Maxim Maundy

Still time to squeeze in a maxim for Monday…how bout a deceptively strange one

Know your material

I think in its origin my mind was on the viceral, yet with the passage of time this maxim has achieved trascendance. When I made it up, I was thinking about plywood…and also about driving nails with a hammer.

It was a windy day. And on this particular day it was my assigned task, in the whole laddering of things, to move sheets of plywood to assist the crew in the preparation of the roof for felting …to get it in the black so that we could move our work inside. Often in those early days I made up for a lack of skill with strength. If it took two men to move twenty-two foot long two-by-twelve lumber to be cut for rafters, then I would move two of them by myself and do it faster. If another hand would carry a bundle of shingles up a ladder, I would carry two or even three. My idea was to pull more than my own weight and to free up the hands for tasks that I did not yet know how to do. Sure, it sounds good, but now a decade later I bear many wounds from the days of my hard headed youth.

It was a windy day. My mind was concentrating on a way of doing things that was destined to become not so much a maxim as it is a method that I employ daily even now. I wanted to swing the plywood up to my partner on the roof, but not so hard as to wear my self out before the job was done nor throw him off balance and make him fall, yet not so light as to not get the object up to him thus resulting in another laborious try or yet again throwing my partner off balance. I was trying to learn how the materials I was working with woudl response to the temporal conditions so that I could be ready.

Look at nail driving, a tedious task yet one that a carpenter must look forward to on a daily basis. Day after day…swinging. You don’t want to be wasting precious energy by overdoing it, or doing something poorly so that it need be redone. Just enough. To damage is to only create more work. Knowing the material was the only verbal expression of this principle that I could ever come up with. Expending no more energy than was required to do the job right. Minimalistic, fence riding, half-ass, no this was not my mindset at all. My thoughts were to the next step. The finishing of the task. Does the momentary lack in aspiration for the sake of the whole? Again, that wasn’t my point of view. I want to do all things to the best of my ability. But this means maintaining focus during the means while preserving one’s resources so that you canreach the end. Who cares how well you started building a house if you never finish.

I was always told as a young man that those years would be of invaluable service to me in my future. Skills that I would carry with me always. It has been a long time since I left carpentry behind, yet those lessons learned translate very well to the House that I am interested in building up now – still interested in working with wood. The effect that carpentry had on my physical being taught me the hard lesson that I cannot do all things by myself. Help is needed.


~ by Aaron W Eley on 7 April 2008.

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