Now that several weeks have passed since the completion of my oil stone box project, I have detached myself enough to have gained perspective on it. The oil stone box was PC 1’s (Preservation Carpentry) first woodworking assignment, and it “seemed fairly straight forward.” The box is intended to hold my combination Chrystalon and India sharpening stone. I find it humorous that two months ago I would’ve had no idea what a combination stone was, let alone know how to use it; and now I have a protective desire to shelter it with a crafted wooden box. My box was rather basic , measuring 8″ x 3″ x 1″ and made of two mirroring halves of Eastern White Pine married by two 1/2″ x 1/4″ dowels. We started by drafting a life size drawing of the box we planned to build, and then we ran the pieces of wood through a series of milling steps (all by hand), which I will elaborate on. The halves were hollowed out by chisel and mallet and hand planed with a freshly sharpened blade, which unfortunately demonstrated its keenness by opening up one of my knuckles. Prior to this experience, I have never drafted, nor have I ever used a plane, chisel or mallet…so the learning curve was very steep.
At this juncture in my life, I have gotten to know myself fairly well (a couple of decades of therapy have helped with this); and one of the things I have learned about myself is that I DON’T DO SIMPLE. If given the choice between a) a freshly paved and sealed, straight, and secure road and b) one that is bumpy, and full of steep climbs, treacherous downhills and tight windy turns, I inevitably opt for “b” 99% of the time. The peculiar twist about me is that even though I have spent a lifetime taking the more challenging road, I still find myself underestimating how difficult and time-consuming my travels down that road will be. In fact, the definition of insanity often used in the addiction world (“doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”) rings particularly true in this case.
After drafting our oil stone boxes and having it reviewed by our instructor, we completed our stock list and started on the following basic milling steps:
- 1. FLATTEN ONE SIDE OF ONE BOARD- (TOOLS: Bench plane #4 or #5, and Starrett Combination Square)
- 2. PLANE BOARD TO THICKNESS- (TOOLS: Marking Gauge, Bench plane, and Starrett Combination Square)
- 3. JOINT AN EDGE- (TOOLS: Bench plane and Starrett Combination Square)
- 4. RIP TO WIDTH- (TOOLS: Rip Hand Saw)
- 5. SQUARE RIPPED EDGE- (Bench Plane and Starrett Combination Square)
- 6. SQUARE AN END- (Hand plane, Bench/Block Blane, Marking knife)
- 7. CUT TO LENGTH- (Crosscut saw, Starrett Combination Square, Bench/Block plane)
A few weeks after making the oil stone box, we started on our second project (a pair of saw horses). This involved the same seven milling steps on every piece of wood, but this time we had to do all our milling with power tools in the shop rather than by hand. Although I made plenty of mistakes throughout, I guess the progress is that the phrase “third time is a charm,” is solely reserved for my oil stone box and not my saw horses. In spite of the fact that I anticipated the oil stone box project would be fairly simple, it took me starting over three times before getting it right. At times like these, I am grateful for the wisdom of people like James Joyce who said, “A man’s mistakes are his portals of discovery” and John Powell who shared, “The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.” The mistakes I learned from during these two woodworking projects included the following:
- a) when flattening a board with a bench plane (step 1), check to see where the high and low spots are before just excitedly setting the plane loose on the board.
- b) when planing to thickness (step 2), follow the previously mentioned tip because you might take off too much wood if you just start shaving willy nilly without paying close attention to your line.
- c) triple check what line you are cutting with any saw because you might cut a line that was not supposed to be cut…especially when this is one of your final steps
- d) Keep in mind Albert Einstein’s phrase, “Anyone who never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” Then adjust your expectations accordingly.
To measure my level of success in terms of my first two projects, again I will turn to the eloquence and wisdom of those who came before me…
- “I don’t measure a man’s success by how he climbs but how high he bounces when he hits the bottom.” George Patton
- “The size of your success is measured by the strength of your desire; the size of your dream; and how you handle disappointment along the way.” Robert Kiyosaki
- “Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” Herman Cain
- “The greatest barrier to success is the fear of failure.” Sven Goran Eriksson
As I consider how applicable these quotes are to my oil stone box and saw horses projects, I can proudly own my success. Before mulling these quotes over, I would have acknowledged my success in spite of the mistakes I made; but now I recognize that my mistakes are instrumental components of my success. These projects were successful because…
- I tried
- I didn’t give up
- I started over
- I felt discouraged and defeated, and pulled myself up
- I asked for help
- I laughed and had fun along the way
- I learned a lot
- I didn’t give in to my fear of failure
- I gave my best
- I finished
P.S. That little knuckle cut from my freshly sharpened block plane iron did a little more damage than I first thought. Another first to add to the list…1st in my class to have surgery after an injury sustained in class. Basically the equation was this…
1 sharp plane iron + 1 new carpenter (me) = 1 severed tendon + surgery to screw tendon into bone + 6 weeks of splinted finger + OT