At the end of U.S. History, our teacher gave us a challenge worth 5 extra points on our next test.  We had to be the first one to come to him with an answer to an obscure frontier history question (I can’t remember the question).  Immediately as the bell rang, I made a b-line to the Library and its reference section – specifically the encyclopedias.  I gladly arrived late to my next class, because I had made it to the U.S. History teacher with the right answer before any of my classmates had.

Today of course, everyone would just whip out their smartphones and snapchat the teacher a picture of the answer with a screenshot.

In woodworking, a reference surface is everything.  In a modern shop, it is usually the bed of the jointer from which flat boarjointer planeds come.  In a traditional shop, it’s the sole of the plane.  This flatness is what everything gets referenced from.  A reliable source of information that transmits throughout the entirety of the piece to be built.  If the reference is flat – the piece will be accurate.

In our lives, we all measure ourselves compared to something.  For some of us it’s our parents’ lives, for some it’s a childhood hero or even a friend we are always trying to best.  The problem is that each of these will mislead us.  While they may be good people – they aren’t perfectly true.

The life of Christ is the only sufficient reference for us.  Every other comparison will lead us astray, even if it only starts as a small degree of error.  The encyclopedias were references because they had been tried and found to be accurate.  Christ has been tried by generations, and those who have used Him as a reference guide have made the most beauty with their lives.

The problem has been as G. K. Chesterton put it, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.”  Don’t let difficulty keep you from achieving something of true worth.  Hold the life of Christ next to yours.  Where are you a bit off…in need of truing up?  Keep referring back to Him, and your life will turn out beautifully.

*Picture taken from Lie Nielsen’s website depicting their no.8 Jointer Plane:



Tablesaw, Bandsaw or Workbench: Your Spiritual Gift(s)

Bob's New Table Saw

Bob’s New Table Saw (Photo credit: milletre)

In woodworking circles, there is always a debate over which tool should be the centerpiece of your shop: The tablesaw, the bandsaw or for handtool aficianados – the workbench, usually with a 3″ thick hard maple slab top upon a similarly bulky trestle leg setup.

Those in favor of the tablesaw cite its unparalleled ability to make repeatable, accurate rip and cross-grain cuts, not to mention dadoes, rabbits, tenons, etc.  If you want square, you want a tablesaw.

Those in favor of the bandsaw cite its unparalleled versatility from resawing firewood into lumber, lumber into laminates, rounded cuts or even straight cuts (once drift is accounted for).  This is of course not to mention the greater safety of the wood being forced into the table instead of being shot off of it like the tablesaw.  If you want versatility and safety, you want a bandsaw.

Hand tool gurus love their workbenches!  These heavy, flat, square pieces of furniture excel at holding your workpiece for sawing, planing, drilling, routing, assembling and finishing.  If you want to do handtool work, you want a workbench.

In fact, let’s be honest, the real argument isn’t about what should be the centerpiece of your shop, but rather which kind of woodworking you should be doing (which is in fact a ludicrous argument to get into).  If you primarily do cabinetry, for which you need repeatable, straight cuts – a table saw should be the centerpiece.  If you do woodturning, furniture-making or sculpture-based woodworking – a bandsaw should be the centerpiece.  If you do primarily hand tool work, whether cabinetry or sculpture – a workbench should be the centerpiece of your shop.

The question therefore is not which is the best centerpiece tool, but rather what kind of work do you want to do?

This same principle applies to the Church as well.  The Apostle Paul said that there are many gifts but one Spirit, and again that Christ is the one that apportioned the gifts to us based upon His good pleasure, and yet again that those parts which are hidden are worthy of double honor.  If your gift is giving then do so generously, if your gift is preaching then do so in accordance with your faith, if your gift is hospitality, etc.

We have been gifted by Christ, our Savior for that kind of work which he desires for us to do.  There is no best gift, no right gift.  Let Christ, the master craftsman shape how you work by the gift he has given you, and don’t look up to or down upon another based upon the type of ministry they have been called to perform.  After all, who doesn’t want kitchen cabinets, a rocking chair and beautifully handcrafted pieces in their life?