Living With Imperfection

I’m a practical woodworker of German lineage. What that means is that time and effort are more important than getting things perfect the first time. In the past I’ve built woodworking shops with all power tools that would produce super accurate cuts that were perfectly flat, plumb & straight. That kind of equipment was expensive, requiring a lot of room and time to calibrate everything.

I’m 67 now, living in a 10′ x 20′ one room apartment with elderly tenants on both sides of me. I’m forced to scale things down because of finances, space and the noise and dust that power tools produce. Before there were power tools there were hand tools that were used by craftsmen that produced beautiful work that lasted for hundreds of years. Although my intention is not to make heirloom quality furniture anymore I do want a project to be pleasing to the eye, hand and sense of accomplishment. I take pride in my work.

The one asset I have in abundance is time. I have every minute of every day to accomplish my projects. Because of my limited budget a finished project can, potentially, take months. While I wait for funds to become available for specialty tools and supplies I busy myself with making my own tools. Things like saw tables, router tables and jigs for all my work can be made economically and in a relatively short period of time.

In the past 30 days I’ve built myself a nice router table, two shooting boards, and two bench hooks. All these dramatically speed up the accuracy and quality of my tasks. Because of the shooting boards I can cut close to marking and sawing lines, knowing that I intend to use those shooting boards and my block plane to finish the edges to my final dimensions in short order. With this philosophy I don’t sweat the small stuff. I can own a powered jigsaw table instead of a larger, noisier, more expensive table saw that utilizes carbide circular saw blades to produce exact finished cuts. Now, that comes later in the workflow.

As time progresses I will add more hand tools to my arsenal that will help speed up the finishing edges. I have my eye on larger, more versatile hand planes that will cost me a month’s spending money. I’m already saving for the one I want. Before retirement in 2010 my weekly take home pay would allow such purchases every week. Now it takes one to two months to save for my toys. Now, on retirement, I have time on my side, learning to patiently wait for the right time and place to pull the trigger on my next tool. It’s all good! The only question now is which toy/tool to buy/make next? Will it be that Lie-Nielsen bronze #4 1/2 finishing plane or the new workbench butcher block top for the larger, more solid workbench I lust over? Only time will tell! šŸ™‚




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