And holy crap, have I lost it. The touch, that is. The closest I’ve gotten to fine woodworking was in 2007! That’s the last time I held a chisel in anger. Well, okay, some inlay on the bartop and floors, but really. It’s not that I haven’t been working in wood, but the kind of delicate hand work that I really love has just not been happening.
So, it was with some trepidation that I took saw in hand and set out to make a pair of Shoji screens to fit over my neighbor-facing kitchen window. And well should I have trembled; the joints look like they were cut by an epileptic third grader. I’ll spare my loyal readers any pictures, lest I spoil my reputation as craftsman extraordinaire.
A word about my environment. I wear hearing protection – specifically, one of those FM radio-equipped earmuffs (the FM radio on this particular model gets no reception, I can’t recommend it). I’ve attached an MP3 player so I can listen to podcasts while I work. This morning, I went to work without said earmuffs – all I was doing was hand work, so there was no need for ear protection. And voila! I can do good work again.
I’ve re-learned two important lessons. The more obvious lesson was that woodworking, especially hand work, is meditative. It’s monotonous, repetitive, and It demands absolute concentration on the task at hand. Terri Gross, god bless her, has no place in the woodshop. The second is the importance of sound. LISTEN to your tools – the difference between pairing to a line and bottoming out is right there, in your ear. A hand saw should just kiss the wood at first, and that happy slicing sound should never be replaced with the grind of an over-enthusiastic shove.
Workshop tip – attach the remote control for your dust collection to your headset. You’ll never lose it.