Sunday, December 11, 2011


As mentioned in the previous post, we've been traveling a fair bit lately and otherwise pre-occupied. I want nothing more than to be back in the shop, with a fire raging in the stove and my saws and planes singing as they do their jobs.

In the meantime though... all I can do is think about it, do a bit of reading here and there, and patiently wait.

It reminds me of a period a while back when I was traveling the nation in my VW Vanagon camper. If you've ever seen one, you can imagine how cramped it is inside and how daunting it could be to pack a whole life in there for long-term roaming. In reality, once everything is put away cleverly enough, and all extraneous cargo has been shaken out of the system, its quite elegant and hardly anything is visible while on the road.  Over time, an almost ritualistic schedule for packing up each morning emerges. Items needed late in the day or very rarely get put away first, and usually deepest into the compartments or cases. A really wonderful phenomenon emerges here: the items used more often, say throughout the day, will never settle deeply into storage.  Without any effort, they will float on top of everything else.  This organic progression of self-organisation is deeply satisfying in a way that is hard to explain.  Over the days, it becomes automatic to neatly nest everything in a pattern which will provide the greatest utility over the course of the day.

When I was compelled to visit with friends who insisted I stay inside their homes (often against my weak protests), I would lay in their overly-comfortable beds, usually too warm, while my brain would be desperately trying to "pack up" for the night despite having nothing to actually do.  Something would feel like it was missing.

The only other analogy I can draw for this is that as I played a great deal of chess or Tetris when I was younger, I would see the pieces moving as I tried to sleep.  It feels like the same mechanisms were at work with the camper's chores.

Now I am having this happen with woodworking.

Each night, especially when I have not been in the shop, I visualize boards with humped edges begging to be planed down.  I see knifelines waiting to have a saw dropped into them, and I see perfect workbenches with frictionless vises clamping workpieces tightly.  I watch an autonomous plane sliding across a board, a perfect curled shaving erupting from the top.  I realize this is extreme, but this is true.

The desire to be working is deep.  The sounds, the smells, and the tactile feedback (especially of planing) all demand to be experienced as frequently as possible.  Every tree I see while traveling now looks like a potential cabinet.  Those with too many branches look like they would make good spoons.  Seeing mediocre furniture in shops and homes has me wondering about busting them up and milling the wood into something pleasing.  Pallets rotting by the back of a building seem to glow with potential.

I suppose I am falling into "the zone", which I take as a good thing, but it brings with it a bit of a nervous or anxious burden when I can't be working!


  1. I have not reached this point with woodworking... but I do know what you mean about Tetris. That stuff will really get in your head and take over. I should know... I played it earlier today :0) I've even gotten my wife hooked!

  2. I spend 8 weeks in the summer of 2002 riding a recumbent bicycle from Oregon to Michigan. I remember that morning ritual well.

    Almost 10 years later, I've been thinking that one of those VW camper vans would be a lot of fun...

    The wife has other ideas, but we'll see where it goes.


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