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When there’s so much uncertainty in the world, it’s awfully nice to be able to put my hands on real, tangible things that give me comfort. Sharp tools, a pile of lumber and a project provide respite from the ills of the world. A few hours spent fitting doors and drawers is a few hours spent not worrying about things that are truly out of my control. It keeps my mind and body active when my time might otherwise be spent in front of a screen.

Of course, retreating into the shop isn’t always recommended. It’s important to spend time with your loved ones and help your neighbors and your community. As woodworkers, we’re perhaps better prepared to pitch in with things that can make lives better or create items that can bring joy to others. Mending a fence, restoring an antique, even repairing a stool that might have otherwise ended up in the burn pile—these are all woodworking activities that can make a difference.

That was the thought running through my head as a relative dropped off a stool she’d grabbed from the side of the road. It was missing a stretcher but was otherwise sturdy. Some careful chisel work and a piece of oak from the scrap bin, plus a dose of glue, and the stool was given a second life. It felt good to save a piece of furniture from the garbage and do a simple favor with my skills.

When things feel overwhelming, I return to this quote from Fred Rogers (of PBS’s Mister Roger’s Neighborhood): “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” It’s a good reminder not only that there’s good in the world, but that individuals can make a difference in the lives of others.

Maybe it’s opening your shop doors to a few kids in the neighborhood so their parents can have a bit of peace and quiet. Maybe it’s lending tools and a helping hand to a friend. It can also be as simple as a smile and an empathetic ear.

That’s one of the things I love about this community: We’re eager to listen to each other, to offer advice, to praise good work and encourage more of it. It’s also a great way to stay connected even when we can’t get together in person. Technology connects us across states and countries, and lets us offer those words of encouragement that mean so much. It may not feel like much, but it’s important.


P.S. Looking for Flexner on Finishing? Bob is taking a brief hiatus to update his finishing books, including Understanding Wood Finishing. He’s promised he’ll be back in our pages soon, but in the meantime there’s lots of finishing advice right here.

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