Deep Thoughts - Reader Beware #1: Mortises at 11PM

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Blog entry by Sandra posted 02-25-2013 01:52 PM 2008 reads 0 times favorited 21 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Deep Thoughts - Reader Beware series Part 2: Pain pain pain »

First, the caveat:

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about woodworking, trying to make sense of what it is that has always drawn me to it. I’m notorious for over-thinking, overanalyzing and basically spending too much energy navel-gazing. This blog is intended to get some of it out of my head. I’ll be glib, sarcastic and flippant in my other posts. Who knows how this one will turn out. It may be a train wreck, so reader beware! If navel-gazing doesn’t hold any appeal or distraction for you, move on. If you’re allergic to estrogen, move away quickly.

My own personal rules are to not to spend more than 30 minutes on any one post. I can correct a mistake if I catch it right away, but can’t go back. If I post it, I can’t edit or delete. I tend to edit things to death and have been known to delete my posts before it’s too late. (If you’re reading this Monte – you caught me)

If anything resonates with you, feel free to chime in.

It’s 9:22

My Nanny lived into her 90s and was a great old gal. Hard life is an understatement. She played hockey on the marshes in the 1930s wearing a long wool skirt. She married her husband and by all accounts, things went to sht after that. 7 kids, 2 died, husband left, no welfare, worked as a cleaning lady in the hospital. Working poor in a small city. My mom didn’t have new shoes until high school.

By the time I knew her, she lived in an apartment. She smoked Benson and Hedges cigarettes, read Louis L’Amour novels, went to Bingo and quilted. She was a hoot. She taught me how to play poker, and when she took her morning medication she’d make some comment about taking her “burt control pills” because you never know who might show up. I tried to get her to teach me how to quilt. It didn’t go well. She couldn’t slow her hands down enough for me to follow what she was doing. I bought a book, figured it out and was off to the races. Queen sized quilt for my husband when we were married, one for my brother and his first wife, one for each of my children. Then I got too busy and haven’t touched it since. I loved working with my hands and producing something, so quilting was enjoyable in that regard, but it didn’t float my boat. I didn’t go to bed and dream about paisley and wax philosophical about different fabrics.

I make bread. Bought a bread maker and hated it. I make it by hand, have made sourdough starters that sat in the back of the fridge, made artisan bread, used the steam method. I make it fairly regularly but it’s fallen into the category of ‘something I do as a mother and wife’. I feed my family. We eat crap fairly often, but for the most part we eat home cooked meals at the kitchen table. I’ve got one shot at raising my children and I take it very seriously.

I’ve scrapbooked. Gone to weekend ‘scraps’ bought tools, embellishments and did pages celebrating minutiae.
I was making something with my hands, and I still do some, but in a very scaled back way.

So what is it about wood? When the work/family/life thing gets crazy I tell my friends that I want to be a carpenter when I grow up. Or is wood going to be like the other ‘hobbies’? Jump right in, by the tools, work away and then walk away? At this point I don’t think so.

The gender issue is inescapable, but is a touchy topic. I can’t pretend to understand all women, nor can I even to begin to understand men. For whatever reason, I’ve found men to be more straightforward. For the most part. If they don’t like you, you know. If a woman doesn’t like you, all her friends now and you’re the last to figure it out. Now I want to delete this. Crap. Back to wood.

Last night I was cutting, or is it chiseling? mortises at 11pm. I was in my sock feet in the garage because I had just gone out to put something in the recycling bin. Then I just took a look at my first mortise, then I measured a few things again, looked at the plans, and the picked up a chisel just to put it away. I could have stayed in the garage all night, but knowing that I have to be a reasonably pleasant human being in the morning finally had me hit the hay. I went to sleep thinking about the mortises, how I cut the stretcher pieces for the workbench a bit narrow, and that maybe the shoulders of the tenon would be to0 narrow as a result, and how I should really check that in the morning and adjust the size of the mortises and tenons on that piece.

9:42 hmmm that went by quickly. That’s the point I guess. When I’m working with wood, I don’t notice the time flying by. I was using the chisels with a hammer wrapped up in an old facecloth because I don’t have a whatchyacall it yet. The word will come to me. Mallet. That’s it, I don’t have a mallet yet. So I was figuring out how much easier it was to cut the sides of the mortise because I was cutting with the grain, and how different it was to cut across the grain. When my second mortise fit nicely I was thrilled. Beyond thrilled. My hubby is away (back tomorrow) but as supportive as he is, I really don’t think he would have wanted to come out to the garage after midnight to appreciate that the tenon fit tightly and that the shoulders were flush with the board all around.

