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Working without a net

I usually clean up my shop in between projects. I always feel better starting a new project with a well-organized workspace.

As the project progresses, things start getting back to their default state with piles of shavings, tools and other various ingredients, combined with the chaos of trying to meet yet another deadline.

Recently, I got a tap on the shoulder from "the powers that be,” reminding me that a clean shop is not always necessarily an advantage. I was working on a very delicate piece and the wood was ebony. The design called for the walls of the piece to be quite thin and ebony is a brittle wood. I had quite a few hours in this piece and it needed only an application of wax and some polishing to be finished.

As I was applying the wax, the piece slipped out of my hand. To my horror, I realized that I had just cleaned up the shop and my usual padding of a foot or so of sawdust was not there. The ebony piece landed with a loud cracking sound on the concrete floor.

We will draw Mark Twain's "curtain of charity" on the rest of the scene. But looking at my now broken and useless piece scattered over several feet of hard concrete floor gave me pause to consider that a clean shop is not always a good thing.


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