things on learning woodworking was the finding of this blog. Experience and skills are of extreme importance, but the psychological factors involved while doing tasks not only go beyond but also contribute to be a better person, to make a better project and to feel that “click” of fulfillment. At this blog I find some momentary thoughts of mine expressed written with simplicity by Paul.
    I also don’t bother anymore when I’m learning by myself and make something wrong, or when I spend time and get bad results; because I feel somewhat glad for the attempt itself and thank for being able to do it.

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