This has been one of those weeks when I have had precious little time to fix blade to wood, and so for every one of those moments I have wanted to see progress on the work at hand.
Being in-between bigger projects I decided to dig through scrap bin and use the time to make a few more marking gauges for myself, and one for someone else (more on that later). After building some more traditional marking gauges over the past few months I landed on a really simple but effective design with a hardwood fence actuated by a simple carriage bolt and a rod made out of aluminum bar with a stainless steel cutter on the end.
I won’t be doing a tutorial on this project because you can find a fine one on a very similar gauge here. (as an aside, I chose aluminum because I’ve never had a dowel rod stay reliably straight enough to trust for this use)
And a mortise gauge based on the same principle:
I knew that the mortise gauge was just for my own use, and so while I took care to get everything straight I caught myself not taking as much care to craft it to the exacting standards that I would were it for someone else.
The reason I noticed this is that I found myself working with a chisel that I should really have stopped to sharpen and I had to “adjust” my design (read “fix a tear-out”) because of something that would not have happened had I taken just a few moments to hone the edge.
This is not just a woodworking insight. This is a life insight.
How often do we live in the tyranny of the moment – making decisions between all of the things we want to do and all of the directions we are being pulled – and we forget to stop and attend to the things that make sense of all the rest?
I was in no particular rush. I was under no production deadline. The only constraints I labored under were the ones I placed on myself.
We take time to sharpen our tools because it is part of the rhythm of work itself. We do it in part because it makes our work easier, but more so because it shows a respect for the work itself and it reminds us that workmanship is just as important as a finished product. In that moment of rest when the chisel is on the sharpening stone and not the work we are reminded there is joy and freedom in what we are doing and not obligation alone.