A Little Piece of Advice


Here is a seat that I started during the second class at the Mill. It was a C-arm class and everyone finished their chairs....except me

I was just out in Ohio/ Kentucky shooting a video for Lost Art Press on spindle turning, and was talking to John Hoffman about workshop stuff. John is the "other" half of LAP and he was telling me about his struggles to get back in the shop. He was suffering from something that I know well. The struggle to get into the shop and finish old projects to clear the way for new ones. I gave him a small piece advice that seemed to really help...I know, when does that happen?!

Let's face it, inspiration and motivation play a role in workshop life. Yes, I'd love to claim the ultimate self discipline and constant love of all things making that enable me to always float effortlessly to the shop, but that would be nowhere near the reality of shop life. The order in which things need to be done bears no actual connection to the impulse to do them. Sometimes it's no problem, other times it seems insurmountable.

Here is my take on the problem and a potential solution. After years of living through this problem, I came up with a mind game to help me along. Wood it turns out can transform to stone. Sure, when first cut, it's very soft and as it's milled and shaped it remains malleable, but all it takes is a short passage of time, a thin layer of dust, or a tiny bit of oxidation, and it turns to rock. No blade can breach the skin and gravity exerts such force that any attempt to even lift the work becomes painful. Strangely, the more parts in a project and the more often that it's moved out of the way, the more dense this stone becomes. I've seen it enough and I didn't get into this to wrestled with such density. I don't even try to overcome this, I have three options that have worked for me. 

1. Preventative: Never procrastinate...or better put, don't lie to yourself that finishing that project now or later are equal options, it's now or probably never.

2. Let it go: So you did procrastinate and must face the stone. This is a tough one given that most projects are started for a reason. I will fully and without shame abandon the piece, relegate it to the history of learning and understand that I got  out of it all that I needed. Sometimes this is enough to get me back in the shop and maybe even work back into the project at a later date, but at least I've broken the resistance. If nothing else, it's a reminder of the importance of option one.

3. What ever it takes to get back in the shop: Sometimes, this is the lowest of the tasks, such as sweeping, cleaning up, sharpening a chisel. Do it, just for the fun or simplicity. A cleaned off work bench and sharp tools beg for a project. Either start something small and new or grab a piece of stone/wood and break the spell. Often a single cut or plane mark is enough to get the blood back in the piece. I try remember that my path to the shop is easier when it's a question that brings me there. "How do you do that?" "Will that work?" or "Can I do that?" always provide an easier path than "I really should...."

I have spent many years learning to marshal my progress through a project and found through many conversations with other makers that it is a common problem and a big part of shop life. So go forth, give yourself a break and join the club.