While it’s pretty clear that woodworking involves a fair amount of lifting, I never really thought of it as cardio until I was gluing together my most recent chair. I’ve gotten to be pretty meticulous in preparing for glue-ups. I lay out all the parts in logical order. I make sure the glue is warm, the brush is at hand and the rags are ready. Sometimes, as with chairs, I’ll get out the moving blanket and build a little bracing form to prevent dents and keep the whole thing from moving around. Oh, and extra wedges. Always extra wedges.
Staked chairs aren’t really that complicated. If everything lines up dry, it will probably go together with hide glue slathering the joints, but it can still be nerve wracking. It’s about listening to what the wood and tools are telling you and responding appropriately – oh, but it’s also sort of like a race.
You can hear when a leg seats properly, or a wedge is driven, but it’s easy to second guess yourself. Whack. Whack. Whack. thunk. Wait, was that a thunk or a thud? Should I hit it one more time? Or will that…Crack.
Ultimately, these things always come down to experience and trust, both of which require patience. Patience with yourself when you bust through a seat because you hit it too hard. Patience with yourself when you realize you should have trusted your instincts and been a bit more daring. Patience when it all comes together once and then all falls apart the next time.
While making this last chair, I realized that I love the adrenaline rush I get when it’s time to break out the glue and pull it all together. In some ways, it’s the thrill of the hunt. That moment when it can all go right, or it won’t and things will be said that shouldn’t be heard by children.
I do all I can to make a glue-up successful, but honestly, if a day ever comes when my palms no longer get a little sweaty in anticipation I’ll know it’s time to find a different creative outlet.