Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Today in the woodshop

Yesterday I jointed and planed the materials for table legs, and having freshly sharpened the knives in both the jointer and planer made my efforts particularly satisfying. Woodworkers engage in a tactile feedback loop that leads to a sense of empowerment. The wood is rough. Your hands sense the coarse texture of wood. You pass the stock through the tool and it becomes smooth, safe, pleasurable. There are countless numbers of our children who have never been introduced to such things. Those who have not been introduced to shaping materials in their own hands will have no idea what they have missed, and the likelihood of me being able to explain it to them is remote.

We put our children's sensitive fingertips on keyboards, shaped to be touch and temperature neutral, manufactured to be smooth from the start, never in years to wear out, or to be transformed by our touch. Wood, on the other hand, may come to us rough, but in time and in use it becomes smooth to our touch.

The awakening of the senses to transformation of tactile qualities through touch is essential to complete human development. The sense of control that fosters feelings of well-being that forms the first line in our defenses against depression comes from such simple things as feeling texture move from coarse to smooth. But we can take pills for that can't we? Why bother with crafts? I'm reminded of the grandmother who told me she bought her grandson woodworking tools, a saw, hammer and plane. The child's mother wouldn't allow the tools in the house. He might make a mess or damage something and be noisy. So you can see that there are people in our culture who have no understanding of the hands, the importance of tools, or of the intellectual and emotional development that happens when hands, tools and materials intersect as creativity.

Next I cut table parts to length and then begin the process of cutting mortises. Over the days, and weeks tables will be made. Check back on occasion to see progress. What you see in the photo above is walnut and cherry shaped to thickness and width with the first ends squared on the table saw. All of these parts were cut from 8/4 stock using power tools. It is noisy and I make dust and the feelings that arise from it are well worth the mess.

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