Monday, December 29, 2014
A Case For Sharp Tools
If there's one single thing that can make or break your quest to better your work, it is, without a doubt, sharpness.
Several years ago I moved from making furniture to musical instruments and it completely changed the way I work wood. If you're stuck in a rut and making typical Shaker or Craftsman-style pieces (and I make both, and like both) I suggest you step back, buy a guitar kit and prepare yourself to become a Jedi-master of woodworking.
Here's one thing luthiery did for me. It taught me why tack sharp is the deciding factor in doing exacting work in all woods, and how less than tack sharp doesn't just mean tearout, but likely complete destruction of your work. A rough spot on a table top is child's play compared to tearout in a piece that's only 1/32" thick to begin with. You don't scrape that out. You scrap it out.
But this isn't about sharpening. It's more about the workmanship of risk. Do you build things for completely practical purposes? Or do you build for that intangible sense of creative satisfaction? If more the latter than the former, you should try upping the ante in your work. I don't build like this all the time. It's too much for me. But every now and then I return to this type of work to fertilize the rest of my woodworking. Taking on an intense project has lots of carryover. It will feed simpler work, sometimes for years. It simultaneously drives me mad while depositing loads into the satisfaction bank.
Now, as long as the bank doesn't burn down before I can make my withdrawal.