Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Breaking Up with Purpleheart

I spent the morning upset about Purpleheart.

I was trying to do some fancy hand joinery in a piece of purpleheart and it just wasn’t meant to be. (Let’s face it…given its hardness, purpleheart can sometimes be as easy to work as glass).

Somehow during the process of struggling with the lavender wood it took me back years to when I was still dating.

My brain knew that what I was trying to do was doomed. Inside I knew the joint I was trying to cut was just not meant to be. However, my emotions really wanted it. I wanted that chisel to create the perfect tiny Dovetail on that rock hard, ¾ inch thick plank. And it was just like one of those doomed relationships from years ago I couldn’t’ get to work, regardless of how badly I wanted it.

So I reverted to something else from my past…I started blaming everything else for the circumstances I couldn’t change. I knew my chisels were razor sharp, but I yelled at them anyway. I know that I know how to cut with my dovetail saw, yet I still chose to curse my hand. My workbench held the board exactly where I wanted it to be, but after failure occurred I still wondered what would have happened if I had positioned the board differently.

Ultimately, I have to walk away knowing that I sincerely tried to do it, but I just couldn’t make it work. Rob Cosman probably could have done it, but this wasn’t about him. Frank Klausz might have achieved perfection, but it wasn’t Frank’s project. Instead, I am left with the knowledge that sometimes it is not enough to have all of the right tools and a heart full of desire. Sometimes, it just isn’t meant to be.

One final dating metaphor…I suppose even in walking away I can hold onto the hope that things might be different. Perhaps in two years I’ll pull that purple plank back out and see if the circumstances are different. We romantic woodworkers always cling to that “what if” hope.


Keith Cruickshank said...

Hi Jeff:

Very funny! You make everyone who struggles with woodworking challenges feel much better. Keith (www.WoodTreks.com)

Mark Salomon said...

i agreed to build my son in law a workbench. The maple top was bad enough but he wanted purpleheart for the chops. After completely dulling my LN 4 1/2 (HAF) blade trying to level it with the top I broke out the sander. Yes, I've dumped purpleheart too.

Ron B said...

I hate purple heart and I haven't even learned to dovetail. Some guys have done some wonderful stuff with it, but it's a bear to machine, is dusty, and it doesn't smell nice. Bloodwood is a bit nastier due to the splinters but at least it smells good when you cut it.

Two thumbs up for even trying. :bow: