Woodcraft

The trap is set, Spring has sprung, but frost keeps the jaws at bay.

Where has the pleasant weather gone?  I spent most of yesterday afternoon processing a downed tree in River Front Park a block from my house, and now I’m sat at my computer with the windows shut and a blanket across my knees.  Between the cyclical returns to discomforting cold and the eighteen inches of snow we got a week ago this Spring has been a strange one.  But remember, there’s no such thing as climate change.  Just because our weather patterns are frenetic and warped, the ocean is acidifying, and the global temperature is rising, doesn’t mean we’ve had any impact on the environment.  Those scientist in the 97% are all paid by the chem-trail, Illuminati, fake news Mexicans.

Fake News Mexicans would be a great name for a band or a sports team.  Like the Bad News Bears, but with less childhood profanity and more Harlem Globetrotters-esque antics.  That’d be especially good if it were a band, not enough musicians slum dunk on cartoonish villains.

I should be at kung fu, but my foot is throbbing.  I’ve not had much gout since breaking down and accepting medication, so i imagine this to be the late showing effects of something I did yesterday.

There’s an old tree in the park that’s been dead for a year.  Its decline was slow, and I’d had hopes it would recover, but all through summer last year it refused to bloom.  Without leaves, and thus without a way to feed itself, I knew it’d be dead by  spring.  The city marked it for removal last fall, but otherwise left it to wither all winter.  Each time I walked under it it seemed more attenuated.  It began to creak like old bones and the sway in some of it’s largest branches gave me pause.  I wouldn’t linger underneath it.

Two weeks ago, before the squall, a week after another heavy limb had fallen, that ponderous trunk snapped.  It fell, twenty feet long and two hundred  pounds, across the walking path.  There it sat until the snow came.  There it remained as the snow covered it.  It only moved when the city plowed parts of the walk for a St. Patrick’s Day charity run.  I didn’t see them do it, I was busy, sleeping, then in the day’s parade, but I recognized the mound of dirty snow ending a clean swathe as the work of a snowplow.

I walked past it several times, but it wasn’t until yesterday that I thought of it early enough to begin processing the wood.  I’m a nocturnal person, but I feared carrying a bag of cutting tools into a public park would get me more attention than I’d like.  I had several of the smaller branches off within a few minutes.  The section from my pictures took me perhaps three quarters of an hour.  The remaining two and a half hours were spent trying to detached the widest section of the trunk.  I cut at it from every direction, and by the end the only thing that seemed to be holding it together was an invisible stubbornness.  Perhaps I’d cut too many times and created a hinge, thus preventing the tree from snapping off easily.  Maybe I just didn’t cut far enough through wood which has demonstrated with clarity its continued resilience.  Maybe my butter knife sharp tools had just worn me out too quickly for me to continue.  I had to give up, and propped the tree using a set of Y shaped branches so that its weight would continue to stress the cuts I had made.

And there it remains.  My own limbs had locked up several times while I worked.  I’d achieved the rarity of a triceps cramp, along with the much more common set along my serratus, back, shoulders, and legs.  I’d also begun a blister on my now too soft hand.  I gave up for fear of not being able to make kung fu today, and worried I’d already done too much to my arms and shoulders.

Such was not the case.  I woke up feeling fairly fine.  I made it just about out of bed before a pain in my foot shouted for attention.  I ignored it and tried to stretch out.  To no avail.  Perhaps it was resting a log on my foot, perhaps it was a nocturnal cramp.  Maybe I done just kicked myself in my sleep.  One cannot say.  Regardless of the cause, I’m stuck seated for the foreseeable future.

I don’t really mind it.  It gives me time to think and time to write without the worry that I should be doing something else.  Ailments, at the very least, give me an excuse to relax, so in a way, I’m happy for them.

I’m sure the log will be there tomorrow.  I’m certain my sifu and the school will be.

For today, rest and writing, reading and relaxation.  There are worse ways to spend one’s time.

Woodn’t Like Yew to Know

I’m mostly returned from my chemical absence and freshly engaged with the conscious world.  Nigh bed ridden to boot, gout keeping me hobbled by the desk.  Time for an update.

I don’t recall much of the last few weeks, but I can’t imagine there was much before yesterday worth noting, so it’s no great loss.  As with Edison on his quest to properly steal the light bulb, I’ve merely discovered another way not to cure my depression.  After a few weeks of counter titration I might be ready to try another med, but until then I’m grateful for my return to normalcy, no matter the quality of said norm.  It’s still better than a state semi-sapient somnambulism which I’d inhabited of late.

If this post is confusing, pay no mind. Clarity was not much my concern while writing.

I finally made it to Saturday’s market yesterday, a place to which I’d wanted to return for months.  A place that, for a near identical duration, I’d managed to forget about, oversleep through, or otherwise miss.  As the indoor part of the market occurs once a week, there is a small window for attendance and a large chasm to miss it by.  The shop I’d wanted to visit was a sort of hardware store, a cluttered and narrow booth run by two delightful old men who seemed concerned more with being pleasant to their customers as they were breaking even.  I remember my previous visit some years ago, during which I wanted to buy something that hadn’t any tag, so one of the fellows asked me if I thought five dollars was all right.  For a well made American tool, the modern Chinese made equivalent of which would cost close to sixty dollars, five dollars was more than all right.

I loved visiting that booth, listening to the owners joke with and tease each other and talk with their customers, new and returning, as friends.

