Warning. What follows has no tips or tricks to share,
no power or hand tool evaluation, no gloat or neener
and no inflamatory rant or rave. If your looking for
any of that stuff then go to the next post.
It’s close to 1 am and I’ve just completed putting on the fourth coat of
hand rubbed shellac on the spalted maple stretchers of the work bench
I’m making. I realized that I seem to do, and enjoy ,finish application
late at night when it’s quiet and there are no distractions.. And
perhaps because there are no distractions I’m often entranced by the
beauty and the variety of grain patterns that suddenly appear as the
finish is applied to a well sanded (or well scraped) piece of wood.
That got me thinking about the patterns and rythms of woodworking.
I do rough layout on stock early in the morning because it’s a quiet
thing and I have neighbors whose bedroom is maybe 50 feet from the shop
door. It’s quiet and makes it easier to hear my internal conversation -
“nice grain on this one, and it’ll go with that one - damn, wish this
knot wasn’t right there - can I hide this tear out in a tenon? - should
I cut here to get that great grain pattern and sacrifice the rest of
this board to the scrap bin? ...”
The hacking and hewing gets done after 9 am - jointing, planing, ripping
and cross cutting - the loud stuff - dust collector going, power tools
each making their unique, but all moderately loud, noises
The afternoon seems to be the best time for cutting to specifc
dimensions and joinery - things that require tight cuts and accurate
placement. The bodies up to speed, the eyes are focusing for close
work and the eye hand coordination seems to be in “the zone”.
Late afternoon and early evening seem to lend themselves to hand tools.
Chiseling, paring, hand planing, hand sawing - the neander tools part of
the day. The tools start doing what they’re made to do as muscles go
into auto pilot after a short while and the rythmic motion and the focus
on the task makes time meaningless. This is the time when parts start
fitting together - sometimes they even fit together almost perfectly -
and sometimes . . .
But it’s the late night finishing I like most. Tonight it was the
illusion of folds in parts of the spalted maple as subsequent layers of
shellac were rubbed on. Move the light or move my head and it looked
like folded gold foil, nature’s holograms. In other places the spalting
looked almost like lines and patterns done in india ink, striking agains
the pale gold background. What pops out of the wood continues to amaze
And often it’s those images of the grain pattern that float around in my
head as I nod off to sleep, anxious for tomorrow to come and more wood
to play with.
There’s a rhythm to this woodworking thing - at least for me.
retired and diggin' it!