The Value of Attention

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This article is from Issue 104 of Woodcraft Magazine.

Attention may be the most valuable investment we can make in our work. We are all made better woodworkers by recognizing the reliability of a good combination square or noticing when a well-crafted chair beckons you to sit and invites your fingers to find the subtle details in its armrests. So learn to observe the heft of a bench plane, the way your hand wraps around the rosewood tote. Acknowledge its purpose, its maker. Take a breath as you step to your table saw. Give this machine the respect it deserves. Notice its accuracy, its dead-flat surface. Pause to regard the smooth surface of a freshly ripped edge with your thumb.

Being mindful during these moments brings appreciation for your tools and the craft at large. When busy in your shop making gifts this season, immerse yourself into the process. Such focus isn’t always easy, with myriad distractions clamoring for your bandwidth. But that’s all the more reason to be mindful. Hurried work leads to mistakes, or worse, injuries. It may not seem like it at the time, but slowing down will save you from having to redo work or pull splinters. That’s not to suggest mistakes won’t happen, but paying attention will reveal the error’s origin, to help you avoid it the next time. 

This stopping-to-smell-the-sawdust approach works wonders outside of the shop as well. If your holiday arrangements this year include face-to-face time with loved ones, you’ll do well to lavish them with attention. And if your plans include gift-making, this issue is packed with plenty of projects to pay attention to. Set the scene this season with festive scrollsawn reindeer (p. 50) or a turned Christmas tree ornament or table topper (p. 40). Then, build the Burr Puzzle (p. 47) to keep your holiday guests entertained. To help keep them fed, make the nesting cutting boards (p. 21). Drill press add-ons (p. 27) may come in handy during your Santa’s helper sessions, and might even make great stocking stuffers for your woodworking pals. The shapely Keepsake Box (p. 32) would certainly make a delightful present for anyone.

Whatever you end up doing this season, give yourself the gift of refined attention. Your return on investment will be a more enjoyable life in and out of the shop. Happy holidays.


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