MyWorkshop - SpendingTime

Spending Time

So there we were, assorted woodworkers intently listening to the very inspiring words of a very well-known craftsman in his very impressive workshop. Weekend woodworkers, do-it-yourselfers, hobbyists, all there to glean whatever knowledge they could from a true master.

You could learn a lot in a place like this.

  • Woods Used: avodire, verawood
  • Size: 5"x9"x3"
  • Price: sold

He spoke with authority about planes and saws and chisels, how to cut dovetails, how to sharpen edge tools, holding forth on subjects simple to sublime. A practiced lecturer with a persona that demanded our attention, commenting with pride on his extensive experience and expertise, he demonstrated techniques, told anecdotes, entertained and educated his rapt audience.
  • Woods Used: masur birch, imbuya
  • Size: 5"x9"x3"
  • Price: sold

But then he began to talk about how you should be in the shop, about "pace", and the need to work efficiently so you could produce quality results in a timely, professional manner. "Don't dawdle," he admonished, "get the work finished. Work with a purpose..."

That's where he lost me.

  • Woods Used: paduak, yellowheart
  • Size: 5"x9"x3"
  • Price: $300

Having spent some time in professional cabinet shops, I knew what he was talking about. You don't dawdle in a cabinet shop. You keep moving, keep working, mentally and physically. It's business. You're there to make a living! There's no time for reflection, curiousity, amusement. There were shops where you were not allowed to sit down and if you happened to do so (and it wasn't lunchtime) you were fired on the spot.

  • Woods Used: goncalvo alves, black palm
  • Size: 5"x9"x3"
  • Price: $300

But what's appropriate in one circumstance is silly in another. I couldn't help thinking that his exhortations were misguided. Why would you want to work like that in your own shop? What would be the point? So you could deliver that spice rack to your wife quicker? Fashion that toy truck for your son faster? Are you really that pressed for time? Is that the best way to spend it?
  • Woods Used: English brown oak, curly sycamore
  • Size: 5"x9"x3"
  • Price: $300

Not for me.

Dawdling, as far as I'm concerned, has considerable merit. Lounging and relaxing and meditating on the vagaries of wood and craft are all perfectly reasonable pursuits meriting serious attention. And, it's easy. Just find some odd little non-productive, enjoyable things to do. Then do them.

That's not to say you should never be productive. But don't overestimate it. You don't want to get crushed by all those things you make...

  • Woods Used: wenge, pernambuco
  • Size: 5"x9"x3"
  • Price: $300

An example:

There's this chisel I have. It was made by a famous Japanese blacksmith (now deceased) in Kaku-uchi (box) style. I think it's beautiful.

(Here's a photo.)

Anyway, I sharpen it quite frequently. Always try to do the best job I can. When I'm done it kind of glows...but I'm not really sure how sharp it is.

Sharp enough, I guess.

  • Woods Used: burr oak, pink ivory
  • Size: 5"x9"x3"
  • Price: $300

This is done every two weeks or so, and it takes 15-20 minutes (or more, depends on how much concentrated dawdling I want to get in) each time.

You might ask why it's done on a schedule. Shouldn't it be sharpened when it's dull? Very astute observation. And you're right. Usually, I don't sharpen chisels until they're dull. But this one is never dull. Because I never use it.

  • Woods Used: Osage orange, spalted apple
  • Size: 5"x9"x3"
  • Price: $300

Explaining why I don't use it would be an exercise in futility.

Let's just say "It's symbolic." But you might insist. "Why spend so much time sharpening a chisel you never use?" And I would reply... Because it's Time, well spent.

  • Woods Used: spalted apple, curly maple
  • Size: 5"x9"x3"
  • Price: $300