The “whisk whisk” of a tuned-up #4 smoothing plane across a piece of cherry is as calming to me as Yani seems to be to half the female population of the world over 45. There is something centering about making sure that the plane is staying perpendicular to the edge or face of the wood and taking a full curl from across the surface. Everything else recedes into the distance like a photograph with the background intentionally out of focus.
There are so many different ways you can build a piece of furniture: purchased, veneer-covered chipboard that you simply assemble with an allen wrench all the way to hand-tooled, solid cherry joined together with mortise and tenon joinery and hand-cut dovetails. There is a time and place for either type (and anything in between). There is a time for inexpensive and efficient. There is a time for costly and time-consuming construction with its attendant heirloom-quality.
One of the joys of woodworking is in solving a problem. An end table the right height, gives you a place to put your drink without having to look while watching the football game. A bookcase gives you someplace other than stacks on the floor next to your side of the bed to put your voluminous cadre of books. It’s also quite gratifying to hear, “you MADE that?!” when your friends see your completed project. My favorite was when I made hanging quilt racks for some of the family for Christmas, and upon opening the gift a cousin, Trisha screamed, “Shazaam!” I’m not kidding. You can’t make that stuff up.
The greatest joy, though is that when you build a shelf (or any other project), you are also building yourself. Your decisions define you in a way that nothing else does. Your willingness to redo a joint so that the shoulder is perfectly square. Your decision to hand plane instead of sand for that mirror-finish. These decisions build into you the person you wish to be. On the other hand, the “putty and paint makes it good when it ain’t” perspective tears down the person God made you to be, and you’re left with a facade of quality without any peace about the work you have done.
As a pastor, how I work in the woodshop is a reflection of how I work in the study. No shortcuts, no preaching what I do not absolutely know to be truth. Work that is worthy. Work for which I do not need to be ashamed.
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15 NIV)