The Zen of whittling spindles (or how to drive a 12p nail in 3 strokes)
I’m whittling spindles for several Windsor chairs. A friend of mine says to me, “why don’t you just buy those spindles? Why waste your time making them?” I thought about his question for a moment. It was reasonable. It made sense. I mean, at my age, I shouldn’t be wasting time on unimportant things. Right? Ah…not wrong, but definitely, not right.
Show me a carpenter who has not challenged his mates to a nail driving contest and I’ll show you a guy who probably has a lot of “pulls and re-starts.” Some people think of repetitious tasks as being boring, perhaps to the point of deadening the creative spirit. Well, I’m here to tell you that is a bunch of baloney. Watch a master craftsman at his trade. Certainly, intelligence, talent and desire help to make him a master. But it is the act of doing something time after time, learning from each little nuance, while always seeking to improve, that makes a master. It is about always being “in the moment” of doing, Zen, that makes the master.
I guess I could buy the spindles. Or, I could buy a $20,000.00 automated, back knife lathe and crank them out “like there’s no tomorrow.” But, I think I’ll just whittle every one. In the end, I’ll know the strength of each piece and where it will work best in the final assembly. I’m pretty sure that I like it better that way.