unfinished : a woodworker's journal

Working wood changes me inside. So I write about it.

March 7, 2020

“Wood evolved as a functional tissue of plants and not as a material designed to satisfy the needs of woodworkers.”* And yet we woodworkers still get angry at wood when it doesn’t look and behave exactly as we want. We cut into a beautiful figured maple board and find a hidden knot or crack that ruins our plans. We slice a big thick piece of walnut to make bookmatched planks and they immediately warp so bad we can't even use them. These things cost us time, they cost us effort, they definitely cost u...

February 18, 2020

If you want to build a log cabin out of slick, clean logs, you should harvest the trees in the summer, during the growing season. But if you want to cut a round section and make, say, a clock with the bark still attached around the edges, you should harvest it in the winter.

In the summer, the inner bark becomes a buzzing interstate carrying water up and sap down. Water is lifted from the soil up to the leaves, photosynthesized into sugar-bearing sap, and then dropped down to feed the meristems. These...

November 18, 2019

For some people the hardest thing to say is “I love you.” For others it’s “I’m sorry.” 

The most difficult words for me are “This is what it costs.” 

I can love and apologize all day long, but when it’s time for me to say how much money I need for something I’m making out of wood, my insides clinch up like an old man who just ate a whole jar of dollar store peanut butter. 

“That’ll be…” I stammer, “how about er...the price will be...uh…say…maybe $[ insert amount that is about half what the thing is actu...

November 11, 2019

Sound affects me. And so it affects my work.

There is a moment in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance when the narrator takes his bike to a mechanic but quickly leaves after hearing the radio blaring. He believes that when a person is working with his hands s/he ought never be listening to anything – even music – because it will divide attention and the work will suffer.

I read this book right around the time I quit my stable career in favor of my wobbly hobby. I ate it up, becaus...

November 4, 2019

“It’s not going to go,” Michael said. His face was hidden on the other side of the giant wardrobe. I was left to judge his mood from his voice alone, which was factual and sober. “It’s not going to fit.”

“It has to!” I protested. “I measured it. It has to fit. I took measurements!!” 

“Well,” he said, “It doesn’t.” A tiny bit of sharp irritation bit through his tone this time. A peek at what must have been a huge, hidden mass of terror and desperate embarrassment. He didn’t even release a sigh...

October 29, 2019

 "The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers."

Stop nodding your head in agreement for one minute and guess who said this. Was it Andy Rooney? Archie Bunk...

October 21, 2019

If you visit my wood shop and look around for a while, you'll probably notice them, and you'll probably say something.

Something like, "Wow that's a lot of nice looking wood in those barrels. You just gonna burn all that?" And if you're a blunt person -- say, not from the South -- you might shake your head and add, "Seems like a waste if you ask me." 

It's right now in the calendar, October, when my scrap wood supply levels always peak. No fires in the stove since March means I've been packin...

October 9, 2019

Working wood is always a rhythm. The mallet strikes the chisel, then raises up, then strikes it again. The hand plane sweeps the board, pulls back, then sweeps it again. The saw pulls, then pushes, then pulls once more.  Again, and again, and again. Repeat, and repeat, and repeat.

Even the wood, if you look closely, is made from rhythm. The rings are a repetitive story of robust growth and protective retraction. Of summers when the sap flows freely and the leaves are green and broad, ga...

October 17, 2018

I revisit The Missing Piece regularly, ever since a friend gave me the little book two decades ago.

I see myself in the story. The little almost-circle thumping slowly along, looking for his missing piece. Singing his song, talking to worms, trying out pieces that almost fit but don't quite.

Then hallelujah!, he finds it. He takes it in and is now a perfect circle. He's no longer missing a piece.

Only now he rolls faster. Way faster. Too fast. Zooms past the worms and flowers. He no longer has a hole to...

September 10, 2018

There it is. I was looking for it. I was starting to wonder if I'd find it at all, after coming all this way. A plane over the Atlantic, a train from London, another from Edinburgh, another from Glasgow. Then a ferry, another ferry, a nearly empty bus across the Isle of Mull, another ferry to Iona. Then the long walk here, to the abbey.

Where I started looking for it.

They told me it was here. They told me this island, this abbey, was a "thin place," a holy site where the membr...

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Mark Love Furniture
Custom Furniture Austin, Texas
1430 South Rainbow Ranch Road
Wimberley, Texas 78676
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