Month: January 2016

Obsolete Aptitudes

wooden plane


Just recently I was given three wooden hand planes ranging in size from a 9”-app. 16”. Since then I have been learning to use these “obsolete” tools in the shop. I have rubbed and polished the irons and waxed the soles. I’ve spent time practicing setting up the irons for just the right whoosh sound when I run the planes over the edges of the wood. In the process, I’ve learned to “read” the direction of wood grain and to feel if the irons are sharp and in place. I have learned to recognize characteristics of both the tools I am using and the wood that I am working. My education continues.


I’ve gotten better in the past weeks and it has cost me a lot of wood shavings and rough edges. But, progress is being made. I am told and hear that such things are obsolete, but I disagree. In fact, I would argue that such aptitudes are necessary to understanding not only woodworking, but also what it is that makes us human. The answers that I find in these old “outdated” wooden wood planes do not come easily, but every one of them are applicable. The questions answered by such tools are far beyond a push of a button or trigger on one of my electric tools and at the same time apply equally to both the old wooden planes and the electric planers and table saws that I use daily.


I watch my hands as I place them gingerly on the well-worn wood of the planes and feel the weight and the balance of the tool. I listen to the sounds the irons make as I hope for a smooth glide but often get the chatter of a miss-set or unsharpened blade. Where I learn to listen to one tool, I learn to coax the other. Sometimes I remind myself that I can easily joint an edge with a machine, but then I make obsolete something too important to forget.


Such experiences make for a lonely life sometimes, surrounded by modern humans and our mechanical aptitudes, but I’m not sure that convenience and modern “necessities” are worth the cost of losing ancient knowledge and know-how. Anyway, as I begin to look around, I’m not so sure how alone I am in my obsolescence.


It is hard to describe and perhaps even harder to understand, but watching the shavings pour out of the top of the planer when I do get it right is a memory that is seldom made when working with modern tools. I am asked, “Why bother!?” and to that question I must answer, “To ask that is to not understand the answer.” The experience is not mystical, but is necessary. It is not obsolete, but essential.



I have a dream


To dream of making a dream a reality takes foresight, hope, imagination and a vision. To make a dream a reality takes those things, but it also takes a hefty dose of courage, hard work, money, and willingness to give up comfort in most of its forms. This is why it is easy to dream, but difficult to live your dream.

Be ready to smile when your friends, your family, and most others remind you of how many ways there are to fail, how good you have it and how you should “give it a second thought…” or how it is simply impossible. These will be bumps in the road in comparison to the endless work and hours, to the face of poverty staring in your window, the relentless pummeling that you will take physically and mentally. Make no mistake, to make a dream a reality you must give up the dream…but only almost.

I say “almost” because dreams are not made to be broken. Live your dream!

If you have a dream first make your mind up to do it. Secondly…do it. It really is that simple. Afterwards, don’t look back.


To have regrets is easy: take the path most travelled, bury your hope and your imagination; your vision. To make your regret a reality takes those things, but it also takes a hefty dose of fear, making decisions based upon what others advise, and willingness to give up your dreams. This is why it is easy to forget your dreams, but difficult to live with that decision.

Be ready to smile when your friends, your family, and most others remind you that you could of, or should have if only had. These will be bumps in the road in comparison to the endless days, months and years of remembering the dream, the face of comfort staring in your window, and the relentless pummeling that you will take as you wake up at night and realize that they were right. Make no mistake, to make your regrets a reality you must give up the dream…completely.

I say “completely” because regret lasts a lifetime.

If you have regrets, first recognize them as regrets. Secondly…change them. It really is that simple. Afterwards, don’t look back.



vacation pic

I’ve never really enjoyed taking a vacation. The time, to me, seems ill-spent and empty. I wonder about this: is there something wrong with me, or do I simply need to “relax”? I don’t think so. I think that there is something more going on. Vacation implies the lack of work, but the lack of work is not necessarily a good thing unless, of course, you don’t like your work.


Now I’m not a great fan of polls and statistics, but to make a point here, more than 70% of Americans do not like their jobs! If that is the case, then I can certainly see why so many people put a price upon free time. But I don’t think that makes vacation a positive thing. Vacation is only seen in a positive light if you don’t like your job. Perhaps a better approach than dreaming of beach vacations and beer drinking debauchery is to simply do something that you like to do.


I love my job, and I am in the process of transitioning into another job that I believe I will love even more. This is what some in my family would call a “luxury dilemma”. I would have to concur. The dilemma, however, cannot be solved by taking a vacation but must be solved by doing some work. Research and development attitudes must be taken; assessing risk and defining responsibility must be clarified. Economic outcomes and expenses must be taken into consideration. This all sounds like work, and that is because it is.


I often hear people dreamily wave around the idea of “never working again”, but I firmly believe that they would be miserable after about two weeks. Work defines us, and not having work is in a sense losing one’s self. I am aware that in our modern and progressive societies we have been conditioned to define as work tedious tasks and mundane bureaucratic business. Often we have become nothing more than monkeys in a box looking longingly out sealed windows. We have defined work by profit rather than work by principle, and I think this is where the problem is. We must work for reasons other than making a profit.


I am not saying that we need to give the responsibility of our lives over to someone or something else. However, I am saying that our relentless hunt for more money is making us (and many others) miserable. Vacation entails time to be free from work, but this is only a problem if we do not have a job that we would do for free. Being honest with yourself is often difficult, but is always free. Maybe we need to remember that time is easy but is never free. In fact, it may be the most expensive thing we have.