“The Looking Glass:” A Modern Answer Besides Your Nose

It is with great satisfaction that I’d like to present to you my latest woodworking project aptly titled The Looking GlassIMG_0557IMG_0559

The Looking Glass is borne from an on-going dilemma: Eyeglasses should be on hand yet out of the way and yet still be part of something grander.  The Looking Glass hopes to eliminate the second most asked question “Where are my glasses?” by placing an elegant, modern and inconspicuous composition of glass and wood during daylight hours; and at night, an elegant, modern and conspicuous lighted from within composition of glass and wood.  In the evening the polished glass and plexiglass quietly glow; IMG_0592no sound, no movement, no promises. What began as a search to stop the irritating question about eyeglasses evolved into a simple and translucent construction of glass, plexiglass, hardwood, and LED lights.  I’ve researched current options for eyeglass stands and discovered an abysmal selection.  The Looking Glass has hundreds of variations using simple construction.  It is, in a word, radiant.

(Note: Please excuse my elementary photographic skills).

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Mr. Buchanan’s Peach Orchard

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Today I feel like that carefully selected peach.  The one picked for its promise, for its intention, for its springtime when its dense pulp prediction comes of age.  Hands coddle, gently squeeze, study its color palette, infer its density.  This is the One; I can hardly wait for its cotillion; the fuzzy skin taught like an umbrella tested by exuberant winds; at long last its flesh liquefies into sweet extract; itself a parity of perfection.  

Arriving at its destination, it is cautiously extracted from the tote and collides with a biting downpour, where it’s tossed from hand to hand like packing the first snowfall’s first snowball.  Flour-sacks turned drying-towels swaddled the tender pelt, familiar with its shallow depth and bias favoring lacerations, the freshly showered peach sustains a dozen instinctive pats then takes its place among the others.  And waits.  And waits.  And waits . . .

Some are gone, snatched like field mice from above.  Others suffered dismemberment; a knife tilled dry mortality then quit, flushing succulent hope into the dust bin.  The remainders eroded to the Italian-painted bottom and waited.  While waiting each of us, privately, felt the shock when its flesh gave-way; and the longer our wait the greater our deterioration.

Where did they go, we thought collapsing, the intoxicating eyes that radiated suggestive, wanton, and greedy fortunes?  Where are those fussy hands that arranged us in the Italian-painted bowl like fowl on a nest?  It was upon the scavenger fruit-flies arrival did we sense movement then the iciness of steel pushing us closer, some clinging then scraping then tumbling, airborne, as though I were that one fortunate seed that landed on that one fortunate acre that grew into one of many fortunate peach trees in Mr. Buchanan’s orchard.

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Simple Square Box and Coasters

image I’m pleased to share my latest woodworking project, aptly named Simple Square Box and Coasters.  The commission originally asked for a simple slap-together wooden box in which he could place a necklace he purchased for his niece as a Christmas present.  So the slap-together wooden box would be tossed into the same heap of recently bloomed ribbons of nylon and a pile-up of ripped and twisted wrapping paper resembling a fog-induced tangle of abstract alloy.  Really, who remembers the wrapping paper of a long-forgotten gift they received at an indiscriminate holiday, the exception being gifts which modify destiny such as an engagement ring, new car, or divorce papers.  But I couldn’t imageshake the thought; an insignificant wooden coffer hand-crafted to exact dimensions whose sole purpose rose no higher than the oft ignored cardboard box, one of millions prefabricated generic boxes produced by manufacturers. Yet this box really should´ve been seen as the first part of her gift, but instead was just another obstacle to obliterate in a doggedly pursuit of the delightful bauble inside.  And after a few perfunctory refined and delightful “thank you’s,” the delicate bauble was distractedly deposited into her motherCoasters on Display´s cupped hands.  Her mother  placed the bauble (whose importance continued to nose-dive like the stock exchange in 1929) among other gifts.  And the slap-together box had been exiled to the paper mountain, and eventually would be crushed by the insensitive jaws of an indiscriminate refuse collector. Had I blithely reached into my pile of left-over lumber and found a throw-away board I suppose the box would experience a fate very similar to the one above.  However, a particular piece of Poplar caught my eye because of its deliciously creamy base color and like a dried riverbed, a thick, malted-milk brown ran the length of the board which was absent of blemishes, gouges, chips, and knots, a cappuccino’s foam decorated by a creative barista; or, the faintly dusting of heat transforming the peaks of whipped meringue from snow-covered to densely charred remnants of a serial forestimage fire.  I held the six-foot board respectfully in my hands, looked for cupping or warping at its ends like a sharpshooter whose focus remained on his target.  I found the board to be true then placed it on the workbench to calculate the cuts. That’s when it began. I can’t find words to describe it, but it was like balance on a bicycle: no one handed you a ball of balance, you simply had balance.  My experience with that board couldn’t be taught or handed down.  It wasn’t an indicator of mania.  It was simply, to respect the trees life in the differing colors of its rings.  Those rings identified that tree like fingerprints identify people.  And yet it was more:  I felt a growing sensitivity and responsibility to work with the lumber to create an object of beauty.  The longer I listened to the sensitivity of the wood, the greater my awareness of the woods signature became.  It was then that I worked with the wood, and so did the wood with me.

