Rules

Measuring is good. Rulers are bad. A ruler is a stick of wood with numbers and lines marked on it. Sticks of wood are good. Lines are good. Numbers are bad. There are people who know how to read rulers but I’m not one of them.

Miss Lainge was my teacher in seventh grade. We were memorizing our times tables. She had me come up to the chalk board in front of the classroom to write the seven times table. Unfortunately I got stuck. Every number vacated my head like the animals getting off Noah’s Ark when he finally parked it and opened the doors. I stood there till my next birthday. Miss Lainge wasn’t encouraging or helpful. As I remember it, she humiliated me in front of the class. I started to dislike numbers.

The first truth I learned in woodworking was taught to me by a bee keeper. You couldn’t make up this stuff. It was about thirty-two years ago when I was just starting to cut wood. I had to have some way to cut rectangles off of boards so I could tape them together and band saw patterns out of the rectangular blanks. I bought a Makita 8″ table saw at the big box store without the slightest idea how to use it. My friend, Rex the bee keeper, dropped by while I was trying to affix the table saw to a table I’d built out of 2×4’s. Rex hadn’t always been a bee keeper. He’d been a carpenter but he hated it. For some odd reason he preferred bee stings to splinters I suppose. He took one look at the height of the table and started an intervention. To begin with it was too high. Rex helped me get the right height and explained to me why lower was better. While I was preparing to make a cut he stopped me and told me to make it square. It didn’t need to be square so I asked him about that. He said, “always make square cuts. It’s a good habit and now’s the time to learn it.” I’ll never forget that. When he said it, I knew it was an important truth that I would remember for the rest of my life.

If you’re going to make anything with wood, you have to have lines. Lines relate to one another in one way or another. One line relating to another line at a 90 degree angle is foundational. It’s like a good marriage. Everything that comes afterwards will be either good or bad based on the quality of that relationship.

There’s more to tell, but I said I’d keep these brief so I’ll tell you the rest next time we get together.

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