Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Hook

In pop music, the "hook" refers to the part of a song that is most memorable or catchy. It's the part you wait for—the particular bit that's supported by the other elements in the melody, but that stands out as the best part. You might not even like some portions in the song, but you hang in there just to hear the hook.

In woodworking, the hook for me is in the details. Using handtools—where I'm refining a joint with chisels, carving, doing inlay, chamfering an edge with a block plane—is always the highlight.

The tasks leading up to and following that point can be fun, so-so, or even disagreeable. Non-woodworkers might find it odd to hear a woodworker admit that there are fundamentals of the craft that, in some cases, are most egregious.

Glue-ups for example. I dread them. Countless hours spent building a piece can be wasted with one mishap.

And finishing. Don't get me started. ew.

Bandsawing—fun. Sharpening—pleasant. Using a hewing axe—brilliant.

But there might be more than one hook. For me, it's the pre-woodworking part—the decisions made in size, dimension, design, joinery, developing a cut list, and order of construction.

I've been working on a design for a Swiss army knife of a shaving horse that can be used for shaping, carving, and hewing. It will have several attachments and can be broken down for transport. The brainstorming has been a blast.

But before I can get to the fun parts of construction, I have to mill a bunch of boards, and not one of them is square. Truing crooked, warped, and cupped boards is far from being a hook in my book. Alas, we take the great with the not-so-great. It's all part of the arrangement.