Friday, August 27, 2010

The 100 Thing Challenge

This morning my wonderful wife to be approached me with something called the 100 Thing Challenge. In essence, it's an anti-materialistic approach to living, and the challenge is to limit yourself to 100 things that you own. Some items like Socks and Underwear are considered necessities, and so aren't counted. Shared household items are also not counted. But other individual things like a pencil, a pen, a chair, a clock, and so forth, do get counted, as do individual pieces of clothing. There's an example of someone who's trying this out here. The gist is that people have too much stuff. And it might be nice to learn to live without it and see if happiness is still possible.

I think, in theory, that this is a really cool idea.We've moved twice in the past 2 years... and just renewed out lease in the current place, which made us happy. But we know that once the household adds members that another move will need to take place. And it might be nice to not have to move as much stuff. Fewer books, for instance. Living with less stuff would be nice, too, but as I started listing things this morning, I realized pretty quickly that I have a lot more than I think I do.

Part of the woodworker in me yearns for people to understand that owning fewer things of higher quality is a good idea. I do think that the idea of owning fewer things will open people up to the idea of owning fewer, but better things... and that's my line of work. But the guy in me that just brought home a small pile of tools, and a bench, and so on, feels like this is a little bit of a mean prank.

I don't even want to think about what I have at the woodshop. Technically, it's supposed to be a professional shop. Realistically, I have way more tools than I have a reason to own. Outfitting a shop is a huge undertaking, and there's a really long shopping list. But I still have a lot of stuff.

I'm still interested in giving the challenge a shot, but I think I'm going to have to find clever ways of making some groups or sets into items. "Set of woodworking tools" would have to be one item. "Set of kitchen knives," "Set of pots and pans," and so on. This isn't technically a woodworking-related thread, but I thought it was worth mentioning. I know a lot of woodworkers who have amassed incredible piles of stuff. Tools, unfinished projects, things they keep meaning to get around to doing...

The thought of doing more with less, seems like it'd be really hard to fit into modern woodworking theory as it gets dispensed in the stores and magazines. There's always a shiny new toy to be had.  Between all the hand tools, power tools, bits, blades, jigs, accessories, there's a lot that can take up space. But at the same time, Brian Boggs started out with just a backpack full of hand tools. And even Chris Schwartz, who's known for being the harbinger of shiny and expensive, is hawking the tools he doesn't use anymore on his blog, and even his castoffs are really nice tools. So maybe the trend is starting to take hold...

Such a small bench...

So, the workspace at home is expanding in a mildly containable way. Next to the bench is a rolling stack consisting of a small festool vac, with a vacuum attachment set, a Bosch jigsaw, and a festool drill, in a larger-than-stock container, so that I have room in there for a belt pouch, some bits, etc.

On the bench is the carcase for the new chest of drawers project, all of the drawer stock, and various other things. There's a tool chest on the shelf, along with some cauls, and a roll of chisels that belongs in the tool chest. (The chisels belong in the chest, the roll does not) But I need to make a rack for the chisels first, so that they don't rattle around and bang into each other.

Last night I ran into one of the home woodworker's main problems... night-time. I started futzing, and sawing a small piece for the chest of drawers when I was reminded that it was getting late, and I was being very noisy. And by the way, are you going to sweep all that up?

Grumble, grumble.

The other problem I'm running into is real estate. it's only a 4.5' bench. So space for projects is very limited. Space to work while keeping projects on the bench? Even more limited.

More as it comes.

Monday, August 23, 2010

New Bench compromise: the outcome.

On a topic separate from the sporadic schedule I've had lately, I feel the need to offer another apology, or at least confess to a bit of embarassment. The two posts that I made in June and July do a wonderful job of displaying the mental process I'm going through with regard to how to re-fashion my work habits. But going directly from "NEW BENCH PROJECT!" to "NO BENCH PROJECT!" is just a bit mean.

For most wood geeks, I think that talking about a new bench project is almost... but not quite... a little like talking about sex. Most woodworkers will perk up when the topic comes up. The finished bench is kind of like the new baby, and everyone likes to see, and it's very exciting in it's potential. But I have to admit that I think the process of making the new baby is a little more intriguing to observe sometimes. So the abrupt turnaround is a bit of a tease.

Here's the final compromise. The bench I built a couple of years ago has been shortened, and is now in my front hallway. And the Sjoberg I bought years ago is my bench in the shop. It's an ugly monster, and I'm going to go through the paces of tuning it up. That means fixing a few of the drawers, flattening the top, lowering the working height, and a few other things.

The plan is to design specific projects to build at home, mill up rough stock in the shop, and process the parts at home. One of the things I noticed almost right away is that there are a lot of small details that I'm used to having around, or not needing at all, due to the availability of machines. one of the first details is simply having cauls to work with, or work on, or use for clamping. So I roughed those out at the shop, and planed them to size last night. I also need to make some bench hooks and a shooting board.

The first furniture project is to finish up a small chest of drawers that's been languishing since this post, which went up about a year and a half ago. I glued the carcase up then, and if you look through old pictures of the shop, you'll see it up on the shelves, waiting for me to get it wrapped up. I milled up drawer pieces the other day, and I'll post pictures when I bring it all home.

Psycho Summer. And getting back on track.

I apologize for the sporadic post schedule and the vagueness of the posts over the summer. The schedule with the US Census had me at my wits end...

By way of example, the block of maple I alluded to cutting back in the beginning of June was the start of what should have been a pretty simple project. But it still took me two and a half months to deliver. The project was a simple kitchen island made with fir and tap-hole maple. I know that's a funny designation for the kind of maple used, but I've also heard of buckshot maple, wormy maple, (otherwise known as ambrosia maple), quilted and curly maple, and so on. So it's not a designation having to do with species necessarily... But I digress. This is an early shot of the island as it was coming together. I'll put up more pictures soon. The final result was nice, but it did highlight for me the fact that my hand skills are a little bit rusty.

More has been going on than just the island and the Census. I now have a workbench at home, and the work area at the shop has been altered. And I have big plans for both spaces coming up. The past half year has felt pretty catastrophic at times, and while woodwork has been kept on the back burner for a while, I'd intended to keep the back burner turned on.