Unfortunately, the booth is now gone.  The whole of the market seems to have had a depressing fault slip into redneck hell.  It always had an undercurrent of country bigotry trickling beneath its earnest agrarian nature.  Since I’d last attended that current has welled up and swallowed the whole of the place.  There was nothing for me there, nothing I wanted from the seven separate vape shops, nor from the myriad of kipple and crap dealers.

I was very disappointed, having finally gotten what I’d wanted after months of waiting only to find that what I’d hoped for no longer exists.

Mary convinced me to go to an antique market across the river.  I was skeptical, “antique market” a term conjuring an image less of bargain priced, master crafted tools, and more of incredibly expensive things passed between men closer to the financially comfortable parts of their lives than I.  Still, Mary wouldn’t let me wallow.  Glad I am that she didn’t.  The market turned out to be a small warehouse filled with unmanned booths, two hundred or so micro stores.  With no salesman, one was free to browse at will.  It was the perfect setup for conscientious socially anxious.

Mary and I spent a few hours browsing through the materials.  There seemed to be no theme, some shops having what looked like garage sale left overs, while others had antiques more in line with expectations come of the building’s name.  It was interesting to note patterns of goods, what items survived for a century, what types of things kept popping up and what seemingly common items were absent.

I found a honing block at one of the first places we looked through, but after carrying it for an hour, returned it, realizing I had no idea exactly what sort it was, whether it required oil, water, or neither (the difference being important as a stone requiring oil, say, would damage and be damaged by a tool if used dry or with water).  Still, the place was fascinating and I began to cheer up.  After more searching and hidden seeking, I ended up with a jack plane, a hollow nose chisel, a two inch chisel, and a scribe compass.

I was very happy with my finds, happier still with their cost.  I got the lot for sixty dollars.  Mary enjoyed herself as well, and seemed to enjoy my enjoyment of the shopping trip.  As a sort of self amusement, she used her phone to look up the tools I’d bought, and apparently I made out very well.

The flat chisel I bought was well thought of, the consensus amounting to “buy one if you see one, but don’t go crazy in its pursuit.”  They seemed to go for a bit over a hundred dollars online.  The hollow nose chisel had a bit of a different story.  Made by an enigmatic tool maker about a hundred years ago, Witherby chisels have an oddly devoted and voracious community of collectors who’ve driven the average price to well over a hundred dollars.  I think I spent eight on mine.  The jack plane is a Sargent, the company which would later become Stanely.  New hand planers seem to hover around the one hundred thirty mark.  Mine was thirty two.  In her research, the cheapest Mary found Sargent planers selling for was three hundred dollars.  One model from the same series as mine was selling for nearly a thousand dollars on a tool website.

I don’t normally get any great pleasure from bargain hunting, nor any real enjoyment from pinching pennies or looking over items and knowing I could have paid more and didn’t.  I don’t like wasting money, but I dislike being miserly.  What makes me so happy about yesterday’s purchases, and what had made me so crestfallen at Saturday’s market is what the tools’ prices represent.

I am not yet terribly successful in my business.  I’ve about reached the limit of what I can make with the tools I own, but cannot afford more tools due to their high price and my low income.  I refuse to buy the poorly constructed ones come of China; I don’t trust them to be free of carcinogenic materials, I don’t wish to support the inhuman conditions of Chinese factories, and simply put, the tools have too short a lifespan to bother with.  Antique tools are my best option.  They require finding, and often some refinishing if not outright repair.  They are thus not in high demand outside the niche worlds to which they belong.  There’s little competition over them in the central marketplace.  I had relied on the stall at Saturday’s market provide me access to tools I couldn’t otherwise afford, creating a proportional relationship between them and my budget more in line with a successful business.  More clearly stated, cheap tools make it as if I were wealthier.  Without that stall I feared I’d never, or not anytime soon, be able to expand and improve my business.  The antique market filled that void and assuaged my fears.  More than that, it supplanted one small shop half an hour off with a huge selection ten minutes from my house.

A Passing Storm

Yesterday, there was a storm that knocked out power somewhere else.  It rained in sheets, like the rivulets at the bottom of folded shower curtains, such that I could barely see.

The wind had come after the first few drops, and stood the foliage of the old maple straight up, pulled the mass of boughs and six inch leaves into a child’s bath-time faux-hawk.

The gale passed and I looked away, only turning back at the sound of wet tires skitter-catching.  A branch larger than some small trees had fallen into the road, and drivers saw it late.

Some odd sense of civic duty possessed me, drug me out of my clothes into swim trunks and a t-shirt, then out into the street where I tugged at the wet, still green branches of the crumbled mass.  The first few shoots tore in my hand, and then the larger one, the one that wouldn’t be broken, pulled back at my apex, rocked me off my feet as the ponderous whole wrestled to toss me into the street.  I let go, re-gripped and pulled into the wet turf until I had the thing landed.

Other pieces remained, a few large, many small.  The process became like a game of Frogger, dash out, snatch a branch, dash back.  Most cars ignored me.  No genial, thankful waves.  One woman in an SUV parked in front of a branch and blew her horn while I watched.  I let her exhaust herself, let the cars with irate, one fingered drivers pass her, then I let her go.  After the street had emptied I returned to it to pull that final piece.

Today, there’s not much left.  The city collected the wood I’d gathered.  I missed my opportunity to drag it up to the porch to save for future projects.  I filled three buckets with rain, but I’ll use that in a week of dry heat.  Storms seem so special, so dramatic, but all that altered light and changed appearance results in nothing permanent.  The sun always comes, and inevitably the world smooths out again, all the wrinkles and hidden spots resolving to nothing, like childhood fears against the implacable daybreak.