Tales of a Hack #1: What kind of day has it been?

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Blog entry by ajw1978 posted 11-03-2014 09:44 AM 1476 reads 0 times favorited 1 comment Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Tales of a Hack series Part 2: Brand loyalty: The cocaine of woodworking »

The last time I sat down and shared my insane ramblings, I was giddy with excitement over a very small, very simple trophy I was working on. It was so simple, in fact, that the only tools it required were a drill and a sander. And it turned out great—except for the actual inscription, which arrived at the wrong size and I had create something temporary. I threw a few pictures up of the final product, but I’ll be adding something to the Project Section soon.

In the meantime…

With baseball season finally (mercifully) over and winter coming quick to the barren wasteland that is the Upper Midwest, I was running out of time to “play” in my “shop.” I had a lengthy list of things I wanted to get done before I was forced to pack my tools up for the season (to recap, I rent a condo Downtown; everything I work with has to be packed neatly into a small space in the closet). The biggest item on the list was a new living room table set—which is the promise I made to the CEO in order to let me blow the budget on various tools this summer—but with every project, I realized my skills were nowhere to the point of wanting one of my creations to be the centerpiece of my home.

So, as they say, practice makes perfect, right? I had a pile of cut-offs and other scrap lumber sitting in piles around the patio and I figured if I wasn’t going to actually make anything, I may as well work on my abhorrent miter, bevel and measuring skills. And I did just that; for a few days I just sawed wood over and over and over again. If nothing else, it was therapeutic. But, naturally, it got boring quick and when the weather reports said Mother Nature was going to throw a couple of 70-degree days my way, my mind started churning and my eyeballs started scouring the web for basic, beginner projects.

Unfortunatley, there was a catch. The Old Man, my mentor on this journey, called me that night with a request I never in a million years could have imagined: he needed to borrow my miter saw; my pride and joy; my most cherished possession.

But how can you say no? Even you discover on arrival that he’s using the damn thing to cut pieces of aluminum trim for his house. So … no, no tool time for a few days. When it was time to get the saw back, I met him at Woodcraft where he was making holiday toys for Children’s shelters. A very cool project with some very cool men—all of whom knew their way around a shop. Learned a lot just listening and was ready to put it into use … especially with the new blade the Old Man gave me as “payment” for loaning my saw.

(By the way… Holy Hell, the Diablo 80T is one bad ass blade).

Back home, I found two very nice pieces of “good wood” I had laying around and spotted my Kreg Jig (still unused at this point) on the shelf I had just organized. So, I messed around and stuck two pieces together to get the hang of that jig and as luck would have it, I’d fashioned myself a little shelf.

Bored the next day at a meeting, I doodled some plans to add some sides and a top shelf to it, giving me an excuse to play with my router, too. And sure enough, the next day I dragged myself out of bed, took the dog out, brewed some coffee and started making sawdust.

But of course, nothing—none of it—turned out. Measurements off by millimeters; boards not lining up; bits breaking; pencils lost (I lost track after nine). It was one frustration after another and I was on the verge of putting all my tools on Craigslist and going back to golf (something I gave up under very similar emotions several years ago).

I had even posted a lengthy tirade here but before I could post it, and adding to my day of crap, my internet completely cut out leaving me disconnected. So I went for a walk. I read some magazines. I cleaned. I drank some wine and I fell asleep.

The next day, some of the leftover lumber was sitting right where I had dropped it so I started cutting it up to pack it away. And sitting there on the pile was a house-shaped chunk of 1×6 and somehow, I was reminded of the toolbox my dad built me and my brother when we were kids.

Without even thinking, I started measuring and cutting. All the pieces were there. I sanded them down. I lined them up. I dug up my peg-hole kit ($1 at Harbor Freight) and started putting things together. The only issue was realizing the cheap bit for my jigsaw was bent so I had to run down the street to the neighborhood hardware store (Which I ALWAYS forget about), but I got to take the dog along and even THAT was great.

By the end of the day, it was done. A simple, basic, no-frills child’s toolbox crafted out of a nasty pallet I dug out of a dumpster some time in spring. Now, some of the wood was warped, some of the glue was uneven, and it was a little too small to actually use for that purpose and save for one too-shallow peg hole which led to a couple of cracks on one side … it was error-free and ultimately, the perfect template for what will now be my nephew’s Christmas gifts.

Long story short … my love for woodworking has been restored. I was ready to pack it up for the winter and sit and stew over my shortcomings. Now, though, I’m pestering friends to let me take up space in their basements so I can work on a slew of Christmas gifts for my friends and family. One morning. One memory. One project.

It’s good to be back.

Thanks again for letting me ramble here, folks. As I’ve said before, my presence here is in part to document my journey/progress/education. And if I seem wordy … I’m a writer, so it kind of just happens sometimes.

I’ll have individual posts on the projects over in that section, but added a few pictures for the time being.

-- May the good Lord help me if I ever actually have a shop, garage or basement.

1 comment so far

View LJRay's profile


106 posts in 2471 days

#1 posted 12-12-2014 04:30 AM

I know how you feel. In my few projects I’ve done over the recent years, I’ve tried to measure thrice and cut accurately but somehow things still come out not quite the way I’d like. Fortunately most of my projects were made of rough lumber where perfect accuracy is required and fortunately my projects are done out of necessity so I don’t have much choice but to keep chugging on knowing that some day I’ll “get there”.

-- Ray

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