On Woodworkers and Woodworking

What is it about woodworking that more than 200 of us find so irresistible? Perhaps it’s because it teaches us things about ourselves we might not otherwise recognize. For example, through my woodworking I learned I’m a perfectionist. I know I wasn’t born that way, so I probably married into it. A long time ago it was pointed out that a nearly imperceptible gap in a joint is unacceptable (the operative words are ‘nearly’ and ‘imperceptible’). Even worse is a minor flaw in the finish. I tried the usual excuses such as ‘defects lend character’, or ‘defects show it was hand crafted’. NOT! To earn floor space in my house, the piece must pass the ‘perfect’ test. As I said, I wasn’t born a perfectionist, yet for some this can be a genetic condition. My daughter seems to have inherited this gene (not from me, of course). Two against one is terribly unfair, so I am now a perfectionist.

My woodworking has also taught me I’m a left-brain person. According to the usual definition, left-brain people are more structured while right-brain people are more creative. I admire those right brainers who can scratch out a rough diagram and produce a masterpiece. Me? I need a roadmap. I wouldn’t dream of starting a project without a cut list and a blueprint. Being a left brainer, I’m also driven to achieve the highest degree of precision possible. We all have our own standards on how good is ‘good enough’, but if I could measure something to a wavelength of light I would probably do so. The more precise things are the better. It doesn’t matter that as one or two seasons pass, nature will make a mockery of my measurements. In the here and now, everything fits together like a Ferrari engine. I know it drives some people nutty, but I just can’t help myself. It’s in my DNA.

Finally, I’ve learned I’m a hoarder. I like to look through my wood box and find 40 or 50 year old cut-offs. They remind me of the coffee table I built when I was first married. Or my first work bench that was carefully disassembled just in case I might need a piece of wood later on. And I’m especially fond of screws – I can’t throw one out. I probably have 4 or 5 old coffee cans full of used screws (and anything else that might get tossed in). The real special ones get sorted out and put into one of those plastic boxes with all the little bins. I consider this practice for when my brain starts to freeze up.

So, the next time your spouse questions that expensive tool you just bought, remind him/her how much it teaches you about yourself. After all, it’s a lot cheaper than therapy.

On a more serious note, in October’s newsletter I tried to emphasize the importance of volunteer organizations and asked for your suggestions. I received several worthwhile responses and would like to pass them along.

  • R Community Bikes is a totally volunteer organization that fixes bikes and gives them away to those in need.
  • CP Rochester needs volunteers for their workshop and a volunteer to run a Workshop 101 class. If interested, contact Tina Bennett (tbennett@cprochester.org ).

David Sumberg