A Catalogue, I Think?

I have not posted for ages, and I didn’t really think I would be again until next year. But here I am, and very inspired about woodwork, uni and all that is going on: hooray (and what a relief)! I have much to report from the last couple of weeks but I may never get around to telling you because I want to meet G. and L. at the street theater soon.

Firstly (or lastly if one is to be chronological), I am working on the catalogue for the workshop exhibition. I am learning heaps about InDesign (especially its faults!) which is rather exciting. It does not do signature imposition of pages by itself, so this afternoon has seen me scrabbling around the web looking for a script that will. I found one (at ScriptBuilders.net) and so I think tomorrow will be fun.

It is strange that I am focusing more on the web/technological side of my proposal at the moment, given that it is a minor part of what I will be doing next year. I feel like I want to get it sorted though: get the encylopaedia working and also a couple of other things that I have been considering recently. I will be making a reading log to keep track of what I read, a project management script with which to track all of my ideas about things to make and write etc. I also have been doing some work with the style (CSS) of my site. I am constantly thinking about what I want to do next year and how I will go about it, working on a ‘manifesto’ or ‘modi operandi’ thingy… hmm… more thought needed…

I was on 2XXFM yesterday (Thursday) talking about the Walking With Water project that I did earlier this year. I’ll put the MP3 of it up soon.

— I really am rather excited about all this!!!

[UPDATE 2007-06-12: After nearly four years, here’s the MP3.]

Just WALK!!

“In industrialized countries we live as if we have no legs. Yet, we always want to go somewhere and fast. Often we don’t live near where we work and we don’t work where we live. … Transport consumes large quantities of oil; it is a major source of air and noise pollution; it creates unbearable congestion — particularly in urban areas; it puts people’s health at risk; it causes global warming and it causes the death of both humans and animals. Yet, we are totally addicted to and dependent on the transportation of goods and people. It is hard to see a practical way out of this quagmire. However, if we could resort to our wisdom and rationality, there are solutions. To begin with, we can start walking.”

— Satish Kumar, from Resurgence Issue 197

Keepin’ It Local

I’m so excited!! Last night I couldn’t sleep for the thrill of what I’m planning on doing. I’m feeling excited about facing the utter enormity of global manufacture from a standpoint of low-tech and beautiful dumpster diving! Take that door jamb from the week before last (let’s just forget about last week, eh? Apart from Monday I was singularly unproductive), a rough length of ash replete with nail holes and weathering — and what potential! A box made from such a waste item, even with a lot of attention, will never be quite the same as a box made with new material — and that’s the point! It is the thought, the love, and the time that goes into a thing that makes it speak, more than it’s raw material. I believe that this works both in terms of a) gaining spirit by putting more hands-on time into a piece (ripping boards by hand for example) and b) also losing spirit through increased alienation and disconnection of the material (shipping things half-way around the world [see The Fable Of The Cop Car]). Hmm… I’ll think about this a bit more…

I have been working on the encyclopaedia code for the last few days (because I didn’t go to the Major’s Creek Folk Festival) and it is now nearing test data entry stage. I still have a lot of work to do with the stylesheet of course — I’m no graphic artist!

This strange, apparently discordant, confluence of the high-tech web world and slow, intuitive woodworking that I am embarking on is a thing which is going to require great concentration on my behalf. It’s a matter of balance, and I know how easy it is going to be to lean more to one side than another. To spend so much time coding that I throw my hands up in disgust and want to never look at another computer. Or to force myself to continue with cutting a joint past when I can see why I’m doing it, and inevitably stuff it up.

Just Plane / Flat (!)

This morning I came into the workshop really wanting to work on something, but I couldn’t really think what. I pulled out a rough sawn piece of blackwood that was left over from my table, sharpened up my plane, and set to work making shavings. I didn’t have an aim of making anything at all, I wanted only to hear and feel the plane working smoothly.

I have been looking around for information about producing flat surfaces, not because I need to know how it’s done – I already know that – but just to get a bit of background on how this method was developed. New Scientist – The Last Word: Tell me straight has some interesting accounts of making lapping plates etc. and Joseph Witworth is mentioned all over the web in relation to this subject.

A slow day

This morning I began a boxboard mock-up of a set of pidgeonholes for stationery; more on that later. I’m also thinking about the possibility of a bathroom cabinet. I am working again on my bookplate, this time with a view to printing in full colour (I am discovering just how little I know about Illustrator). The weather is so lovely at the moment and I really want to go to the beach… And ooh err: it’s remembrance day; how much that means to me!

