Woodworking and my Traumatic Brain Injury #3: Life in the "Fun House"

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Blog entry by Kent posted 09-01-2019 04:14 PM 1139 reads 0 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: Learning about "channels" Part 3 of Woodworking and my Traumatic Brain Injury series no next part

Imagine putting on someone else’s glasses and wearing them for a few days. If those glasses were different enough from what you normally experience, they would distort your perception and start to make you feel like you were in a “Fun House” at a science centre or fall fair. It’s amusing as an experience, but as a way of life, it gets old quick. Trust me on that, because that’s been my reality for a few years now.

I’ve had several new prescriptions over the last few years to help correct the accident damage. While they have corrected where my eyes point, I haven’t had any one prescription long enough for my brain to adjust to the spatial distortion of each prescription. As a result, many normal actions have become uncomfortable so I’ve had to develop ways to accommodate the problem. Unfortunately, one of these methods has been to avoid moving my head and eyes in more than one axis at a time. “Oh look, it’s Mr Robotto”! Something as simple as stooping and bending to check for wind is usually enough to burn out that channel and stop me from continuing in the shop (or anywhere else) for a few days.

I have a lot of rough lumber that I collected before my accident that I want to mill square. I need to use hand tools because it wouldn’t be safe for me to use power tools in my condition and because I don’t have a place where I can set them up and leave them set up. Even if I did try to use my table saw (as an example), I would be too mentally fatigued to put the saw away after I had pulled the saw out of the tent and run the power, not to mention even gathering some wood and setting up a cut. Since I don’t want to leave a table saw and power outside for days or weeks, I use hand tools in my basement shop, where I can just walk away and leave something for a few days (or sometimes weeks) until I’m ready to proceed.

I generally start by placing a 2 to 3-foot long piece in my end vice. I’ll mark a straight reference on one side. Sometimes I use a marking gauge and sometimes I use a Sharpie.

I’ll carry the marks around all 4 sides and them I’ll plane a chamfer to the lines, like this.

Then all I have to do is plane off the high spots between the chamfers. This easy to do because it doesn’t require me to use my vision as much as if I was just planing to the lines. Once the surface is planed close to the lines, I bring out the winding sticks and start switching between my number 4, 5 & 6 plane until I have one surface flat and true. Sometimes this step is easy. At other times it can take days.

When things go this well it feels like magic.

When they don’t, I just walk away for a few days until I feel better. Sometimes I’ll get distracted by something else (squirrel!) to help me move forward.

I have a LOT of small and trivial projects partially completed and waiting for me. I’m getting to them, and that’s a good thing.

-- If I knew then what I know now, I'd have made a completely different set of mistakes.

4 comments so far

View TEK73's profile


334 posts in 826 days

#1 posted 09-02-2019 04:35 PM

Keep going and do the best out of it.
Seems like a very nice bench by the way – good to know it sees some useage!

-- It’s good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end. - Ursula K. LeGuin

View TwinLake's profile


1 post in 655 days

#2 posted 09-03-2019 04:26 AM

Keep it going, looks like a good piece of bench !

View Kent's profile


647 posts in 2915 days

#3 posted 10-12-2019 02:31 PM

Like most woodworkers, I would love to build “my dream bench”. Unfortunately, the lack of a good work-holding device was working against all my other deficiencies. Fortunately, a local woodworker was moving to Europe on short notice, so his bench went up for sale and I snatched it up at a reasonable price. It’s been a joy to use and a huge help in so many ways.

My brain continues to improve, but what I am capable of and how long I’m capable of doing it is still pretty much unpredictable. It took me a month to get to hand sawing the stack of softwood lumber in the tent after I had sawn the hardwood in August. The good news is that I was able to do it in a couple of hours and in one shot. Yay!

I’ve been puttering away on de-rusting some old tools and milling some softwood for some shelving for the shop. The milling process is very challenging cognitively. Progress on it is so slow that some days it feels like an anchor weighing me down. My military training (do or die) keeps me working at it. I’m not going to let a stupid piece of wood beat me!

I’ll have some photos of some progress and shop ideas posted soon. Soon, my time, that is.

-- If I knew then what I know now, I'd have made a completely different set of mistakes.

View a1Jim's profile


118162 posts in 4696 days

#4 posted 10-12-2019 04:58 PM

Wow, you are just pushing through in spite of your injury, so sorry you have that injury to deal with but you are doing a great job of adapting to make things work where so many others would have just thrown in the towel. More power to you I hope your healing is complete and that you’re back to your on injured self soon.


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