Anarchy in the USA

No, I’m not advocating for overthrow of the government,

but I sure wouldn’t mind just chucking a few members of Congress around the landscape. Of course, that kind of talk gets you on all the lists, so let’s pretend I didn’t say it and get onto something germane to woodworking and wordsmithing.

I’ve been reading Christopher Schwarz’s book, The Anarchist’s Tool Chest, and have to say

Required reading for novitiate sawdust makers everywhere.

Required reading for novitiate sawdust makers everywhere.

it’s been quite the eye opener. On about Chapter 5 or so, when Chris really starts talking shop, something shifted in my thinking about the work I do in my shop.

I’ve been calling myself a hobbyist forever, dabbling in the creation of kerfs and the dust they once contained, but not really making a lot by way of furniture – the domain of every woodworker I admire.

If you’ve been following these infrequent posts of mine, you’ll know that I’ve got a pretty important set of projects that have been waiting for me to complete them. Why the delay?

It largely has to do with those two bugbears that bedevil every effort at hobby or leisure or things not immediately associated with the monthly income: time and money.

Even though I say “largely” above, those are really just excuses for the real issue here. I’m afraid to get started on those flag cases. At least I was until I started reading Chris’ book.

A couple months back, one of my favorite musicians shared a tragic moment from her life.

Zoë Keating’s husband had been diagnosed with Stage IV Lung Cancer, and the insurance folks were playing fast and loose with regulations. And payments. Zoë appealed to her fans, and together we helped her family out of the woods. The even better news is that Zoë’s husband, Jeff, has pulled through remarkably well.

With the Keating family’s ordeal fresh in my mind, I took a good hard look at that fear I’d been letting hold me back. It was there, front and center and not going anywhere. Then, a few weeks later, I cracked the binding of The Anarchist’s Tool Chest and learned something about myself.

I learned that the fear of starting a project often has nothing to do

with what we know and everything to do with the unknowns swirling around inside our fevered little brains. At least this is how it feels for me. All the cuts and joinery I’d need to mark out, all the planing I’d have to do, either using the Screaming Meemy pictured here,

My planer with the cutterhead lowered all the way.

Seriously, this thing breaks eardrums even with hearing protection.

or one of Granddad’s tools that I’ve inherited, and have (or had) next to no idea how to employ.

A few chapters along in The Schwarz’s tome and I’ve read a master’s take on the variety of handtools that the average woodworker should have available (I’ve got nearly a full set of his recommended kit) and, most importantly, how to use them.

And it’s not just how to use them that Chris Schwarz describes, but how to learn how to use them. He gives you the step by step to set up and use a variety of handplanes, so you can practice using them. At some point, practice becomes proficiency, but you have to know what your practice should look like, and feel like, before you can get there.

I spent this afternoon tuning up Grandad’s Stanley No. 5, so I could make my first ever set of winding sticks. Next up is selecting stock for the flag cases and setting iron to wood. No.5_Curls

Lest this blog ignore its intended audience…

For the writers out there, have you ever encountered one of those things called “writer’s block” and which you and I both know is just fear masquerading as some kind of nebulous preventative to progress on the ol’ WIP? What turned the switch on and got you back to writing? Was it reading someone you admire, finding in his or her words the magic you’d been looking for? Was it doing something totally unrelated to the writing craft that helped you see your way out of the woods?

On that note, a favorite of mine from Zoë Keating’s most recent album (beg pardon for WordPress not embedding the player. Just click the link, hey?):

About ajsikes

I am a freelance editor and author of speculative fiction in the dark/weird vein. My editing style is best described as nurturing. I treat each customer with the same respect and consideration regardless of the quality of their writing, and always aim my comments at helping writers improve and strengthen their work. For more information, please visit me at my website.
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1 Response to Anarchy in the USA

  1. Pingback: Book Review: The Anarchist’s Tool Chest | Dovetails

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