Going with the slow
I’m changing. Perhaps it’s the dawn of maturity. After many years of wanting to rush through everything, and I mean everything, I’ve started to realize that speed is overrated.
The faster you go, the less you notice, and you suddenly hit the realization that you may have missed sucking the marrow out of the bone of life (to use a disgusting medieval image of ill-mannered revelry).
If you rush something, you don’t really experience it, and then you wonder why you can’t remember details about things you thought you cared about while you were doing them.
I’ll tell you why you can’t remember. You weren’t really there at the time. You were busy leaning into the future anticipating getting everything done. And now that you’ve got so much done, how do you feel? (Pop quiz)
- Replenished, fulfilled and eager
- Vague, restless and irritable
If you voted for A, my guess is that you already have your taxes done. Good work!
If you chose B, you might be wondering how you skidded into whatever age you are without really having discovered your path yet. Your compass needle is unreliable and the rescue plane doesn’t appear to be coming.
Well, Group B, the fun is about to begin. Our plan is to slow down and begin to squeeze the enjoyment out of every moment so we actually have some memories when we’re old.
It’s time to take up a consuming, irresistible hobby that coaxes your mind into alpha state. Preferably something that can’t be done while watching TV, eating Doritos or answering e –mail.
I chose wood-turning. Why? Because ever since Grade Six when our class went to the science center and we got to play with a giant foot-powered lathe, I’ve wanted one.
Taking a rough chunk of wood and turning it into a gleaming bowl, an elegant pen or a comely set of table legs is too glorious to resist. Almost any wood variety works, from humble pine boughs to scraps of ancient Irish bog oak that was alive and thriving during the time of Christ (available only on eBay).
Lathes come in several sizes, from mini to mondo. You can get a little one (about $350) for smaller projects like wine stoppers, earrings, egg cups, pepper mills and pens, or a big one like my Delta 36-inch model with a cast iron bed ($700 and up) for making larger items like table legs, spindles, garden ornaments and salad bowls. A starter set of turning tools will cost around $100 and you can find ingenious ways of spending three times the cost of your lathe in drop-dead-gorgeous accessories, waxes, texturing tools, sharpening jigs, exotic wood blanks and kits that help you create specialty items like fountain pens, kaleidoscopes and yo-yos. But truthfully, you just need three chisels at first (a roughing gouge, a skew and a parting tool), and a grinding wheel to keep them sharp.
Better Lathe Than Never
Turning is quieter than a lot of woodworking pursuits and it’s insanely satisfying to watch curls of wood stream off the end of your chisel. It takes about an hour to get comfortable with the coordination required, and the gentle, thigh-strengthening dips you’ll perform are the next best thing to a yoga class.
But the most beneficial part is the mental relief of focusing all of your vision and physical coordination on producing a sensual, smoother-than-stink art piece that is almost as unique as you are.
You can get basic lathe instruction by signing up for a class (about $40) at any Lee Valley Tools store, or you can come visit me at next weekend’s fabulous annual Canadian Home Workshop Show in Toronto, where I’m going to be demonstrating what a rewarding, sexy and simmering passion wood-turning is.
I’ll also be showing you how to make my prototype s-curve computer desk out of nature’s most renewable wood substitute - bamboo. I’m even making the legs out of blocks of laminated bamboo plywood, turned on the lathe to look like Ava Gardner’s gams. Drop by and meet some of your fellow Group B members. Hope to see you there.