Archives For Woodworking

I saw horses

October 9, 2003 — 5 Comments
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This illustration is from a warning sticker affixed to a flush-cut saw I recently purchased.

Whenever I finish a big endeavor, such as a long roadtrip or in this case, making large furniture, I get this overwhelming feeling of surprise that nothing catastrophic happened in the process. It’s rather overwhelming, I think, that I can take, for example, a 6,700 mile road trip as I did last winter and not experience a car crash. It’s astounding to me that I can go backpacking by myself for 5 days and come out of the mountains alive. It’s not as if I go into these things thinking some terrible incident is in the cards. It’s just that when it’s all over with, I’m amazed that I’m still intact.

In this case, I’m overjoyed about the fact that I still have all my fingers after being around so much woodworking equipment for so long. It’s probably not an exaggeration to say that the dresser alone probably involved well over 1,000 cuts of wood with various very sharp-edged power tools. I’m a stickler for safety–I always wear my safety glasses or goggles, I wear ear protection, I use several different breathing masks, I use a push stick for the tablesaw, and I make jigs so I don’t have to put my fingers near the router bit on my router table. I hear that routers don’t merely sever fingers, they vaporize fingers, so I’m particularly careful around sharp carbide spinning at 23,000 times a minute.

I’ve obtained a few blood blisters and the requisite baker’s dozen of wood splinters. But so far I still have all my fingers–attached, even– which is good, considering the fact that I use them on a regular basis. I still have my eyes, which is good, because I tend to use those as well. As for my back, at the end of some days it feels like someone has put a sea urchin in it.

And on a related note, this illustration is from a warning sticker affixed to the T800 for which I did not vote.

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Ma vie en sawdust

September 17, 2003 — 1 Comment

The office/studio reorganization continues still. It began as a three-hour tour, and now, going on the third week, I still have huge piles of books on the floor and some cables that still need to be plugged into the backs of some presently cable-less things. Hell for someone as bent on organization as myself. Part of the office rehab (and to some extent, part of my psychological rehab from the office rehab), though, has been spending the better part of the day out on my porch, making furniture.

Between writing academic papers and making furniture, I have to say pretty unequivocally that I much prefer the latter. Sometimes, perhaps most of the time in my circles, ideas have no weight. Ideas have power, perhaps, but no weight.

naradesk.jpgLast week I broke out the wood workshop–a ragtag collection of power tools and hand tools which normally live underneath my stairs–and made Poog a desk-type thing. She’s starting a one-year master’s in the fall and as such, she’s moving into the office at least on a part-time basis. It’s more like a wheeled set of shelves than a desk; Poog is much more comfortable than myself when it comes to working in a big armchair, so I built her this 1-drawer / adjustable shelf thing out of some shop birch ply and oak. All the furniture I’ve made so far (at least since I got into woodworking) has been nail-and-screwless, i.e. held together by joining trickery such as biscuits and mortise and tenons and so forth, with the exception of drawer glides, which require teensy screws. I also made some corner shelves for above my desk and other misc. shelves for around the office, projects that allowed me to learn how to do dados at an angle (I try to learn something new with each piece).

One of the things I love most about working in wood is talking to people who know wood. I mean know wood. They speak of the different woods as if these woods were old friends. Each wood has a character, and each woodworker has a personal relationship with these characters. One such woodworker used the term “sympathetic” the other day when I asked how a certain wood takes to a router bit (I’ve had some less than pleasant experiences routing maple). Somehow, I found that term touching. I really feel like I’m only beginning to get to know these characters, and already they fascinate me. I look forward to the day I can say that some species of wood responds sarcastically or with ennui to being routed.

Of course, it’s hard to call any wood a friend when the thing I look forward to most is cutting it up in every way imaginable. Friends don’t cut friends (usually). I bought a tenoning jig the other day (which allows me, unsurprisingly, to cut tenons, as in mortise-and-tenon, as well allowing me to indulge in various other joinery habits) and I swear it looks like a hamster torture device.

clamps.jpgThis week I’m trying to make a nine-drawer dresser to match a piece of bedroom furniture I purchased four years ago. It’s the first piece on which I’ve worked for which I have to join multiple pieces of hardwood to create a larger panel (the process is depicted in the photo). I’m working in beech this time, a wood with which I’ve never worked before. It’s kind of orangish. Should be interesting. To all two of you who don’t prefer to buy your stuff at Ikea.

p.s. While out of necessity I must continue my irregular posting habits, more regular bloggish activities will resume within a week or so. The ‘register of daily activities’ that this blog has become isn’t exactly my cup of tea, but I’m not really drinking much of anything else these days. In a little more than a week I start teaching creative writing to trust fund hippies.

p.p.s. Thanks to all of you who responded in regards to Thalamus. It’ll be reactivated soon, in one form or another.

p.p.p.s. Big Dipper is partly to blame for my adulthood fascination with woodworking. My hat’s off to him.