Shop Healing

Article - February 26, 2010

I had some time this week to do a little of what I like to call “shop healing”. My schedule can get so hectic sometimes that I start losing focus and I feel like I am spreading myself too thin. That’s when I know its time to get re-centered and re-calibrated. Since I am between projects, this was the perfect time to go all zen on my shop.

I started by tweaking my setup. An inefficient space is a frustrating space! My tool cabinet was originally mounted in a little alcove behind my oscillating spindle sander. This made it very difficult to reach the tools, which kind of defeats the purpose of my “handy” cabinet. So I moved it over to the other side of the shop and cut my big storage rack down to half-height. I was already starting to feel the tingly sensation of peace and harmony.

But I didn’t stop there. My next mission was sharpening. All of my chisels and plane blades were ready for a touch up, so I pulled out the Shaptons. Once I got started, I just couldn’t stop. So over the course of two days, I lapped every back and honed every bevel in the shop! I was getting so close to intergalactic oneness at this point.

So with a couple more days to kill, I decided to finish off my woodworking vacation with a little hand tool practice. Now you guys know I am not the type to mill up my project lumber using bench planes only. As long as my Powermatic jointer still has juice, you won’t see me flattening boards the old-fashioned way. But on occasions like this, I will select a very special board that I will refer to as “The Offering”, and mill that puppy flat and square using my trusty #5, #7 and #4 bench planes. I just go to town on The Offering until its flat or I run out of wood. Any stress that was in my head goes through my hands, into the plane, and ultimately escapes in the form of a wispy shaving. If someone were to observe me at this point, they might even hear me semi-consciously mumbling, “That’s for that stupid house that won’t sell!” and “That’s for that credit card payment I forgot to pay!” Life’s too short to hold on to these things, and the wood is all too happy to help me rid myself of them. If you haven’t tried this, I highly recommend it.

The grand finale of my week was getting some practice cutting a few half-blind dovetails by hand. I don’t do this often and I needed some practice before I teach the Guild members how to do this on their Shaker End Tables. It proved to be a great way to test the edges on my newly sharpened gear.

Although I am incredibly busy, I love what I do. Its hard to call it work when I would be doing this stuff with or without a paycheck. But its incredibly important for me to occasionally get back to basics and spend some quality time in my shop. And while I am no neanderthal hand tool junkie, its interesting to observe what tools I go to when I am in the stress-relieving re-centering mode. I had absolutely no desire to use electricity in the shop this week. But when it comes time to flatten my next project board, you can bet you’ll be hearing the sweet hum of a jointer and planer coming from my shop.

Feeling refreshed, renewed, and reconnected with my shop, I am ready to take on the insanely busy month of March.


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