I work over at a machine shop that allows people to use the machines for the price of a monthly membership. I’ve worked there off and on since last October, but I’ve not had much interest in actually using the shop, though employees can use it for free.

While I consider myself a creative person, I don’t need the shop to create anything I’m interested in. While there are a lot of truly awesome things going on there, my immediate response is not, “Ooo, I want to do that too” but “Ooo, that’s awesome” and then going back to doing whatever it is I’m doing.

The things I make require only a limited set of tools: something to write, something to record. Bam, done.

While I have occasional notions, actual constructs instead of just words, the design process doesn’t appeal to me. I don’t think well spatially. If I’m reading the description of a room or spaceship or building in a book, I end up skipping it. If someone gives me directions, I end up spacing out. For whatever reason, my brain does not lock onto that kind of thing well.

And the idea of measuring and calculating and plotting is even less appealing. Having the finished product would be nice, but it’s not enough of a draw to get me through the whole process. I’m not someone who likes details, precision or extensive planning while being creative. I just want to go and worry about the little details later. So metal working is right out.

But…the wood shop on the other hand. That’s a part of the shop that’s always appealed to me. It’s more flexible, less precise and looks, well, more fun.

So yesterday I decided to take a class on how to use the wood lathe. The thing I ended up liking the most about it was how little it depended on being exact. It was about feeling out the wood, seeing what was right, seeing what FELT right. Testing the angle of the tool and seeing what was working. It was very visceral. While the metal shop requires a lot of hands-off work (set the distance, place the metal, press the button and make sure nothing goes wrong during the process), most of the tools in the woodshop demands that you stay in contact. There’s less distance.

While I doubt I’ll ever become a woodworker, I definitely plan to make use of the lathe. I like doing something that requires working in the world, a welcome change from sitting in front of the computer for hours at a time.

Dylan Charles

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