Having Re-, Re-, Relearned the Lesson

Perhaps it’s because it’s almost midnight and I’m watching a woodworking video for the second time in the last couple of weeks but a question just struck me.  What does learning to work wood have in common with the movie, Airplane!?

You may be wondering what I’m doing watching the same video for a second time in such a short period of time.  However, I suspect, you may have done the same thing as well. (At least I hope you have for the sake of my sanity)  In trying to learn this hobby, this is not an unusual occurrence for me.  In fact, there are some videos that I’ve watched several times and articles and books that I’ve read several times.

It’s not unusual for me to run into a problem or new realization that sends me scurrying to the bookshelf, computer, or DVD player.  Occasionally (or often if I admit) I’ll read something that sparks a memory that sends me searching through my resources to check that I got it down.  Even without that spark I’ll go back and back and back again to something I learned.  I started with so little knowledge of the craft, at first what I read was as if I was reading it in a foreign language I didn’t speak.  As I’ve learned the vocabulary of the wood and the tools and learned to conjugate the grain, some of what I glossed over before suddenly makes sense.

“That’s great,” you may say, “but surely that doesn’t have anything to do with that oddball movie.”  My reply: “Ah but it does, and don’t call me Shirley.”  Airplane! was one of my favorite movies and I’ve seen it many times over the years.  One thing about that movie is that you have to pay attention.  In fact, it’s so loaded with little off-beat images that you can’t take them all in in one viewing.  That’s what I’ve been experiencing with my virtual apprenticeship in woodworking.

The first time I see something, I get the obvious and the main meanings (if I’m lucky).  The second time I may notice enough to ask myself why do it that way instead of another.  The third time I may actually have an ‘aha’ moment and figure out a nuance  or a reason for doing things a certain way.

I may get tired of some of these videos but I hope I never loose that thirst for learning that sends me back to them.  Now I’m off to see if the Autopilot can rip that long piece of 8/4 Maple for me.

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The First Completed Project – two pieces of wood with two sets of holes

I bought my first woodworking tools with an eye towards starting my hobby/journey a couple of years ago.  I bought some Poplar and was going to build what I thought would be and easy project – a box.  I even had a plan for said box – to house an old torque wrench.  But there was one problem – I had no idea what I was doing.  I couldn’t even saw or plane the wood straight – and Poplar is oh such a difficult wood.  Maybe a box wasn’t such a great idea.

So I began reading, watching Youtube, and buying DVD’s.  I asked my share of stupid questions on forums (now I’m working on more than my share).  I had started out working with a Japanese ryoba saw, chisel, and small kanna block plane.  After doing some reading I decided that the Japanese “pull philosophy’ of tools would work better with my failing body.  That changed with the introduction of one tool to my arsenal.  I read an article about Mark Harrell and Bad Axe saws; reading that he was retired Army just like me made me decide to give one of his saws a go.  I got a 12” hybrid filed dovetail/carcass saw and it cut just oh so sweetly.  Any lingering doubts over the ability of Western tools was erased shortly thereafter when I was gifted an Old Street Tools wooden coffin smoothing plane.

I gathered up tools for about a year and tried to gather up knowledge.  However, I still didn’t have a completed project to my name.  In fact, thanks to a gift from a relative, I had a collection of tools that should have allowed me to build anything my heart would have desired but the reality was nada, zilch, bubkus.

I got a DVD on how to build a Shaker table from one of the Authors/Teachers I’d relied on most in my earliest woodworking readings (Christopher Schwarz).  I ordered some primo Walnut and set to sawing.  I made some pretty good progress.

So finally I get to my first finished project – a shaker table!  well, not exactly.  Sawing out the leg stock from 8/4 walnut with only a rip saw (even if it was a fine thumb-hole Disston D8 rip saw) with my noodle arms was beyond me.  But that process did leave me with the ‘middles’ of those primo walnut 8/4 boards left to do something with.  One of the biggest problems I’d encountered though out this entire journey was work-holding.  I used the boards and ordered hardware from Benchcrafted to make a twin-screw (a.k.a. Moxon) vise.

It’s just two boards cut to length and planed straight (and not well at that) with a ledger board glued on the back (on the wrong side the first time around) and threads, nuts, and cool cast wheels holding them together.  It’s just all that but I call it done – and I call it my first completed project!

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