When I was a kid, I was in love with BMX bikes and tricks. Living in a small Midwestern town, this was an unusual activity and I was pretty much on my own trying to figure out how to make my bike to do what I saw in BMX Plus! (a magazine). One trick involved jumping over the handlebars and “ghost riding.” I tried it. My foot ended up in the break cable and my face ended up in the pavement. All the while my family stood as witnesses to my idiocy.
This weekend, I made my first attempt at sharpening a handsaw. Jointing went okay; nice shiny tops on all the teeth. Shaping seems to be where everything fell apart. Per the Ron Herman video, I made a little guide block for the front of my file. It worked exceptionally well going one direction. However, when I turned the saw around I didn’t reorient the file in the block. Even the first couple of strokes I thought something seemed off, but I kept at it. I got into a good rhythm and before I knew it I was at the other end.
About twice a year I was forced to visit my great-grandmother. She was so old she was scary. Her face was deeply wrinkled. Her gray hair was always in a weird hairnet; wispy strands reaching out to get me. I don’t remember her talking (she was out of her mind at this point), but I do remember her teeth. It looked as though someone had carefully knocked out every other one. Granny could have easily passed as a jack-o-lantern still on the porch in December.
And that is exactly how my saw plate currently looks. One big tooth. One tiny tooth. In a repetitive loop.
Failure is a beautiful and odd thing. The fear of failure keeps some people from trying at all. Of those who try, some can’t handle failure and quit. Others pick up the pieces (and themselves) determined to get it right. Those are the people who allow failure to become a wise teacher.
I wrecked my bicycle dozens of times. I fractured my ribs and broke two fingers, but I finally landed that trick.
And I will have a sharp cross-cut saw.