Monday, December 10, 2007

The Sanity of Wood Turning

This seems to be a good day to ramble so I thought I would. As a pastor of a small, rural church, we had regular services yesterday morning and a special Christmas service last evening so there was little time for me to be in the shop. Actually there was none so I decided to at least write about wood turning since I could not do it.

The night service was dedicated as a time of sharing with one another about the people who will not be with us at Christmas. Some have passed away this year, some have moved to other parts of the world, others have new commitments in life that have taken them away, and still others have Alzheimer’s or similar problems that have removed them from the normal picture.

There is a lot of stress in people’s lives today and pastors share it. Not only do we deal with many if not all of the same stresses, but we also try to shoulder other people’s as well. This is not a pity trip. We choose to do this work and most of us either love it or can not picture doing anything else. After all the rewards are fantastic. We also get to participate in weddings, baby dedications, baptisms and great moments in people’s lives.

The simple point is pastors have the stresses that other people have and need to cope with those stresses. One of the thing that has occurred to me recently is pastors seem to have a hard time relaxing. Again this is not unique to pastors and more and more I am observing that people have too few hobbies and interests outside the work place.

I have found woodworking in general and wood turning in particular to be sanity savers for me. They answer two big criteria for me as far as relaxing hobbies are concerned. The first is the need to extend themselves to other people and the second is the capacity to be absorbing.

Wood turning tends to produce a lot of output, especially as I like to turn small objects. Most of the time a small object is faster to make than is a large one although excessive detail can take time on some pieces. There are three choices at least with all these pieces of wood.

The first is to simply accumulate them at home. While we do keep a few around, it seems that they can have the ability to overflow all available flat surfaces in a hurry. Simply having them in a box in the shop does not make a lot of sense.

So the second solution has become to sell some of the turnings. This is great because my wife and I enjoy going to shows together and meeting the people who shop. Most of the time we are at only high end shows and only do a few a year so the events do not become stale. Unfortunately this means there is still a lot of product.

The third answer has been to give gifts to a lot of family and friends. There is a real pleasure in taking a piece of landfill or firewood and turning it into something someone else will treasure. Christmas or birthdays often finds my wife and I going through boxes in the shop, looking for the perfect gift someone special. When the kids are home they often declare it to be “gift time” and hunt for their own. My son’s wife could be a tournament judge. She has an incredible eye for the turning finesses.

One thing that has happened in recent years has been my tendency to donate pieces to local charities who are having fund raising auctions. Not only do I get the satisfaction of turning, but I am also able to help someone else.

Wood turning has been called by my wife my “time machine.” I can go into the shop for ten minutes and come out two hours later, sure that only ten minutes has passed. Some of the absorption certainly comes from the dangers of any woodworking endeavour. After all, anything that cuts maple will certainly cut me and I like having all my body parts, such as they are.

Still it is the work itself that demands concentration. A piece can be ruined by a curve being just a little bit off. Measurements need to be exact even though most measuring is not done with a ruler but rather by feel, experience and intuition. Sometimes the most important cut is the one that is not made but rather left alone after some thought.

More and more I realize that we need these hobbies. They are a release from the tensions of life and yet move us into other realms that touch other people. Art, craft, appreciation, absorption, life.

1 comment:

Steve said...

Hi Darren,

A note to say thanks for the blog and site. Having started turning recently, I've found them ever so helpful in understanding style and function, as well as learning to appreciate the style and art of turning, as well as simply the function.

As it happens I've been turning more the last three weeks (new garage roof means it's no longer leaks badly!), and have been nusy making my own presents. Great fun to make, and I'm looking forward to giving them as well...