Archive for May 2011

Wear your dust mask!

I bet that many drug addicts can look back on their lives and pick out the moment when everything changed.  When they went from being an occasional user to being an addict.  When their priorities shifted and the cost of the habit didn’t pose the barrier it once did.  I think today I reached that point in my life.  My drug: wood. 

It started off innocently enough, as most periods of experimentation do.  I knew I liked wood.  I’d even began to acquire a taste for the good stuff.  I’d driven almost an hour to the dodgy part of the bay area (San Jose) to visit Global Wood Source.  I came back, $50 poorer, with a striking piece of figured maple. It had that bumpy, lenticular, pattern that you’d find on school supplies in the 90’s.  With aspirations of veneering drawer fronts dancing in my head, that board was added to my modest lumber stack.

A single event does not a habit form.  No harm, no foul.  I can quit any time… until tonight.  I was doing rough layout for the Wood Whisperer Guild Adirondack Chair build when I realized I’d been taken in by my lust for wood at the lumber yard last weekend.

What did it wasn’t that I’d decided to make outdoor furniture out of Mahogany…. That’s excusable.  The Greene brothers would roll over in their cloud lifted, proud box jointed, ebony plugged graves if I did any different.  What tipped me over the edge were those few beautiful ribbon stripe boards amongst the FSC honduran mahogany.  I saw those and it was over.  Any sense of grain, color, pattern matching was out the window.  I set those aside, picked the rest of my boards, and loaded up my Subaru with my junk proudly hanging out the back hatch.  I was soaring high with my new score.  When I got home I pulled my girlfriend away from her homework to flaunt my stash.

Then came the hangover.  Those same gorgeous ribbon stripe boards tonight became a problem.  They just wouldn’t fit into the chairs.  They weren’t wide enough to make the backs.  I didn’t have enough to glue up into panels.  I spent hours pouring over them trying to fit them into the chairs without standing out.  Finally admitting defeat, I decided to shelve the boards and head back to the lumber yard this weekend to find replacements that would match the others.  No big deal.  After all, those ribbon stripe boards would make some killer panels in some cabinet doors… right…




It’s over.  I’m now a full fledged wood addict.  In the imortal words of Hunter S. Thompson “once you get into a serious drug collection, the tendency is to push it as far as you can”

A month an a half ago I began an experiment.

My observations:

Being at work added stress to my day.  I like my job, but it can get real intense.

Being in my shop reduces stress in my day.

Having flexible work hours, my schedule tended towards getting in late and staying late.  By the time I got home, it was too late to run any power tools.

That morning, six weeks ago, I found myself rushing to get some work done on a project before leaving for work.  Not only was I rushed, but I was stressing about getting into work “late.”  On the drive into work I realized I had it all backwards.  I should put the activity that reduces stress after the one that adds it.

My hypothesis:

If I shift my day so that I can spend time in my shop after work, I’ll be a happier Erik.

Science in hand, I set my alarm for 7:00am and the next morning was on the 7:45 shuttle to work.  I arrived earlier that I ever have, including the first day of HR indoctrination.

My data:

Preliminary data supports my hypothesis.  The past month and a half have been great.  I finished my wall hanging cabinet build in time to give it to my mom on mother’s day.  My girlfriend has noticed a calmer Erik that has a schedule closer to hers.

So, here I am, “better,” reflecting on what inspired me to push my woodworking to the forefront of my life.

It wasn’t Norm.  It wasn’t Roy.  It wasn’t David.

It was Marc.  It was Shannon. It was Matt.  It was Chris.

These are our heros of the new age of woodworking.  In an age where facebook and twitter have replaced TV, these are the people that will be inspiring the next generation.

I find these blogs, these podcasts, these videos so compelling I had to try my hand at it.  I’m going to start modestly with some blog posts.  With luck I might work my way up to some videos.  I’m making a commitment to chronicle my way though the next Guild Build and the Hand Tool School as well as some random musings and experiences along the way.  After that’s done, I’ll take a look back and see if this blogging thing’s working out for me.

I’m not done decorating yet but hop along for the ride and we’ll see where this train ends up.