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.

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4 Comments on “The Zen of whittling spindles (or how to drive a 12p nail in 3 strokes)”

  1. Paleotool Says:

    Reblogged this on Paleotool's Weblog and commented:
    Becoming a master means doing it yourself, of course.

    • Jim Crammond Says:

      Buy them? That would take all of the fun out of it. At least my idea of fun on a cold winter day is to be out in the shop with the wood stove cranking away, sitting on a shaving horse with a sharp drawknife and a spokeshave making a piece of green oak or hickory into spindles while listening to the radio. After a couple of hours, you are knee deep in shavings with a bunch of spindles on the bench and you have no idea of where the time went.

      I guess I should get busy with the rest of the process to use up the 5 gallon bucket of spindles that I have accumulated.

      Have fun

      Jim Crammond

      • D.B. Laney Says:

        Good to hear from you Jim. Soon as the weather breaks a bit, we need to get together. Hey, let me know what your teaching schedule is and we’ll post it. The “locals” should be made aware that they don’t have to drive down south or to New England to take a class in Windsor chair making.

  2. Jim Crammond Says:

    I’m not teaching a Windsor class at Tillers this year. If there was any interest, though, I wouldn’t mind trying to do something around here. Do you think Woodcraft might be interested?

    Hopefully, we won’t have too much more winter weather. See you soon


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