Assesment

This morning was my final assessment for the Diploma. I was getting pretty nervous beforehand, didn’t sleep much last night (for a host of other reasons, not just the assessment) and had had little to eat. As I moved my work downstairs ready to bump it in I thought how poor it looked next to the fabulous work of Michael and John who were being assessed just before me. The usual pre-performance insecurities I suppose…

But the assessment went fine; better than fine: I enjoyed it, or rather found it helpful and even inspiring! I do believe in the direction that I’m going in, and the body of work that I presented this morning shows this direction — it is not of course where I’m aiming at but if it were why would I be here?! I think I was able to express something of my philosophy of woodworking and explain how the pieces (table, stool, chair and press) fit into it. Rodney was a great help, talking about my progress etc; so was John Reid, especially with reminding and encouraging me about the wider university context of my work (mentioning, for example, the Talloires Declaration). In talking about my work I was not very clear, nor at all concise; there was much that I would like to have added — but all in all assessment has left me keener than ever to get in and do what makes my heart sing! I thinking of drafting some sort of brief outline of those aspects of woodworking that are important to me, that I might refer to when I get stuck in the quagmire of doubt(!) Something about the workshop, my dress, drawing of what I’m to make, the recycled and made materials, the hand tools, finishing, etc. A checklist, manifesto, or somesuch thing.

Do I now want to get back into the workshop and keep working though? Not a bit of it! Time for cake and tea with friends in town I think. Part of my reluctance is the mistake I made with the dovetails yesterday: I was trying a technique that I have read about often in textbooks whereby one marks the pins by placing the tails over them and marking with the saw (and not a marking knife as I have usually done). I did not think very thoroughly about how this would work because I have heard a number of people talk about it as well as seeing it in books. But work is what it did not do: it leaves a gap the size of the saw kerf on every pin! I’ve probably just missed something very simple, but rather than trying to perfect that technique now I think I’ll go back to what I know and can do — marking off the cut tails with a sharp pencil.

On the technical side of things today: on my main page I would like to put an RSS feed from this blog, a calandar or other visual summary of my work and the same for my reading; I guess this summer will see me on the computer a bit! It’s exciting though, this playing at the point of intersection of old ways of working wood and new ways of coding sites!

Closer, Closer, Ever Closer to Where The Wood Really Is.

To be in touch — in contact — with the wood is a wonderful thing; the dust, shavings and sweat blackening my hands; reveling in intimacy with the tree, giving part of myself in exchange for what I am making. Running my hand over the wood, sweeping the shavings off the bench with my skin, it’s this closeness and rawness that cries out to me as real; to get closer, ever closer, to what the wood actually is. Lying curled up, warm and safe, almost consuming the wood (or being consumed by it — it’s hard to tell), at the heart of a tree; or cold, barely holding on high in the crown as the rain whips down, but yet there is care present where the smallest branches meet, and it uplifts. The emotion of the tree is, like the picture in a hologram, present in every part removed from the whole and is ever further released every time we work or use that wood. So personal, so universal; so real.

This is fun!

In which I put little inlays over nail holes.

Thus far today I have been installing little squares of inlay to cover the nail holes in the box sides. It’s fun work, quite exacting but calm and easy. I’m enjoying myself. I finished the inlaying just after lunch and moved on to planing grooves in the two short sides — why I didn’t think to do all the grooving before I docked pieces to length I do not know, and I will have more work to do because of it. It annoyed me a bit that I was that silly, hence my being in this computer lab. On the other hand, I am really satisfied with the inlays, so that’s nice isn’t it?

The Afternoon

I got some lunch on the way back to the workshop, and sat in my corner feeling a bit sad about not wanting to work. It took only a bit of food in my stomach for this mood to pass and I got back to it: more dressing of the ash door jamb for this little box. I made a lot of shavings doing that, and then some dust when I cut and shot each part to length (4 at 377mm, 2 at 77mm and a little bit left over that I will use tomorrow to patch up the holes in the wood).

All that dulled my iron a bit so I went downstairs to sharpen it — little did I know what I was in for! For nearly and hour and a half I toiled over those stones trying various ways of holding the blade, standing, focusing on my big toe – all to no avail until (with a little help from my friends) I hit upon what seems a pretty good way. Locking my elbows and wrists in tight, with a hand on either side of the blade and rocking from my front ankle with my back leg providing the movement. This and a little 30° plastic triangle from R. gave me a sharp blade at last! I have been sharpening it to razor sharpness all year, but a couple of weeks ago I noticed that I was unable to rectify the tendency I have to apply more pressure to one side than the other. So I re-ground it square and since then I just have not been able to get it quite as sharp as usual (until today). I filmed myself as I was sharpening so that I could see how well I kept to the angle.

All of this fiddling around with my plane blade got me right back in the vibe of doing good work, for which I was thankful. So I went back to my bench and worked for the rest of the afternoon. I planed grooves in the box sides to take the bottom and (sliding) top using my No.50 plow plane. It was lovely to be back enjoying wood, and what a marvelous tool that is!

All in all a far better afternoon than the morning; seems to happen that way…