#2: How Woodwork Made Me a More Flexible Human Being
It all started with our ancestors picking up a stick, and me making a poop stool 💩.
In addition to this story, there’s also a contributing episode which you can listen to in the Capiens podcast, starring the very guy who played a big part in my woodwork experience — Niv Rubin 📣
One of the things I’ve always wanted to try was woodwork. There’s something to it that feels very close to our ancient human core, something that represents a genuine human capability in my mind. Just think of it: it all started with a stick our ancestors once picked up, and today there are so many objects and products we use in our everyday lives! Even the chair and the table I’m writing this story on are made of it.
I found a cozy local workshop called “Both Hands”. It allows people to rent woodwork workstations on an hourly basis. The owner of the place, Niv Rubin, also serves as a mentor for the participants, encouraging amateurs like me who never even touched a saw just to come in and work. Beginners get close guidance and assistance with making whatever they want while using the tools safely and efficiently, whereas the more experienced folks get the precious tips which take their creations to the next level.
The Importance Of a Mentor
Dealing with a new skill naturally occurs out of our comfort zones and is accompanied by many fears. Therefore, having a great mentor for a newcomer can make all the difference between enjoying the process and totally hating it.
Niv is a true human, for starters. He’s in his thirties. The first thing you notice about him is the warm look in his eyes and his huge and calm smile. I’ve immediately understood how passionate he is about woodwork and how much love he puts into this business. It allowed me to feel that I can try out everything, fail an unlimited amount of times on the way, and it would still be OK.
What were my expectations? Honestly? None. I was really eager to try it out, work with my bare hands and create something from raw wood. Sure I never expected to produce an actual product.
What Do I Make?
I know that there are many workshops which have a specific step-by-step plan of what you make in each session. This one didn’t. And there goes my first roadblock and fear: when I asked Niv what I should be making, he just shrugged back at me and ensured me that whatever I choose to make — is probably possible. And that’s all the encouragement I needed.
Niv sent me to the lounge and told me to take my time, figure out what I want to make, and do a short research on how to make it. A few new bla-blas have popped up almost instantly: “Wait, should have I come more prepared? Am I wasting precious time here?” I took a deep breath, and realized that for me, this process is not only about building something, but also about overcoming the uncertainties that come along with this journey. After all, I’m already here. I wouldn’t quit now, right?
Do You Want to Build a Cajon…?
Music plays a significant role in my life, and so naturally I was tempted by an idea to build a musical instrument. I’ve always wanted to have a Cajon, so I decided to make one. Since Cajon is an acoustic instrument, and its primary function is… producing sound, its success and quality depend on the materials and the exact way of manufacturing. It’s about combining multiple layers of different kinds of woods, that create the resonance one wants to achieve. It took me around fifteen minutes to realize how over-aspirational my idea was, perhaps a Cajon is a bit of an overkill for a first woodwork session. So, fifteen minutes ago I had no plan A, and now when I finally came up with one — I was already heading to a non-existing plan B.
…Doesn’t Have to Be a Cajon.
So what now? Here’s a brief transcript of a thought flow (or should I say “flood”?) my mind went through: “OK. So wood. What can I make of wood which can be both cool and useful? Like what? Like poop stool? Nah, that’s silly! No way I’m making that. Wait, why not? Oh, you know what? Hell yeah! I’m making a poop stool!” 💩. Research #2 is on.
Measurement and Design
How big should a poop stool be? Well, it’s not a one size fits all. I’m 196cm tall (6.4"), already challenged in many ways in my life because of that, and making a poop stool wasn’t an exception.
It took me a ruler and numerous awkward-ish recurring visits to the workshop’s restroom to draft the initial design. Main challenges were to find the right height and width so that my feet rest with comfort while the magic happens, and that there’s an opening for the toilet bowl stand to pull the stool backward when not in use.
The Actual Production
With Niv’s help, I went through understanding how many wood plates I need. After a brief safety training, I’ve have cut these plates out according to the measurements I took earlier. At some point there was another bump on the road: when it came to marking the gap for the toilet bowl stand, it seemed too wide, and might have resulted in the stool not being stable enough. So I had to modify the design as I went through.
Four hours later, I did it! It felt just like getting an “Achievement unlocked!” badge in a game. The sense of accomplishment was fantastic. I now feel confident that if I ever wish to make something of wood again — I have everything I need to get started since I took the effort to cross the critical barriers required.
Besides having a new skill under my belt, the lessons from this session were no less than astonishing:
- I can achieve an end result in a very limited time, even when I start without an idea. All I needed to do was just to get going
- It appears that I absolutely don’t mind getting my clothes dirty
- One of the most significant challenges in my life is adjusting to changes when things slip from their planned route (and oh we know that that happens all too frequently). The woodwork experience showed me that even when things go wrong, I have what it takes to stop, refine, and move on. My past bosses would sure appreciate this one ☝️.
- Ironically enough, I have used the stool at home only once and never used it again. It was both too tall and too wide to fit the bathroom in my house, blocking the door from closing. It ended up as a shelf for two boxes in my living room. But hey! My iRobot now has access to areas it didn’t have before. 🤷♂
Woodwork skill is officially unlocked, and I’m now about four fears lighter. Here’s to the next one! 🥂
This is a very beginning of me, sharing my journey as a capable human being. If you’re human — get onboard, it’s going to be a hell of a ride! If you’re like me, and prefer listening to reading — this story is also available as an episode on my podcast, including an interview with Niv Rubin 📣. Like Capiens on Facebook or follow me on Twitter to be notified when the next stories and episodes are out.