I guess that’s today’s deep thought – Nobody expects me to be good with wood. It’s not on the list of things I must do to be a good mother, good wife, good employee, allround decent human. It’s not an obligation and it’s certainly not expected of my gender. Maybe that’s what the appeal is. Who knows. I used to envy my brothers for going to Boy Scouts and doing ‘cool’ things like building fires and camping. In brownies we learned about the Queen mother. Not cool. So I guess that makes woodworking ‘cool’.

9:52. I’m going to instantly regret posting this. AAAAAAAAGH

-- No, I don't want to buy the pink hammer.

21 comments so far

View DIYaholic's profile


19848 posts in 3154 days

#1 posted 02-25-2013 02:11 PM

Well said!

I’m glad that you are putting your thoughts down. I enjoyed learning your perspective on things. You definately have your head on straight (whether you believe so or not)! I think many can benefit from your candor and outlook towards life & priorities.

I look forward to reading more!!!

-- Randy-- I may not be good...but I am slow! If good things come to those who wait.... Why is procrastination a bad thing?

View William's profile


9950 posts in 3321 days

#2 posted 02-25-2013 02:19 PM

I do not understand this gender thing at all. I try to get my wife involved in wood working and she just would not do it. She had an antique desk that belonged to her mother that she wanted to restore. I suggested she do most of the work on it because it would mean so much more to her. She agreed and spent weeks hand sanding that desk. I could tell too that she truly enjoyed it. After that, I thought I’d be able to get her to get more involved in it. As soon as the desk was done though, she hasn’t touched another piece of wood.
Gender should not even be a factor in it. If you like it, enjoy it to the max. Cut mortises until three in the morning if you like. I think wood working is just something that some people take to naturally. I never imagined myself a wood worker until I tried it almost by accident. I’ve been hooked ever since. Loved ones think I’m completely nuts when I caress and get lost in the grain of some interesting piece of wood. I tell them that wood is my mistress.

I have found myself in the shop “tinkering around” a bit because I couldn’t sleep, and lost track of time until I happened to noticed the sun was coming up. It happens. Think about the alternative though. I also have laid in bed miserable because something in the shop was on my mind. I’ve forced myself to stay in bed because I knew I needed sleep while some little thing in a current project was on my mind and driving sleep so far from me that there was no way I’d ever catch it. I’ve come to the conclusion that in times like those, it’s better to get on to the shop. Think about it. Which is better? Would you rather be in the shop working on the problem? Or stuck in bed worrying about the problem?

This brings me back to the original gender issue. I’ve heard for years that men are problem solvers and women are thinkers. I disagree. Most women I know solve problems while a lot of men drink their beer and talk about the problem. The problem is that a lot of women, out of the goodness of their hearts, let men think they solved the problem so they don’t bruise their male egos.
Because of this, I think a lot of women would be great at wood working and really enjoy it if they gave it a chance. I also believe that some men would never admit it if their wives turned out to be better at wood working than they were. That though gets into one of the many joys of wood working. How do you determine is the wife is better than the husband? You can’t because the greatest joy of wood working is not the destination of accomplishment. It is the journey of learning the process. I think one could study and do wood working their whole life and still have enough left to learn to fill several more lifetimes. That keeps it interesting and something that anyone who enjoys it will keep coming back to.

So what am I saying? You have to excuse me. I do ramble on a lot. I am a thinker though. I overthink everything. The only time I think I actually do anymore is in my wood shop.
I’m say that your statement, “The gender issue is inescapable”, is wrong. It is easily escapable. Simply tell anyone who doesn’t think you should be enjoying wood work to go to hell. It isn’t them you should worry about making happy. If you want to cut mortises at 11P.M, then by all means, cut mortises at 11P.M.

I guarantee you that the mortise will be around to be appreciated long after someone else’s bread, scrapbook, or whatever is forgotten about.


View Sandra's profile


7207 posts in 2554 days

#3 posted 02-25-2013 02:38 PM

DIY – thanks. Beer’s on me.

