Saturday, January 15, 2011

Doing the Right Thing

A small news story today told about a Southwest pilot who held a flight to wait for a grandfather going to see his dying two-year old grandchild. The story moves me.

The grandfather was held up in the security line and was going to miss the flight. His wife called and asked that the flight be held. Somehow this message got to the pilot who left the flight deck and waited by the jetway for the grandfather to arrive. The grandfather arrived running in his sox – he didn’t take time to put on his shoes after the security screening – to be greeted by the pilot. The grandfather was there to say goodbye to his grandchild thanks to the very human decision of the pilot.

Why does this move me?

It’s an example of compassion, of courage to do the right thing, of love for a fellow human in grief. It’s a story of a company culture that allows and celebrates its employees doing the right thing.

This kind of thing doesn’t happen that often in our fast-moving and complicated world. It needs to happen more.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Woodworking Circle of Life

My woodworking projects seem to follow a familiar pattern. The wood cost more than I expect, I get in trouble early and I need to buy more tools. This latest project is no exception. First, the wood.

A little while ago, I set out to make an inexpensive rolling pin or two. I settled on some rock maple, about $4 a board foot, and purpleheart about $6 a board foot. So far, so good. Then, I started looking for a nice dark wood to contrast the rock maple and for the handles. “Boy, that cocobolo sure looks nice, let me load up on that,” I thought. “Let’s see, for the handles I’ll need 8/4 and then a bunch of these short 4/4 boards for the rolling pin.” While the bill was being calculated, I happened to look up at the price board. Cocobolo -- $27.16 @ board foot. Gulp. I’ll probably get nine out of the project, so the world’s most expensive rolling pins will have close to $30 in wood cost each.

Once home, everything proceeded smoothly through the glue-up. Then the trouble. My band saw wasn’t cooperating in cutting through the three-inch blanks. The first one had a nice bow on the side as the blade arced in the cut. Change the blade to a (dull) 5/8” blade. More grief. It kept getting stuck, making the saw trip the circuit breaker. In my past life I would have kept muscling through this – cut a couple of inches, get the blade stuck, go flip the circuit breaker, repeat. (Well, ok, I did do this for a couple of blanks. And, yes, when I couldn’t get one cut off all the way, I resorted to the encouragement of a sledge hammer. So you could say that I'm not totally reformed yet.)

After quitting for the night, to contemplate my problem (well stew on it) I surmised it was my choice of blades – too large and too dull. When things go wrong, it puts me in a dark, black, mood. I feel like an incompetent idiot. I know I am an incompetent idiot when starting something that I’ve never done before, but don’t really feel that way until I get into the trouble phase of the project.

Turns out the blade was the problem. With that fixed, my next blanks came out fine. I took the worse blank (the hammered one) as my prototype and was able to even salvage that one! Here they are.

At the far right, are the ends of the first glue-up, I’ll glue these together to make another blank. Next to that is a glue-up that hasn’t been cut at the 10 degree angle to produce the diagonal pattern. Two blanks will come out of this piece.

Back to the project -- now things were going swimmingly. That is until I got to the part that I needed to chuck the end pins. My chuck minimum is about 2” the pins are 5/8” diameter. Tool time. Log on to Rockler and buy spigot jaws for my chuck. Rockler rocks. I ordered the jaws Sunday. They arrived Thursday – just in time for me to finish my first rolling pin on Friday. Here it is.

So now I’ll happily churn out a few more rolling pins -- feeling a little less idiotic and a little less incompetent. But I’m not convinced, I’ve kicked the cycle. I see more costly wood and mid-course trouble in the future. And, of course, you can never have too many tools!