Excitement and Boredom

             When people are here taking a class they often make remarks or ask questions that reveal to me a misconception on their part.  They are having such a great time; they assume that life around here is always one big great time. Last Thursday I amused myself thinking about this misconception. I was standing on the business end of our Hitachi band resaw passing six foot lengths of red oak log by the blade.  I had on safety glasses and a pair of hearing protectors. The machine has a piercing whine. I was less than excited.

            Don was stationed on the other side of the saw receiving the bolt as it passed through and was severed into two pieces. After the cut, he places one of the pieces of wood out of the way and passes the other back to me. Or, if the cut off is waste, he tosses it aside. Then, the process repeats. After several cuts, we have an oak slab small enough to be sliced into bending blanks. Now, Don starts stacking the finished product against a work bench.  The next person to work these will be a student, either in a class or making a chair at home.

            The process goes on. Today, I am the sawyer, the guy we call the pitcher. Don is the catcher. Before we start one of us always asks, “Do you want to pitch or catch?’ As pitcher, I decide how the wood can best be cut.  Like a baseball pitcher, I seek the catcher’s advice. A non-verbal dialog goes on between us, necessarily non-verbal because with hearing protectors on our heads we can’t hear each other. We do a lot of pointing with our hands and nodding or shaking of our heads. Every now and then, we have to shut down and actually speak to each other.

            With one section of log reduced to bending blanks and scrap, we begin another. We usually split logs down to eighths, but some of these six footers can still be too big for one guy to handle. So, Don comes over to my side and helps me start the cut. Then, he slips back behind the saw to catch the two pieces as they come through. I keep my hand on the bolt as long as possible. I am both guiding the oak and pushing it forward. When the blade gets too close to my hand (I am not comfortable with less than 6 inches) I draw my hand away. Don pulls the two pieces all the way through and once again, sets one aside and pushes the other back to me.

            When the bolts in the truck are all cut, Don drives his pick up to the other side of the main building and we load it with more bolts. He returns to the machine room and backs up to the open double door. Parked this way, we can slide the bolts off the tailgate and onto the saw bed. It saves us a lot of lifting.  The cutting starts again. By the time we begin the second truck load, we are covered with saw dust. It is in our shoes and pockets. It is in our hair and behind our ears. It sticks to any exposed skin as readily as it sticks to our clothing.

            Cutting is semi-weather dependant. We are under cover and do not worry a lot about rain or snow. However, the building is not heated and so, we avoid really cold days. Don and I chose to cut Thursday last week because the weather was predicted to be cool and dry. It was, but we still did a fair amount of sweating. We take regular breaks.  We retreat to the classroom which is air conditioned in the summer and heated in the winter. There, we catch our breath and rest before returning to the saw.

            At the end of the day we pile the scrap out in the driveway for Kevin, the farmer who helps us split the logs into bolts. He will come by and take the scrap home to burn in his outdoor wood furnace. We shovel up barrels of saw dust that we compost in the tall grass behind the shop. We vacuum the saw and roll it back into a corner where it is draped with a sheet.

            I started out this posting musing about the general misconception that life around here is always lots of fun. During a class it is, but much of what we do is routine, boring, dirty, and sometimes physically demanding. I get to contrast the two circumstances only when standing at a resaw with my eyes and ears covered, doing the part that is routine and boring.   Remind me to tell you some time how exciting it is to glue seat blanks, bag turnings, and collate the sheets for the student information packets.  You’ll understand why we look forward to classes. 

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            The October 4 sack back class will get a treat. Lord Lyndon Gallagher will be helping teach that class as the final step to becoming a Duke of Windsor. We typically schedule Royal Orders ceremonies for Thursdays. Because helping to teach a sack back class is the requirement for Dukedom, only sack back students witness this ceremony.

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