William – Loved reading this. You say you overthink things – glad I”m not the only one!
You’re right about the gender thing not mattering to woodworking. I guess what I could say is that it’s inescapable for me. My worst enemy is between my own two ears. I can’t hold anyone responsible for the expectations I place on myself. And you are DEAD on with the line: “The only time I think I actually do anymore is in my wood shop.”


-- No, I don't want to buy the pink hammer.

View BigRedKnothead's profile


8547 posts in 2461 days

#4 posted 02-25-2013 02:43 PM

I always enjoy your posts. Maybe because of the similarites to my spouse and our life. As I’ve said, my wife has some recent serious health issues. Also, she too gets along better with men.

However, my wifes interest is running. Despite her battle with lupus, she ran a 1/2 marathon last year and plans 2 more this year. We often joke that we try our best to stay interested when the other is rambling about running or woodworking. Deep down we’re just happy each other has something we enjoy so much.

I share some of your OCD-like issues when it comes to posts and other stuff. I just try to tell myself I’m among friends. Hopefully they know I’m not an idiot (typos etc.). If they are overly critical, I probably wouldn’t want them as a friend anyway. Helps me anyway.

As far as why we’re drawn into woodworking with no return in sight. Shoot they’ve got entire books about that.

-- "At the end of the day, try and make it beautiful....because the world is full of ugly." Konrad Sauer

View Bob Kassmeyer's profile

Bob Kassmeyer

252 posts in 3404 days

#5 posted 02-25-2013 03:01 PM

Good story, I too have a problem with wanting to over edit things. I seldom post because of it. I’m not saying I don’t keyboard it all in but I just delete them because they don’t look right. I have been enjoying reading your posts lately.

-- Bob Kassmeyer, Nebraska

View Bluepine38's profile


3387 posts in 3564 days

#6 posted 02-25-2013 03:34 PM

Good thinking, and great sharing. My mother, then my oldest sister, then her oldest daughter all were bread
bakers-cinnamon rolls-buns-all part of it. It was part of being a mother to them, the daughter uses a wood
stove/oven because she likes it. It is part of them, and the smell of fresh baked bread is part of their home.
My second oldest sister remodeled her house because her husband did not want to do it and she thought it
should be done. Knocked out walls and everything. As Helluvawreck mentions we all seem to be marching
to a different drummer, but as long as we and those important people who love/put up with us are happy,
lets sort of ignore the rest of them and have fun in the workshop and where ever else we can. Thank you
for sharing.

-- As ever, Gus-the 80 yr young apprentice carpenter

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 3169 days

#7 posted 02-25-2013 03:45 PM

Glad you didn’t delete this one! Enjoyed it thoroughly and you provoked some inciteful comments. Keep posting and having fun in the shop!

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

30428 posts in 2817 days

#8 posted 02-25-2013 04:15 PM

Oddly enough, I got woodworking from my mother. She will be 84 in July and still does a lot of woodworking. I am not sure why more women don’t get into the more artistic side of woodworking. In my mind I have always thought that women are more natural artisans than men. My only suggestion may sound sexist, but society says women aren’t supposed to get dirty. You can’t do this and stay clean.

I like the fact that you’re open about issues. It forces some of the grumpy old men to be realistic and open about issues. Keep it up.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View Sandra's profile


7207 posts in 2554 days

#9 posted 02-25-2013 05:00 PM

Dan – sounds like your wife and I are cut from the same cloth. Prior to my health issues, I ran 3 marathons.

Monte – you might have a point there. Also, in my day, most girls weren’t exposed to woodworking so it wasn’t on our radars at all.

Thanks gents. The fact that you read my ramblings and took the time to respond means that I’ll probably do it again. :) Have a great day.

-- No, I don't want to buy the pink hammer.

View DocSavage45's profile


8856 posts in 3321 days

#10 posted 02-25-2013 06:09 PM


“Nobody expects me to be good with wood” Hmm? You are in a profession that people might not expect, except there are a lot of cop shows?

I worked with a kid, who’s dad seemed to be “too busy”, but had problems of his own. So I brought some hand tools and saw horses, and took him to the parking lot, and we proceded to learn how to saw, hammer, and drill. I assigned a task. “build me a birdhouse.”

This shamed dad into working with his son. Sad? But it worked. got dad out of himself and into his kid.