Deconstruction: Or, The End Is A Great Place To Start

I was never known to have an aptitude for or interest in any kind of creative expression which involved my hands (with the exception of typing).  My friends are surprised by my newly discovered passion for woodworking, and they’re especially surprised that my knowledge has been self-taught.  But it’s less about knowledge and more about three things: 1) Curiosity; 2) Failure; and 3) Experience.

I think I’m a builder by nature.  There’s no proof; actually there’s plenty of evidence to the contrary.  Many friends are flummoxed by my very recent interest in woodworking.  Frankly it’s just a different way to express my curiosity and creativity.  I’m drawn to puzzling problems and paradoxical possibilities.

But I’m also impatient, prone to cutting corners, and okay with outcomes expressed by “good enough,” or “that’ll do.”

Why do we dream dreams we want, but are incapable of achieving?  Because we plunge headlong into a project long before we fully understand the knowledge or practical training required. It’s only when I encounter a surprise obstacle do I understand the depth of my ill-preparedness.  The obstacle can’t be avoided; it requires immediate attention (which in turn demands research and reading and materials) which dampens the initial excitement like a toy that breaks after 10 minutes.  Setbacks are a normal part of any project, but patience and an understanding of how your project is assembled helps in the long run.  

My self-education in woodworking stemmed from a pen stand a carpenter built into an exquisite barrister bookcase.  When I enquired if I might procure a pen stand from him, he replied in, what I was certain a foreign language:  All you do is put a half-inch core box bit in the collet of your router, adjust your cut depth, make sure your fence is square and both the in feed and out feed halves are aligned, check your speed, adjust the feather boards, and hit the switch! What?!?!? I sat on the internet for two hours deciphering his email.  Eventually I located the things he referenced and purchased them absolutely clueless as to what one does with them in order to produce the aforementioned pen stand.  I had decided to entertain my curiosity, put up cash betting that I could figure it out, and enjoyed for the first time in 20 years the brazen self-assuredness and absolute impunity (which, I bemoaned was carelessly frittered away by clodhopping, trust-funded youth).

But I’ve been bemoaning wrongly.  It’s not that youth squanders audacious and foolhardy behavior, but that I, when the significance of adulthood grabbed me by the throat and squeezed, surrendered my curiosities like possessions to a customs officer, and drifted farther and farther and farther still away from the entertainment that life could be.  That adventure was supplanted by decades of slick marketing campaigns which led to the acquisition of goods the commercials told me I’d like.  And then, Kaboom!  One hell-of-a-manic-episode and like the iconic Chaplin tramp, I was thrown out of the club and into the street.

And feeling just as I did when my older brother told me to get lost when he didn’t want me to tag along with his older pals, I finally understood that life only looks the way it does, because that’s how I look at it.

So today and a year of days before today I’ve promised to listen to my curiosities, promised to try things I haven’t done, and promised to fail as often as I can because failure assuredly makes curiosity laugh.