You Never Know...
Penicillin, gravity, marsh-mellows.....all kind of 'just happened' didn't they? Walking down a straight path leading you to some bright and shiny, safe haven ahead; great. No worries, perfect. A classic you might say...
Working wood, I sometimes fall into this fuzzy place as I'm sure most of us do. A happy and familiar area of the waiting room where we do things a certain way.
"Well, we've been doing it this way for years...right?"
Working along side, how shall I say, a 'well seasoned' gentleman a few years back and watched in disbelief as he butchered or maimed one thing after another with no idea at least from my end of the pull saw, the fundamentals of a wood shop, I came to some startling conclusions. No wheels re-invented, only a better picture of the wood shop I was working in. He didn't mean any harm and wasn't really hurting anyone, other than the potential of injuring himself; binding wood through table saws and removing safety guards and fences from anything and everything that could have used one. He had been doing it that way for years, proudly positioned over these great old machines his father built from pieces of farm tractors and toaster ovens.
"Must be alright then...right?"
If something seems like it could work in another way, try it.
If it seems potentially harmful, don't.
If a light goes on in the back of your mind and you think, hm mm....I wonder if....then do it. Or, at least try it. If you're short for time or your boss is watching from across the work shop then grab a pencil and write it down, and then at each weeks end, go through your 'shop notes' and review. Oh yeah, I wanted to try to do that, this way. Maybe I can try it over here on this piece from my off-cut pile.
With a level head and thinking through the steps, safely, set-up and experiment with tools and techniques.
Follow instructions when-ever you can, and try to understand where you'd like to go.
I usually find myself thinking this way when I'm faced with a challenge and need to use a tool in a different way. For example, this past week I was test fitting a six-foot rabbet joint (named Harvey)that was just a bit too tight for the application. I needed to take a little off the edge. No worries, I grabbed my Skew Angle Block plane, adjusted the iron and the fence and went to it. Not a minute into it I was seeing some tear-out and needed to change my direction of attack. In a perfect world I would have simply reached for my, 'left-handed' version but alas, I, the simple craftsman cannot afford such luxuries of having a left and right version of the same tool. So I tried turning the piece over, end for end, arse over kettle. No luck. In my earlier wisdom I affixed the piece being rabbeted to it's mating piece which happened to be the rail on a bed. O.k. so I couldn't plane it from this way and I couldn't plane it from that. What to do?
"Another, potentially, more expensive tool could have solved my dilemma, right?"
What happened next was an instinctive motion of looking across the rabbet on a horizontal axis and simply turned the plane on it's edge.
"Whoa...Never thought of it like that before..."
Of course; so simple. I used the plane on it's side edge with it's fence ridding high up in the air; proudly peeling off those beautiful shavings of walnut. It worked like a dream. What a revelation and I was indeed walking down that exciting and slightly dangerous, path less travelled. Maybe this isn't a great example of, thinking outside of the box but, I'm trying to demonstrate that there's more than one way to shoe a horse. Or is it beat a horse? Or is it beat a 'dead' horse?
Well, you get the point and I sure do hope you're all enjoying yourselves this week during the exciting and action filled "Wood Workers Safety Week 2008"
Seriously, it is or at least, was this past week. Check it out and play nice with the other wood workers.