In my opinion, one of the greatest attributes that sets humans apart from the rest of creation is our ability to create. When I look at huge skyscrapers, take apart an engine or research new technology, I find it amazing that we are even capable of these things. The fact that we can observe the world around us and study how it works so that we can use it to create things of our own is mind blowing to me. In a small way, woodworking encapsulates all of this.
From experience in the shop we know which species of wood will be most flexible, tough, soft, mellow or bright in tone and light or dark. Knowing how these woods will work we can then use them most effectively to create whatever we have in our minds. Whether it is a chair, table, violin or timber frame house they are all possible tasks with a little creativity and understanding of our medium. In this craft anyone can express their imagination with a little hard work and create something they are proud of.
I can’t help but ponder over every step, layout line, saw cut and reference edge when I am thinking up a new project. Before I even touch a piece of lumber I have already built the project in my mind a thousand times, and when I am done it looks just as I pictured it days, or even years back when the idea first entered my mind. I can’t help but say, thank you God for giving us minds that can create in some small way like Your’s.
I believe that what makes working with hand tools so enjoyable and relaxing is the unchanging nature of the craft. Whether you were building furniture centuries in the past or for decades into the future, wood is still wood. The material stays the same, and the rules for shaping it stay the same. While technology may be improving the steels we use to cut through wood, or the machines we may use, the rules and techniques remain the same. Run a blade against the grain and it will tear; cut with the gain and the blade will glide through the wood leaving a brilliant surface. Green wood will always be softer to cut and bend with little assistance. Dry wood will always be tougher and less susceptible to warping. No matter where you are and what you make, the material is the same.
I recently spent a few months away from the craft due to moving houses during the winter. After the move my time was devoted to other hobbies and just staying inside where it was warm. As the spring air moved in I could feel a part of me was missing; a sense of comfort and home. It had been too long since I worked in my shop. As I began to organize the new shop I could feel that missing part of me return. My creative mind began to stir again and that sense of being at home came back.
Even though during my time away from the craft I learned about new things and changed a little as a person, the work I enjoyed before had not changed. The new shop still smelt of an assortment of fresh cut woods and my tools still affected the wood as it had before. Nothing had changed and it was comforting; the quite sounds of a plane cutting through wood on a rainy day, the sound of birds chirping while sawing through soft pine, the gentle crinkling sounds of my feet walking on the shavings of a hard days work, the soft glimmering surface of hand planed walnut. No matter how much we change or the things around us change, our connection to the craft won’t. As for myself, I find that comforting.