My wife has helped me tear down and rehab an old house. She would play for hours as a kid designing clothes. She has pattern recognition, and creative know how. She also is a very creative writer. I’m working with the wood, and she supports that.

She is not doing any of it right now. Fascinated with the internet. So was the kid. He was a “gamer”. I get a lot of them. Childhood perceptions stay with us and modify our present perceptions.

My dad did all the building maintenance. I watched and then got caught one day making stuff with “his tools”

There are many manifestations ( big word…LOL) of woodworker. I would suggest “The impractical Cabinet Maker” by Krenov. It may help with your navel gazing…he’s great with words and wood!

Above all, you have a supportive family. And a passion for wood. And maybe you are just being yourself?

Maybe you are just opening another creative door? Enjoy the ride?

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View DocSavage45's profile


8856 posts in 3321 days

#11 posted 02-25-2013 06:18 PM


I’m taking pictures now, in the shop. I can then show my wife..”I did that!” The journey is my challenge? They aren’t us, but I believe support us in being us…LOL!

Going to find my conduit, wire, and electrical tools….220 here I come.

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View Richforever's profile


757 posts in 4199 days

#12 posted 02-25-2013 06:36 PM

Nice story. Thanks for posting.

When I was three or four years old, I remember Mom and me on our hands and knees on the kitchen floor doing finger painting on large sheets of butcher paper. Mom promoted creativity. She was into toll painting, sewing, and all kinds of arts. Mom was a cub scout den mother, and her dad was a carpenter.

Also at the age of three or four, Dad and I would stay up late; pull the blinds on the kitchen windows; put in a “darkroom bulb” in the kitchen light fixture; and develop film and print black and white pictures. I’m now trying all kinds of woodworking projects. Each projects seems to spawn four more – and it just keeps growing! I do find myself at all hours in the garage (in my pajamas) fiddling with mortise and tenons. What a cool way to make wood do neat stuff!

-- Rich, Seattle, WA

View runswithscissors's profile


3060 posts in 2504 days

#13 posted 02-25-2013 11:16 PM

When we did a total kitchen remodel a couple of years ago, my wife and I shared inputs, as we both cook. She did the drafting, as she knew how she wanted things arranged. Together we revised as needed, and sometimes made it up as we went. Did 95% of it with recycled oak. Often when I have a “how to” problem that has me bamboozled, I’ll solicit her ideas, and she often points out something that was staring me in the face. She’s a talented crafter, though WW hasn’t attracted her—yet.

Your allusion to childhood was evocative. I only came to realize in later years how lucky I was in my parents. My dad bought a Sears TS in the late 1940s, and I started using it as soon as I could see over the table. No instruction, no warnings, and I never got hurt. He never yelled at me for using his tools, or told me I couldn’t do something, or put down the stuff I did. As a consequence, I have never feared taking something apart to see how it works, sometimes to fix it or improve its function. That’s one of the reasons I like used tools—no warranty to obsess about. In fact, I’m notorious for taking even new tools, getting irritated at some functional inadequacy, and modifying it in some way, thereby voiding the warranty (from reading a lot of LJ posts, warranties often aren’t worth a hoot anyhow).

In contrast, there is my wife’s ex. He was taught by his dad that he couldn’t do anything right, so he became totally anal about the right way to do stuff. He’s terrified of doing it “wrong”. I say, be bold, try things out, don’t be afraid of finding out that something didn’t work as planned (I have a number of aborted little projects that didn’t quite gel; doesn’t bother me a bit, except that when I come across one, I ponder it for a moment wondering if it’s worth taking up again).

I really appreciate this thread, thanks for starting it. It’s too easy to go on and on. So I’ll stop.

-- I admit to being an adrenaline junky; fortunately, I'm very easily frightened

View Sandra's profile


7207 posts in 2554 days

#14 posted 02-25-2013 11:58 PM

Doc, always nice hearing from you – you have a very positive outlook.

Rich and runswith – funny what we remember isn’t it? I often wonder what my kids will remember.

-- No, I don't want to buy the pink hammer.

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

11757 posts in 3907 days

#15 posted 02-26-2013 12:39 AM

You use the language exceptionally well. And, as Randy put it , you do have your head on straight.
Your kids will remember your loves and passions more than anything else. And they will treasure the products of them.
Please continue to allow us to explore your fertile mind through your excellently constructed and interesting prose.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

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