A Relaxing Day Off on Canada Day

Today, I’m doing whatever I please
so I set up my horses under the trees.

My workpiece is happy, content in the shade –
these perfect conditions I wouldn’t dare trade.

Finish goes on easily. I’m in no rush;
I make slow, deliberate strokes with my brush.

The urethane flows nicely and quickly dries
before it bears witness to footprints of flies.

I’m almost done now and the sun is quite near
so I clean up my brush, then head for a beer.

The Designer at Work

I sit upright, eyes open, mouth a straight line.
For just a moment, I close my eyes while I retrieve a file from my memory.
My eyes open again and I look up ever so slightly
as I review the contents of the file.

Some say they can hear, or even see
the wheels inside my head turning.
But I don’t.
Any audible voices or noises are reduced to a murmur.

I wave my hands through the air
as if disassembling it with telekinetic powers.
My mind examines each part
and effortlessly adds tenons and subtracts mortises.

One by one,
I will the parts to reassemble themselves.
It’s complete, and I study its form.
I push and pull parts into proportions that please me.

Piece by piece, I disassemble, then reassemble it,
studying the relationship between each part,
searching for potential problems
and trying to understand how best to build it.

Apart, together. Apart, together. Apart, together.
I repeat this process tens, hundreds, maybe even thousands of times
over the course of days, weeks, months, years, maybe even decades
until I am ready to start building it.

Knotty Issues

The New York Times staff has developed a computer program that searches for haikus (three lines with 5, 7 and 5 syllables) disguised as sentences in the articles they publish. Those haikus are then sorted and the best ones are published on a blog just for that purpose.

I think that I might put this one up in my workshop.

NYT Haiku - But knotty issues are knotty issues, and not all have been resolved


Jumping out of a Plane

I am about to jump out of a plane.

All the preparations have been made for my jump to go smoothly.

Yet there’s a chance

That things could go horribly wrong.
I don’t feel ready

And I don’t think I ever will.
I can only prepare so much.

Then I have to take action.

I   j






Wow – that was a rush.

It was intense and I can’t believe I just did that!

I’m still trembling.

That was awesome!

It wasn’t bad at all.

I could probably do it again,

But I don’t want to anytime soon.


I just jumped out of a plane.


Aiming for Perfection

When should you aim for perfection?  I recently found a quote around which I wrote a poem.

Of this, take note:
I read a great quote.
Remember this if you need direction:
“Strive for excellence, not perfection.”
H. Jackson Brown Jr. said it
And I will not soon forget.

Hand Planes

First, some more woodworking poetry.  Pretty soon, I’ll have enough to fill a book!

One plane, two planes,
Three planes, four.
I work until
My arms are sore.

Today, I spent a good part of the day at Coquitlam Lee Valley showroom (where I work part-time) for their Plane Days event.  I talked to lots of interesting people and made lots of shavings.  The day went by quickly but I didn’t have enough time to flatten the 5′-long slab of maple I brought into the shop.  Oh well.  I’ve got two more days to work on it!  Besides, that’s not why I’m there.

I thought I’d share a couple basic tips to get the most out of your hand planes.

  1. Learn how to sharpen and keep the blades sharp!  Don’t overcomplicate sharpening.  Sharp is sharp.  (And dull is dull.)
  2. Check your bench height.  If your bench is too high, you will have a hard time providing sufficient downwards pressure on the plane to get a good cut.  And you will get tired quickly.  Too low, and your back will let you know the next day.
  3. Use your whole body – not just your arms.
  4. Find a way to secure the stock to the bench.  Dogs, clamps, planing stops and vises all work.  Also, make sure your bench is sturdy enough that you don’t have to chase it around either.
  5. If your work rocks on the bench, use a wedge to keep it steady while you flatten one face.  If your bench rocks, shim it.
  6. Be mindful of the sharp edges created while planing.  Two freshly-planed surfaces make a sharp point that can easily cut you!
  7. Watch the grain!  If you are unsure of which direction to plane, set the plane for a light cut and try a test pass.  You will be able to feel when you are going with the grain and when you are going against it.  You can often avoid severe tearout by planing diagonally or across the grain, but you won’t get as smooth a cut as going with the grain either.
  8. Know when to stop.  Don’t get carried away and plane until you are left with a toothpick.  Also, don’t plane into the bench.  My coworkers often warn me of this.
  9. Lower cutting angles are easier to push.  Higher cutting angles are less likely to cause tearout.  A plane with a sharp blade, tight mouth and light cut will produce a good surface in most situations.
  10. Keep your blades sharp.  That’s important.

What I Want For Christmas (More Woodworking Poetry)

I’d like some more Jet parallel bar clamps
and a dust collector that will draw some amps.

A couple more screwdrivers
and a froe to split wood fibers.

A sliding tail vise
on my bench would be nice.

A trammel to draw round things
and a rip handsaw that sings.

Some steel-toes with better soles
and a big lathe to turn bigger bowls.

An infill plane with zero slop
and of course, a bigger shop!

Inspired (Woodworking) Poetry

I wrote this after cutting myself on a plane blade that jumped out of a wooden plane due to a poorly set wedge (my fault). Only a minor injury requiring no more than a band-aid to remedy.With the planes I played
My love never swayed
‘Til I took the pass
That was my last
For out popped the blade
My right hand filleted
And now of the blade
Ever-sharp, I am afraid.