Slow Down, I’m in a Hurry

May 6, 2008
Many people think of woodworking skills as simply the ability to pick up a hammer and read a tape measure. If an opposable thumb were all that it took, how simple this work would be. But woodworking is much more about planning and executing that plan than it is about picking up a tool. Don’t get me wrong. The picking up of the tool is quite satisfying. I love it. It’s a passion of mine and many many other woodworkers.

The real key to woodworking however is plannng out your efforts and carrying them through. I worked as a car mechanic many years ago for one winter in Ann Arbor Michigan. If you do not know, it snows in Michigan. A lot. Cars there rust, seemingly before your eyes. So a part of my job was to unstick rusted brake cables and wheel cylinders, rusted shut heater levers, under the cars, lots of air chiseling, and prying things loose.

My buddy at the shop where I worked was a little older than me and a sweet guy. His name was Jake. He was quiet, not taking part in the banter and exchange of an all male shop. Jake just went about his work quietly and efficiently. One day I had a problem with a car and I could not get a nut to budge. I couldn’t get purchase on it. There was no leverage to be had. It was frustrating.

I called Jake over. Now Jake never rushed into anything. He would look over a problem, think on it, chew it over in his head, maybe touch some metal with his long screwdriver/ pry bar and consider. He was very deliberate about things. Very slow. He would consider and think on a problem until he had found the one place where he could find his purchase, where he could gain his leverage. There it was that he put his tool and bang, he would knock something apart. It was brilliant. It was astonishing to watch too. Me, the college graduate, being completely stumped by rust and time and Jake, the simple quiet mechanic, just looking at things and figuring them out. It was a lesson for me.

Now it’s a tough lesson to get in to your head. That you need to slow down in order to speed up. That doing things right the first time is much faster than fixing every mistake you make in haste. But it’s a good lesson to try to learn. The pace of the woodshop is not the pace of your job. It is not the furor of driving in traffic or doing your taxes or even doing carpentry. It is a slower and a more deliberate pace. This improves safety but it also cuts down on mistakes that cost you not only in terms of lost time or material, but the more important loss of momentum. Slow down, you’re in a hurry.

Published in: on May 6, 2008 at 7:43 am  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Gary, you couldn’t be more right. I’ve had hiccups for 2 days, and last night I thought about what you said and decided to slow down. The hiccups are gone.
    I know this has nothing to do with woodwokring, but your blog goes much further than woodworking, it can relate to everything else in life.
    I guess that’s why there not a lot of comments on your posts. They make us think, and that is a good thing, a really good thing.
    Keep up the good work. Your blog is just great, and I always look forward to the next post.

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