Without Power – But Not Powerless - Popular Woodworking Magazine

Without Power – But Not Powerless

 In Chris Schwarz Blog, Handplane Techniques, Handplanes, Woodworking Blogs

We’ve had two crippling power outages in our office during the last three weeks. First the computer screen flickers. Then your left hand twitches to hit the keys to save your work. Then the building goes dark. Except for a few groans, the building gets as quiet as a cathedral as work halts.

Except for me, of course.

This week, I’m between big projects in the shop, and so I’m working on a few small-scale pieces to clear my head. I built a small dovetailed silverware tray using some scrap cherry and I’ve been building a couple picture frames for some paintings that have been sitting around the house.

My taste in art has always been a bit on the odd side. Lucy, my wife, and I prefer to buy what most people call “outsider art,” a term I’ve never liked. (Kinda like the way I hate the word “blog.”) These artists are street preachers, visionaries, homeless or mentally ill. We started buying this stuff when we lived in South Carolina and were exposed to artists Howard Finster, R.A. Miller and a few others. We’ve amassed a small collection during the last 17 years and have recently plugged into the same sort of network here in Cincinnati.

So this week I’m building an Arts & Crafts-style frame for a painting by Barb Moran that we purchased at a street fair in August. It’s always a challenge to get into the shop when you’re also trying to get a magazine to the printer. But there is nothing like a power outage to change your priorities.

While the table saws, routers and miter saw were quieted yesterday, I spent the afternoon fitting the mortise-and-tenon joints to this frame and preparing the surfaces for finishing. Thanks to the afternoon light from our shop windows, the tear-out in the white oak was easy to see and remove. It was, all in all, a nice break from gerunds and dangling participles.

The funny thing about the power outages is that they take down all of our systems except for the emergency lights and the electric auto-flush toilets in our building. I suspect that senior editors Glen Huey and Bob Lang are making plans to hotwire the building’s commodes to our shop’s subpanel in case of a third power outage.

Not me. I’m kind of looking forward to it. I just first need to get my left hand in shape to be able to hit the “save” key a little faster.

– Christopher Schwarz

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Showing 5 comments
  • Home Office Furniture

    "If the garage door won’t open, then you don’t have to leave the shop…" – do you have a bathroom in there!? :))

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  • Christopher Schwarz

    If the garage door won’t open, then you don’t have to leave the shop….


  • J.C. Collier

    Yes, Chris, just like the old adage sez, ye must save early and save often. Like so many hand tool processes that depend on muscle memory, try learning to place your left pinky on the CTRL key and your left index finger on the S key and Viola! Ye are saved.

    It’s like keeping a strop or a fine oil stone near your work, I mean, you wouldn’t force dull tools into fresh work, you have to whet the edge ocassionally or suffer the twin furies of oops and oh sh_ _!

  • Gye Greene

    Ah — the glory of hand tools. 😉

    Re: computers. Ever thought about getting one of them UPS (uniterruptable power supplies) for your computer? About $100, gives you a few minutes to save and shut down.

    Although it wouldn’t help you if you’re saving your files directly to the server, instead of running off your hard drive.


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