Saturday, March 21, 2009

Flung through the woods

I am tired of turning bad wood. When on the mountaintop with Mahoney, the other thing he said, (see previous posts) was that nobody kept a bowl made out of a piece of bad wood. Since no one was going to keep them, there was no use in making them. I have decided he is right.

My thinking in the past has been that I will not throw out a piece I have just spent several hours making after having waited two months for it to dry. Just couldn't do it. And then often as not I would end up with a flawed piece. Maybe a crack, a rough side, a hole, anything. Sometimes I would call it a piece of art (what is art anyway?) and go ahead and finish it up.

Yesterday I had a nice piece of cedar and I had trimmed it up on my new band saw into a perfect bowl blank. I waited a day or two before starting (anticipation -- remember the ketchup commercial and the song?) and when I started I thought I had a nice bowl about the size of a vegetable serving bowl, roughly eight inches in diameter and almost four inches deep. When I got the bottom flattened out, it had a pitch pocket which I thought I could cut off and still have a nice bowl left. I started cutting it out and it kept going. I cut some more and it was still there. I cut some more and it was still there. The bowl kept getting smaller and smaller and I was headed towards a soup bowl. Then it got to be a saucer and that stupid pitch pocket was still there. It was not going away and the bowl I had pictured in my mind was going away. I took it off the lathe and took the hatchet to it so I would not be tempted to salvage it and then I flung all three pieces down through the woods behind the shop to recycle it. Life's too short to fool around with bad wood.

I am trying to decide if the same idea applies to people.

Friday, March 6, 2009

10,000 Hours

I saw a book mentioned the other day which I may have to buy. Malcolm Gladwell has written a new book called "Outliers" and it is about extraordinary people. When you graph things and they all fall within a certain range, sometimes one will fall way outside the range. That one is an outlier. Best example I have seen lately is the cricket player from Australia who is the furthest out outlier I have ever seen. Go look at Wikipedia and look up Sir Donald Bradman, generally conceded to be the best cricket player in all of history. Knighted for playing cricket. More dominant in his sport than Pele in soccer, Tiger Woods in golf, Ty Cobb in baseball and Michael Jordan in basketball. Wow.

Anyway, Gladwell in his book says that the way people get to be an outlier is with at least 10,000 hours of practice. One good example is Bill Gates who accumulated his hours before he got to college. I want to be a turning outlier, so I have been trying to figure how much longer I need to practice before I get my hours. I have been turning about eight years as near as I can remember. That is 416 weeks and if I averaged 5 hours per week, which is generous, then I may have upwards of 2000 hours on the lathe. That makes me about 20% competent. That's about how competent I feel sometimes, so maybe Gladwell is right. I have more time to spend in the shop now, so I figure another four to six years should get my 10,000 and I can begin to feel as if I am somewhat competent. Then I can be rich like Bill Gates. Maybe someone will knight me.