Wednesday, December 15, 2010

When Life gives you Lemons ...

A couple of weeks ago, I was at the Canadian Home Workshop show. It was my first woodworking show, but to be truthful, it was more of a power tool show than anything else. Sure, there were a couple of workshops and Rob Cosman was there demonstrating his plane craft, but for the most part there were power tools as far as the eye could see.

Along with a block of redwood and a plane blade from Rob's stand (I want to try my hand at making a hand plane. Kari, I'll be coming to you with questions!), I had picked up a core-box bit for my router as I wanted to try my hand at making router bowls. I figured I could make a couple as Christmas gifts

For my first bowl, I decided to actually make a round segmented dish. About 13" in diameter and split down the middle.

Everything was going pretty well until after I had routed out the recesses and band-sawn the outside circumference. I needed to route the outside and inside edges to give a round-over effect but having dismantled my home made router table (it had finally warped beyond usability) I opted to do it free hand with the bowl clamped down to the bench between dogs.

Routing the bottom edge went fine. Routing the first recess also posed no problem. Routing the 2nd recess however, I slipped and the router bit ended up cutting deeply into the side. Twice. Realizing what I had done, I turned off the router, set it down and resisted the urge to pick up the piece and hurl it to the concrete floor. I'll admit that I muttered a bit and stared at the dish in sinking dismay.

It was ruined.

Fit for kindling.

.... Or was it? Something told me to pick up a chisel and just start carving. For the next little while, I chipped away at the dish. To be truthful, I totally lost track of time and just followed my instinct being mindful of the grain so that I wouldn't tear the wood. Pausing only to give the chisel a couple of swipes on the sharpening stone.

It was pure Zen.

When I was done, what I saw reminded me of sand and how it can erode away at man made structures if left unchecked with the desert claiming half of the city, but the other half still in good order. Hence, I give you the dish "Erosion".

I'm quite proud of what I've accomplished. It may not be the next Mona Lisa, but I've grown by refusing to bow to defeat just because of a minor setback. What was to be a straight forward dish has been turned into a work of art that I could never duplicate 100%

Do you have a story where you took the woodworking lemons that were handed to you and turned it into lemonade? Leave me a comment and let's chat about it!


  1. Nice work. I'm letting my lemons ferment a while in the workshop...plan to make some exquisite lemon-cello when it's all done. :-)

    No...I'm not planning to make a cello...never mind.

    Ya, I know where you're at, I had a few of those moments with the Marble Tower project and I've got some projects currently shelved because I ran into problems beyond my skill and decided to leave it until I knew how to approach it better. Some I've come back to and delivered, a couple still take up valuable space in the workshop.

    One goal is to accept these setbacks as learning opportunities and also make sure I come back to them and finish them before I have a shop full of half finished projects.


  2. Adaptability and a willingness to see beyond the original plan is essential to any furniture maker's skill set.

    Sometimes, I think those "accidents" are there to push us to take the risks we need to stop being so rigid and start being more free in our work.

    Great piece, great story, great work.

  3. I don't see any problem. Good job! I can't remember where I heard it from but consider this, you have better than a 50% success ratio then you're not challenging yourself enough.

  4. Thanks for the comments!
    @Ian, I don't have the room for unfinished projects although I've still managed to keep the garage! Or maybe I don't have the proper storage to keep them organized!

    @Adam, So true. I've made it a goal that whenever something doesn't go right in the future to see what I can do about it instead of trashing it. Both in the shop and out of it!

    @Paul, true, but I could do without the 'heart sinking into the pit of my stomach' moments LOL even if I grow in the process :)


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