When I first started working with wood, the weekend was a mad rush to get things done, my goal was to just get the job done. Come Monday morning as long as I had some pictures to show my mates or post on a forum I was happy.
Inevitably when I sat back in the following weeks all I saw was the little mistakes I made on the way, an out of square piece here, a chip there. Output and speed were my primary goals.
Now my goal is to be a better woodworker, to develop and improve my skills. This got me thinking, other than taking a year off and going back to school or doing an apprenticeship how can I do it? It just didn’t make sense to me to be honing my skills on a precious piece of a project and my time was to precious to spend it practicing. Let face it, no one wants to spend hours sawing to a line or cutting dovetails only to see it end up in the bin.
I think I have an answer, do some of the easy things the hard way, sounds weird huh? Let me explain.
During a build most of your work cannot be seen, the insides of a cabinet, the runners of a drawer. Most of the time we just rush off to a machine, fire it up and make the cut. While this may speed things up it contributes nothing to you as a woodworker and that should be one of the main goals on every piece you touch. Now if you grab the same piece and rip it to length with a hand saw, or square it up with the hand plane it may take you a little longer and you might make a mistake but who cares, its an unseen component remember.
What you will soon notice though is that rip saw which used to bounce all around will start better, your cuts will get straighter, that hand plane will start to sing. Your hand tools will become an extension of your body.
You are essentially practicing without practicing. In the future when it comes to making that perfect cut, or planing a key component you will realise you’ve already done the hard yards you have done it x100 before. Muscle memory will kick in and you’ll perform the task like a master.
Now I am not saying do everything the hard way, but choose some unimportant components from every project and make it the hard way. I guarantee you will grow and improve as woodworker with every project you do.
If you have any suggestions or tricks please post them up 🙂
** Scrub Plane picture courtesy of Lie Nielsen http://www.lie-nielsen.com/