Deliberate Movement

A single pass to create a finish cut that finalizes shape and point of a spinning top.

A single pass to create a finish cut that finalizes shape and point of a spinning top.

The first minute in the ring will dictate expectations and strategy for a fighter. That’s all the time you have to size up an unfamiliar opponent. It can be thrilling and terrifying as you feel out your opponent’s offence and defense. The scariest thing you could notice in that situation is a lack of movement. Someone who slips your lazy jab with their whole body or whose punches come at you like a train on wobbly tracks is a clear sign of inexperience. A fighter who slips the same jab without a frame movement or change in focus…. A fighter with invisible elbows due to the alignment of their strike methodology. Ya, that’s someone who’s seen what you’ve got before and knows how to deal with it.

The experience of an athlete or craftsman can be discerned by their lack of movement. Even if you know nothing about a craft it’s easy to tell the knowledgeable by this lack of movement. A potter throwing clay on the wheel. One pushes it around and spanks it like their spouses bottom to get it centered, balanced and ready to shape the other plops it with the trajectory and force needed to let Newton’s Laws do the work and goes straight to shaping. A chef uses a knife to prep with speed and silence while a home cook takes time to align the food before chopping like Keith Moon.

In woodworking too, it’s the lack of motion that is gained with experience. From the singular plane of movement from your finger knuckles to shoulder as you use a backsaw or the whole body glide planing wood on a jointer. Extraneous movement diminishes with experience no matter the style of craft.

I recognize this more in woodturning than anywhere else as the true talent in the craft seem to do nothing more than stand still and build shapes with singular movements. But us novices hem and haw, change grips, shuffle our feet, shimmy our shoulders and whittle a shape from multiple cuts. We work harder, longer and get less results.

The last time I broke out of a learning plateau and saw the quality of my work start to ramp up again was when I started to focus on less movement. I know how to use the all the gouges and scrapers. Now was the time to discern the desired results and start to choose the weapon that’ll get the best job done with the least amount of work and movement. It was when I had less movement to deal with something changed. My focus tunneled in on smaller details. How a degree here or there on my angle of attack changed curvatures, angles and smoothness. Less movement allowed more magnification of details.

It’s the same thing you learn shadow boxing in a mirror as that person staring back at you is either moving a lot or a little. Perhaps now is the time to analyze how you move in the craft of woodworking, what paths are unnecessary, and more would their elimination let you focus on.

Shawn Graham