Thursday, April 17, 2008

Golden Years

Should you ever happen across me anywhere on the face of the interweb, muttering at length on the evils of poly-uckathane varnish, don't think it's from a position of strength now, will you? No, it's not because my hand is innocent of inflicting such horror; rather that's it's largely based on personal experience. One such varnished chicken came home to roost not long ago. Talk about a blast from the past - an early endeavour that was condemned to be returned to its perpetrator on the demise of the owner. There's an argument against living a long life, if ever I came across one. The idea of further youthful projects returning like so many homing pigeons is enough to make me wake up in the early hours in a cold sweat. But that's by the by.

Here's the darn thing. Yellow with varnish and definite signs that not all the glue was removed before the finish was dribbled on.

Oooo, and look at that nasty "seam" there too. Don't even start on the angles at the corners...

No, don't start there 'cos it's so much more obviously wrong on the bottom. D'oh.

On the plus side, the lid's a good snug fit and the felt lining hasn't parted company yet.

Now October/November 1993 - that's what? 14 1/2 years ago. At least I knew what the ruddy wood was I used back then... Like the built-up "joinery"? Yeah, half the reason for the gloopy finish was to keep the thing in one piece!

Unfortunately for my defence, what isn't immediately obvious in photographs is that the substrate for this parquetry box is actually balsa wood. And nothing reveals that it was made exclusively with a scalpel, straight edge and cutting mat. Oh, and lots and lots of glue. Frankly I look at it and wonder how in hell I did it. I think I'll call it the "arrogance of ignorance". I didn't know it was insane, not to say probably impossible, so I just did it.

I must confess, despite the myriad faults exemplified by this box, I find myself suffering something of a twinge of jealousy for that daring scalpel-wielder of 15 years ago. These days it seems like I know about 10,00 ways any one aspect of any project can go wrong; and now I know it can, it seems it frequently does. Is it like not showing fear to dogs? Does my anxiety transmit itself to the wood? Who knows? But sometimes it does feel as though the paralysis of knowledge has made me much less productive, rather less daring, and just possibly, I'm having rather less fun too...

Moral of the story? Erm... treasure your ignorance? No, that can't be right... 


  1. Wonderful post, Alf!

    Ignorance = innocence. Either has a wonderful place in the memories.

    The routines of age also have a balm effect for "forgetting" (or purposeful setting aside) the many distractions of too much knowledge.

    That drivel said, the box looks wonderful to me. A keepsake in itself of the caretaker who possessed it.

    Take care, Mike

  2. Wonderful post, indeed.
    I love your little box.

    I am beginning to look at my early carvings with much the same misgivings - and I have only been carving for a couple of years.

    Here's to more workshop time.

    Mike. Corsham.

  3. In order to better understand where we are today and where we want to be in the 'morrow, it is important to keep a mindful eye on where we were yesterday.

    (Of course, I've also heard if you keep one foot in the past and one foot in the future, then you'll be peeing on today...)

    A strong recovery to you, Alf.


  4. Despite all the faults you see, I too think the box looks great. And you've got to respect the Atom Ant attitude of the maker :)

  5. What a delightful little box, Alf. It's amazing what you can do until you read all the text books which tell you that you can't do it the way you've done it.

    Sometimes ignorance is bliss.......


    Paul Chapman

  6. Ah, Ethan, I laughed long and loud at your comment in parenthesis. Thanks :)

    And thanks to those of you with kind comment - the camera is another good friend in these cases...


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