The Dance


Click, drag, cut, ripple delete, cross dissolve, fade to black. Look out the window, let your eyes focus on the horizon. Get another cup of coffee. Stretch that mouse arm.
As I've been wrapping up the editing of our upcoming Apprenticeship: Tables video, a few observations have jumped out repeatedly. First and foremost is the irony of the fact that I can split firewood for hours with an axe, or rough out carving projects with a hatchet, and feel no ill effects - but a few days of making subtle little gestures with a mouse and keyboard can cause the most excruciating elbow pain. Lesson learned - workspace ergonomics are important!
Shavings, shavings everywhere. A project like the table Joshua built for this video can generate a small mountain of them. Shavings are the ubiquitous waste product of our craft, from the teeny little ones created by a coarse rip saw to the gossamer tissue generated by a finely-set smoothing plane. I've been wading through hours of footage involving this mass-production of shavings, and I honestly haven't yet gotten tired of looking at them. Why is that? What is it about this particular waste product that is so compelling? I can't think of another creative outlet that shares this odd distinction. Gourmet chefs don't Instagram their vegetable peels or bits of trimmed fat. Classic car buffs don't run their fingers through used motor oil. But plane shavings are endlessly captivating. 
Working with hand tools is a lot like dancing. Really. Watching hours of clips of ripping, crosscutting, planing, etc. clearly demonstrates that both rhythm and body position are extremely important in becoming efficient with the use of hand tools. Back in the day (further back than I care to admit), my wife (then fiancé) and I took up swing dance. We became quite good, I must say, eventually graduating to the Advanced class. But those early, awkward lessons stand out in my memory - stepping on toes, bumping into other people, feeling very inelegant. 
Ripping a long board by hand can feel exactly the same. Where do I put my weight? How should I hold my saw? This cut is wandering all over the place! A seemingly simple task can become an exercise in frustration, and you might find yourself agreeing with everyone who holds that hand tools are slow and difficult. But, like learning to dance, proficiency is found in practice, practice, practice. Our goal with the Apprenticeship series is to demonstrate more than simply how to cut and assemble joinery, but how to do so efficiently. We want to help these skills to become second nature so that, without a conscious thought, every cut sings straight and true. Like being on the dance floor when some Brian Setzer Orchestra comes on, your legs and arms know exactly what to do. 
It's back to editing for me. Stay tuned for more updates on Tables - it won't be long now!
~ Mike Updegraff