Letters from Paul Schobernd


Work With or Without Plans


Until we got into this recent discussion regarding whether we work with or without plans, I'd sort of forgotten how it is I do go about making things.

I am not opposed to plans, but I have never found a set that was simple enough for me to follow without screwing up some part of it. It is then that I toss the plan and go on blind luck and instinct.

A few years ago I decided I was going to take the springs off my great-great grandparents buckboard seat - it was in sad shape - and make a coffee table.  I had the Sycamore and Osage Orange all picked out.  It was a straight forward plan until I put it all together and it listed to one end rather badly.  I had envisioned a spring-loaded coffee table that would be stable when necessary and a kid could jump on it if the need arose.

What I forgot was that the man who drove this wagon most of the time had about 150 lbs on his wife and the springs were a testament to that weight differential.  So, I was forced to take the "spring" oughta the thing and put walnut posts at each end to prop up the sagging spring.  It fixed the slope and it still looked good. 

Then the swearing started.  And I think I started it.  While coming across the room in the dark I kicked the end of a spring that protruded.  I liked to broke a lot of things when I sat down abruptly to nurse the injury.  Over the next few months this was a scene repeated by many family members and me. 

And somewhere in there I realized that elderly visitors and children were particularly susceptible.  I began to think about lawsuits and medical bills and the possibility of "doing in" my 80 year-old in-laws who tend to toddle about with limited vision.  My wife tried to soothe my angst by telling me what a beautiful table it was, but the bottom line was - it had to leave the living room. So, today it is relegated to a room where feet do not interact with the metal springs and it is covered in magazines.  Maybe a plan would have helped, but I doubt it.

I now know one more way not to build a table.  Perhaps the moral of the story is that even if you work without a plan you might want to think through the ramifications of your idea.

I'll leave my next "plan" for another day, but suffice it to say that I read somewhere that you could make a leaf shredder by de-constructing an old reel mower and then powering it with an electron-burning source of power.  There was some woodwork and a large plastic garbage can involved in the plot as well.  It is a prototype that is not discussed in polite company, but for all its oddities, I do have most of my fingers intact. 

But my dignity is still somewhat bruised.

Paul in Normal. Illinois
November, 2006


Hack Saws


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