WORK-MAN and OFFICE-MAN
I apologise if the title sounds unduly sexist. Its not just men, this issue that affects us all, but blokes seem particularly affected, women appear to know their bodies rather better than we do.
It’s 12:30 in the morning and I’m knackered. I worked all week on silly little bits of office work so that I can have Friday at the bench. But office-man is not really up to doing the work of a proper workman. This real work takes it out of you, especially if, like me, you’re not used to it. But it’s terribly good for you. I sit here “working” on this blog with a warm glow of satisfaction all around me. Endorphins running through my veins like happy flapping chickens.
Let there be no doubt about it. Office-Man doesn’t really want to engage in real work. He calls what he’s doing “work” but it’s actually something very different. Its a nicer activity than real sweaty work, more refined, more gentlemanly. More middle class. He calls it “work” but sitting on ones rear end looking at a screen is nothing like real work.
I spoke recently to Dave Woodward, a great furniture maker. I trained him many years ago, he now spends a lot of his time at the computer on AutoCaD. He resolves all the detail designs of pieces of furniture made in their workshops. He says “I get more tired doing this then I would do planing a pile of Oak!” I don’t doubt it, and I know what he means, but it’s a different kind of tiredness, more stressy, fewer flappy chickens.
I’m fooling around with Elliott Guy’s old work bench, rebuilding his tail vice. I don’t want to speak ill of the dead but Elliott doesn’t remain in my memory as one of my more careful students. His habit of rushing too fast was infecting me this morning. I wanted to get this tail vice sorted so that I could get on and work on Tony’s box. Frustration after frustration piled in front of me. I had found that Elliott had left screws out of bits of the structure that meant the entire bench top had to be taken off it’s frame.
I rushed and panicked… methodical calm work turned in to a huffing and puffing exercise. Lying underneath this bench unscrewing bits reminded me of lying underneath of motorcars with warm grimy sump oil dribbling down my forearm. (dammit, I’m thinking of even doing that again!)
I should remember to plan things more carefully, have the box of screws alongside me when I’m lying on the ground not on the top of the bench. Replace old screws with new ones because inevitably they’ve been burred over by the torque of the electric screwdriver. Wax carefully all surfaces and put it back together. This time properly!
After a lot of needless faff and panic the most enjoyable part of the whole operation was taking a little Japanese plane and stroking the surface of the bench, diagonally, taking off the dirty metal marks that had come from the hardware of the vice and checking the whole surface down for flat.
Picking up the plane and knowing that it would work perfectly made me smile. Having the bench light there to check with a straight edge how I was doing. All of this is good woodwork procedure. Rushing and panic don’t enter the equation.