I was excited about the tools assignment of Week 3. In hindsight, I’d say that enthusiasm is what had to carry me through the “golly, you suck at this” on to the “well, just finish” resolution.
But let’s back up to the beginning.
Putting on the tool belt
Back in Week 3, I decided that I wanted to sign myself up for some kind of woodworking class. The local Volkshochschule – which is kind of somewhere between a community center and a community college back in the States – had some offerings, but all of them were going to be starting (and lasting) far later than the week. It was in my googling about my options that I came across Schokowerkstatt, a furniture-building shop for women. Woodworking for women! Woot!
They didn’t have a slot available for Week 3. So how nice that I pulled “creation” for Week 4 and managed to book a slot for the following Monday morning.
I wasn’t quite capable of explaining to the woman I spoke with about what I hoped to learn. It’s not like my German language learning has accumulated all of the words for woodworking. But I downloaded a small wine rack plan from the ‘net and decided to drag along an old wooden fold-up chair to “repurpose” for the task somehow.
Picking up the hammer
Nothing quite as inspiring and intimidating for newbies like walking past the creations of experts. As it turns out, the workshop is the local base for a number of extremely talented furniture makers, so I had to carry my broke-ass mass-produced chair past the types of projects I’d never see in the places I can afford to shop. Amazing! Could I ever make something like that? Ooh and groans together.
I was a some minutes later than the 9 a.m. starting time, so arrived rushed and fearful that I’d walk in on an already active class. Er, nope. Although the web site uses the term “courses,” the four-hour morning session is more open workshop time that is overseen by an experienced craftswoman. In this case, it was Birgit, a master furniture builder of some 30 years. The only other person there was Ulrike, a concert violinist by trade but a four-year member of the workshop.
As an workshop rather than a course, it was then my time to make of it whatever I could, guided to the tools and assisted on whatever tasks I wanted.
Except that all I had was a folded up plan that I hadn’t really considered and a chair.
Well, said Birgit, if you want to use that, you’re going to first have to take it apart. She handed me a hammer.
You know, I have to hand it to the big green guy: there is something very cathartic about just breaking shit up. And that’s what I did. FOR TWO HOURS. Did I mention that this was just a measly wooden folding chair?? Granted, I don’t have the Hulk’s bulk, but it was starting to get embarrassing.
Ulrike was steadily but surely putting together the base of a table she was building for her home, with legs that she had carved herself. She had help from Birgit with the clamps and suggestions and such, but Birgit wasn’t too needed, so went about her own work whistling. She’d occasionally ask me how I was doing, for which I’d say in my American way that, Oh, everything is just fine, while I whacked and whacked and whacked at what turned out to be a really stable chair and Why, oh why, did I decide that it needed destruction instead of a little glue for the loose slats?
As I smashed and thwacked and (eventually) pulled and sawed, I had a lot of time in my own head. My conclusions:
- Hidden nails will always find the most sensitive skin.
Even destruction calls for the right tools.
I will never survive the zombie apocalypse.
Bit by bit, putting it together
So, yeah, there came that moment after all the destruction was over and “creation” had to happen.
What do you want to make? asked Birgit.
So adding on: 4. Really, it’s nice to have a sense of a “next step.”
I shrugged. At that moment, it was kind of like playing Scrabble with Q, L, R, and U on the rack and then pulling Z, I, W. So I played games with the sticks in which I moved them around into a whole lot of shapes that didn’t make any sense. Ulrike had moved on to some last light sanding of her already gorgeous tabletop. And Birgit went off whistling to the office.
Ooh, I know! I’ll take all of the practicality of that former chair that just needed a little glue and make a completely worthless “tray”!
Behold, ladies and gentlemen, the fruits of my labor!
(Um, gold star for effort?)
When I whined to Birgit that I had no talent for woodworking, she said, I’ll here none of that here!
I can appreciate the sentiment: I was there to experiment and learn. I did. I certainly did. And, although I hemmed and hawed about it, I agreed to place the remaining pieces — marked with my name in big black marker — in a cubbyhole, just like I was back in school. So I have to go back.
Well, that’s something.