Lumbering Along

pawls 0220
I of course didn’t think to take any pictures while in the woodshop, so here’s someone on the internet installing pawls on a rive knife. Look at me at home in the vernacular!

I am enjoying my new makers’ space on any number of levels, several of which I never even stopped to think about. Like, for instance, other people’s ineptitude.

I am of an age now where I don’t have the same issues I once did around hiding my shortcomings from others. I pretty much walked in and told the owners I didn’t know up from down, but whether others confess this or not, it turns out I am not alone in this dearth of knowledge.

Even though I try to be careful and pay attention to what I’m told, at least twice now Branden has had to stop me from trying to adjust power tools with the lock still in place. Here is where I diverge from many of my gender, however: I have never been one to abide by Basic Guy Rule #1: if it isn’t working, force it.

We can see the folly of this in an example from work, where someone not me was turning a lever on the expensive press that is one year old. Instead of loosening he was tightening, but instead of stopping to wonder why it was so tight he just kept pushing — until the part snapped in two in his hand.

Which means that I have to call this odious, useless press company that has been very long on promise and extremely short on delivery to try to get a replacement part. I so don’t want to do this that I have put it off for more than two weeks now, and it could be one of those things that waits until too late, when we really need the arm that the part is missing from and can’t use it because I didn’t order a replacement. Or more correctly, because someone was putting Guy Rule #1 into play.

I usually err too much on the side of caution, and then have to live with the embarrassment of someone exerting just a touch more force to get something to work, but I feel this is better than the embarrassment of breaking things, particularly if they don’t belong to me, particularly if they are expensive.

Yesterday Lynn and I spent the afternoon in our new woodshop. My pile of lumber is now half a bookcase and half a pile of lumber, while Lynn is into her second shelf project. But we were on our own for awhile, because DJ is only one person and it turns out there are more people than just me who are not necessarily skilled in the manly arts.

I missed most of the context because I was in the woodshop spreading out pieces of lumber, but then I needed instruction for the next step from DJ, who was in the metal area helping a couple of guys with what was either a souped-up golf cart or an extremely fancy all-terrain vehicle (ATV).

What I gathered is that they did not know how to work the jack — a bigger version of the one I bought to move a shed — and instead of asking for assistance, they invoked Guy Rule #1. And broke a piece off the jack.

By the time I came around the corner, DJ was showing them how you simply turn a knob and the hydraulics lower on their own (to which I was thinking, I know that much), and then holding a piece and saying, “We’ll have to weld it back on.”

Which did make me wonder if Branden and DJ have budgeted in their enterprise for the number of newbies who are going to wreck equipment by not asking for help or thinking they can rotate knobs and levers with safety locks still in place.

I did, yesterday, notice a camera installed in the woodshop, so at least they might know who to track down in the event things get broken and go unreported, but that still may not get equipment replaced.

It’s a process, and they’re figuring it out. Yesterday, when he wasn’t monitoring amateurs, DJ was installing brackets so they can put shelving around the woodshop to hold people’s projects-in-progress, and Lynn and I learned another thing we didn’t know: tape measures have red numbers every multiple of 16, because that’s how far apart studs are supposed to be in stick-built houses. (Modulars have a different standard; I think he said 20 inches.)

See how educational this has been already?

I have also started to develop a proficiency that I really shouldn’t be proud of: after three hours, I am now fairly adept at pulling pinhead nails clear through boards when they don’t go where they’re supposed to. And I have mastered vice grips, a hand tool that has always intimidated me because I never understood how to use it.

What I haven’t mastered, clearly, is the art of the nail gun. I have to confess that I, just like my dog, am likely to never develop a love affair with a nail gun. If we recall Tim “Tool Time” Taylor, it should be all about “more power!” but the large nail gun is more power than I — at least so far — am comfortable with. It is all about force, and I really just am not.

Fortunately, I only had to use the large gun to join two boards, and I managed not to double-nail anything the way I did on my first project. Then it was onto the more manageable pinhead nail gun, which went well enough except for my serious placement issues.

DJ kept reminding me to square up the nail gun relative to my boards, and it made me think of learning to drive with my dad: every corner we came to, he would tell me to “square up” my turn, but it wasn’t until much, much later that I realized what, exactly, he wanted me to do. Instead of veering into oncoming traffic at a 45-degree angle, he wanted me to go to the middle of the intersection on a straight line, then make a 90-degree turn into my new line of travel.

This time, at least, I understand what DJ is telling me to do, but apparently right angles are not my thing. Thus the proficiency with the vice grips.

So far, DJ has been a really good teacher, and both Lynn and I are learning a lot. I also saw some wisdom mixed in as he opted not to invoke Guy Rule #1 when he went to put the guards back on the table saw.

I had already given this the ol’ college try, without success, and it heartened me when DJ couldn’t just slide everything into place either. He couldn’t get either piece to stay in place, and rather than just forcing them down, he opted to go get the instruction manual.

Which, as is typical, was not as helpful as it could be, but together we figured out how to attach the pawls to the rive knife (don’t I sound impressive, at least?) without resorting to any force at all. Or breaking anything, so it feels like our outing to the woodshop was a total success as well as a learning experience on any number of levels.

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