I am a woodworker. It started when I was a teenager and worked in the construction trades for spending and school money, later progressing to a full fledged necessary hobby when we were facing a new house with a lot of empty rooms and I figured “well hell I’ll just build the furniture”. Today I can spend literally 18 hours in my workshop and not even notice the time slip by, I get completely lost in activity and thought with the result being my own form of therapy as well tangible output.
The act of creating is powerful and emotive on a lot of levels, and this skill that I have worked hard to develop over the years connects me to a basic drive for self-sustainability that I hope my children also develop an appreciation for. Knowing how to build something and looking at a stack of wood not as a pile of debris that needs cleaning up but the inspiration for endless possibilities is really pretty satisfying.
Equally satisfying is knowing that I can make for myself something precisely what I want and unique in the world, and at this point in my woodworking journey I can build a wide range that meets every need and want we have in our home, as is the case with one of my current projects, four mahogany carriage doors to replace the typical rollup garage door that came with the house.
I had an epiphany of sorts while working on this and it came in the form of a scrap piece of word with some markings on it. While it would seem logical to measure everything with a tape measure or ruler, the fact of the matter is that the most reliable way to get consistent measurements and layouts is to transfer from one to another. The human eye can trick you and an unnoticed slip of the hand or momentary loss of attention can result in a ruined days work so I end up taking sticks and scribbling on them when I need to make repetitive measurements.
It was when I glanced at this scrap on my workbench that I appreciated how much information was stored on those markings, in this case I could layout 4 separate operations with great accuracy and little opportunity for error. However, the epiphany I had was really about the wonderful workings of the human brain; while I can’t perform a billion math operations a second I can adapt ordinary items into highly useful tools and in the process create my own computational system on the fly that is perfectly adapted to a particular problem. along with emotion and empathy, this makes humans pretty unique and unlike any computer.