The machines in the wood shop stand silently as I walk around turning knobs, measuring distances, and locking clamps.  Then the check list, safety glasses, hearing protection, dust mask … Switch on the noise, dust collector and the saw.  From the stack, I lift the 61 pound plywood sheet, feeling the weight move through my hands to back and then to feet causing me to shift my stance to stay upright.  Lay the sheet on the edge of the table, slide it right to the fence, and then forward to the blade.

The saw screams and the dust flies as the plywood moves through the blade and is split in two.  I push through, and let the righthand side drop to the floor.  I stand straight, shifting my balance and pull the remaining sheet to the left, back and then push right to the fence.  The saw screams again as the motion moves forward.  Repeat until the plywood sheet becomes a stack of bookcase shelves.

On cold winter afternoon music plays from the computer as I carefully measure the fabric on the cutting board.  Finding the right position I press down on the ruler, open the rotary cutter and slice the strip out of the material.  Move the strip aside and reset for another cut.

At the sewing machine, the gentle rhythm starts as my foot presses down.  Two different pieces joined.  Then another pair and another.  The iron presses the seams open and more cuts, more sewing and a stack of blocks starts to build on my cutting table.  Someday it will decorate a wall.

During a moment of inattention, two pieces get joined wrong and I dig through the drawer looking for that seam ripper.  A little time, a pass through the sewing machine, and the error is corrected.

In wood an error could mean sanding, recutting, digging out nails, removing screws or scraping the piece.  The process is slightly different – maybe a bit more involved, but the result is the same, an error corrected and a part completed.

While there are striking differences between wood and fabric, there are an amazing number of similarities.  There is careful measuring, machine setup, understanding the materials, tools that cut, and tools that join.  The need to create, the ability to envision a completed object before starting, and the willingness to spend the time needed to get the desired result are the same.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a bookcase or a wall hanging in the act of creating as the result is the same: a vision, a plan is turned into something you can see, touch and marvel over.

It comes down to the same things, a mind to plan, a desire to create, tools to work with and raw materials to shape.

About Andrew Reynolds

Born in California Did the school thing studying electronics, computers, release engineering and literary criticism. I worked in the high tech world doing software release engineering and am now retired. Then I got prostate cancer. Now I am a blogger and work in my wood shop doing scroll saw work and marquetry.
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22 Responses to Contrast

  1. Christi says:

    Wonderful comparison! My seam ripper has seen a lot of use through the years, I can only imagine how difficult a mistake in woodworking might be.Yet just think how much easier it would be if we had undo buttons for those activities!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This was so nicely written. I appreciate your skill with both materials.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks – there’s a lot of cross over skills there.

      Liked by 1 person

      • That’s pretty cool. Every now and then I hear a saw going somewhere nearby, and it makes me smile. If I could hear a sewing machine going also, that, too, would make me smile. 🙂 My girls took a sewing class over the last two summers. We have our own machine now. I made face masks with it and have repaired torn clothing. That’s about as good as it gets for me. For now, anyway.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Lakshmi Bhat says:


    Liked by 1 person

  4. wolfsrosebud says:

    Nicely written. The description took the reader to the moment. As much as I like wood, I’ll stick with fabric to work with for it’s much lighter to handle.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Baydreamer says:

    You explained the what, how, and why so well! Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I use to sew all my clothes back in the 1970s and 1980s. I was quite the accomplished seamstress. Then in the 1990s I met my husband who was quite the accomplished woodworker. He bought me a bandsaw to make a custom Batman shelf for my young son. He showed me how to use the bandsaw and I practiced cutting out pieces of wood a few times before I cut the one piece of wood for the Batman logo shelf. He was amazed how easily I picked up using this piece of equipment but I told him it was just like sewing on my sewing machine.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly – the machines and methods are so much alike. In my woodworking club we’ve found that women who sew and join our group pickup using the machines faster that men or women who don’t have that experience.


  7. Teressa says:

    Perfectly described! My dad is a woodworker; Mom and I are quilters. So many similarities.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Loreeebee says:

    don’t forget the physical ability to create what you do…lifting that 61-pound piece of plywood is no simple feat!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I do tend to do heavier woodworking, but in the last couple of years I’ve been moving to smaller projects. Hate to say it, but my days of lifting heavy sheets of plywood are growing short.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. kathy70 says:

    Love your viewpoint and how you described everything so those of us who don’t build with wood or fabric can understand.

    Liked by 1 person

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