Creating something useful is satisfying work

My workshop has been breathing out sawdust since the holidays.
Instead of smoke getting in your eyes, sawdust gets on my glasses. And at the end of the day, they often are hard to see out of.
It took a while to come up with a woodworking project for this season. Last year, the project was building an Adirondack chair for the local Alzheimer Society’s raffle in Rainy River.
The year before, I created a couple of Morris chairs for the cabin. What appeared to be a simple pattern, though, turned out to be the most complicated pieces of furniture I had ever attempted.
This year, I decided the two Morris chairs needed a little company in the cabin. I went back to the plan book and picked out a Morris-designed coffee table and end table.
They both have some common pieces, but change in dimensions, so I thought that it would be easy.
Morris furniture calls for oak but I substituted Rainy River District ash, with Manitou Lumber supplying my materials.
Most of the wood is ordered far in advance—often before the project is even contemplated.
The two-inch thick material was sawn last June and has been drying ever since. The thinner material has been in my wood pile for at least three years.
Furniture grade wood normally is knot-free. Alas, Rainy River District ash is seldom found that way and often much of a board is wasted as the good sections are picked from boards.
Personally, I like a few tight knots in my projects as they add interest to the wood and the piece of furniture.
Ash, in itself, can change colours from a very bright white to a soft pale brown.
And when ash is finished, it looks just like oak. It is actually harder. And when polished with up to 320 grit sandpaper, it is as smooth as a billiard ball and feels soft to the touch.
So on that cold first Saturday of January, the planer was set up in the unheated half of the garage. That is where the wood is stored, and the cold wood started passing through the shaving blades.
Just holding the wood was enough to freeze your bare hands. I took several breaks, wrapped my hands around hot coffee mugs to warm them, and managed to get every board planed to thickness.
Then the cutting and jointing began. Three days later, the materials were all cut and the tops and shelves of the coffee table and end table had been glued together.
It took another weekend just to mortise the legs, and several nights over the next week to draw up and cut all the tenons.
So much for an easy project!
This past weekend, wearing my breathing mask and sound protectors, I managed to turn myself into a sawdust man two days in a row. Finally, late Sunday afternoon, I began dry fitting the pieces together.
This easy project is taking far more time than I expected and has some interesting fittings still to be done.
I used to marvel at how expensive furniture was to buy. Today I marvel at how inexpensive it is in the stores. I know that I am an amateur and speed is not on my side as I struggle through making every piece tight and fit properly.
There probably are shortcuts, but I haven’t found them. There is more fitting to be done, more parts to be cut and fitted, and then the final assembly can take place.
Once glued and pegged, the final finish will begin—final sanding, followed by staining and then the urethane finish.
Planned finish date is set for April 1.
And the value? Satisfaction in creating something useful and enjoyable, and something to look forward to working on nightly in the wood shop.

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