Youíve heard the expression ďnever judge a book by its coverĒ? Well as I get farther (or should it be further?) into woodworking itís more like ďnever judge a piece of wood by first impressionsĒ.
Iím a wood phreak. If itís got visibly interesting grain, or is really hefty, or WIDE, I want it. And if the price is right - Iíll buy a couple hundred board feet, regardless of what it looks like - I can always paint it - god forbid. Since I got into turning Iíve become even less discriminating. If itís wood and doesnít have big cracks and splits I want it, figuring a little bandsawing will get me something I can turn into something - even if itís just a pile of chips.
I canít count how many times a nondescript board, or a downright ugly, nasty piece of wood - you know - the ones with the knots and grain direction changes that are a PITA to work, or that old barnwood or weathered fence post - contains a bit of beauty just below the surface, or will play with light once the surface is smoothed and burnished or given a coat of oil or shellac. The surprise may hide beneath layers of paint, behind an inch or two of mossy bark or under a chainsawn surface, a skip planed face, or inside a piece of split log firewood.
Maybe itís because of these experiences with wood, that I find I engage people I encounter more often. And like finding something interesting in a piece of wood, the same is often the case with people - a guy with a blind manís cane at a bookstore who isnít blind yet - but his vision is deteriorating rapidly. He was a fender and body man. Now he uses his sense of touch to find all the imperfections in a car body which canít be seen but felt BEFORE it becomes visible as the finish is being rubbed out. And heís finally getting around to learning to play the guitar, something heís been meaning to get around to and finds heís a natural. He has ďan earĒ heíd ignored when he could see well and his hand coordination and strength are perfect for the guitar. A hospice worker who suffers from depression - first impressions says WRONG! Then she tells you of the people sheís helped and some of their amazing stories and it all makes sense. A retired county sheriff who worked at a courthouse and helped folks who would otherwise be ground up by the system, guiding them through the process, lending a hand when needed, changing lives by his efforts. Thirty years and he never drew his pistol. A single mother with a teenager who has all kinds of birth defect related health problems, whose strength makes Arnold look like a wimp - yet sheís one of the most optimistic people Iíve met. The frail little old lady walking her little dog- Mary is her name - the old lady, not the dog - who has lived all over the world and seen and done so many fascinating things. The illegal immigrant with a can do attitude and does - with gusto. He walked through the desert - THREE times - to get here, and Iím grateful that he did and that Iíve gotten to know him.
Like finding something interesting in a piece of wood, the same thing is often the case with people I come across. When thereís an opportunity to engage a person I encounter in conversation - I do. Figure the worst that can happen is that they wonít respond and walk off. No big deal. BUT MOST OF THE TIME - I meet a really interesting person and learn a great deal from them.
So if youíre a wood phreak, try working with people - there are often pleasant surprises - just under the surface.