When people say that machines are faster and more economical time wise, things like that, that’s because mostly they are, but that’s only true in the hands of the unskilled or inexperienced woodworkers. Many of my daily tasks, bevelling the ends of legs, planing a drawer side, making a dovetailed drawer and such, are exponentially faster than setting up machines and and making jigs as guides to use them. So the crosscut cuts square ends in a single pull, can bevel an edge 1 1/4″ wide and 1/4″ deep in little more than a heartbeat too. But if you bevel quarter-sawn oak with a hand plane and then a planer they’re not one and the same, neither in outcome or any other way. Your heartbeat is not increased, you don’t sweat, there is no exercise and the wood cannot go from a frown to a smile in half a dozen strokes. In fact you’re not likely to even see any change occur until it comes off the outfeed table.
Everything is happening away from you, against a fence and the cutterhead. You do not see much move at all whereas I see a smile form in a medullary ray in golden oak. The smile widens stroke on stroke and there’s the grin. I see such things in roundovers on endgrain from a fine rasp and a flat file, my plane stokes cause the growth rings to wrap around in continued contortions and of course the people I speak of can’t hear either. It’s not in any way a criticism or judgement. Just a reality. I hear my plane strokes stroke by stroke changing pitch. There’s timbre, pitch and intensity in the timber. I see and hear ribbons of wood spinning in swirls to the workshop floor and they shimmer in the evening sunlight as I close the door for home. These ordinary things seem always to salute me as the wood shifts in colour by shape and sound. Wait until you make your first cello. If that doesn’t amaze you then nothing will.
I just made my second of a design conjured up in my mind and my mind was encapsulated in the whole of design and making. Is it presumptuous to say I wrote its composition? I don’t think it is at all. No penguin suit in the workshop, just cool cotton denims and no men in suits. Here I included flutes and bassoons, violins, cellos and violas. There was an alto saxophone alongside a soprano sax delivering new notes where none existed before. I watched each part of the composition come together and then I saw in my mind’s eye a young woman at her bench shaving her oak for the strange looking tapered legs. She kept questioning herself but she persevered and she kept replacing frowns with smiles just as the same was happening with her oak medullary ray cells as in mine. One smile at a time her table came together and then I saw her gluing up her beautiful table with the intensity it takes to think in more than three dimensions. And from this she sees and understands, grows into her crafting, builds muscle tone and memories she never knew existed.