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Is Battery Powered Really The Best Option?

sky zen

Okay. This post is not very zen. Then again, if zen was easy, everyone would be. Always.

Some days things just don’t go your way. Today is that day.

You know that wood is my passion. Or at least one of them. It normally takes me to a calm place where I kind of lose myself in the moment. And the satisfaction I get from creating things that are either useful or beautiful is unmatched by nearly anything else in my life.

If you’d have asked me yesterday (and I’m sure if you ask me tomorrow) I would have told you that cordless tools are the best thing since electricity. Then yesterday.

I have a cordless reciprocating saw. Great tool. It is so nice to be able to just grab the tool anywhere without worrying about a cord. Take it out in the woods and cut off a branch, quick cut off a board anywhere – up on a roof, down by the pond. Great tool. When it works.

Then you get into the situation where the battery isn’t working. And is it because the battery isn’t working? Or is it something else. By the way, that is an argument for making sure that all your battery powered tools are made by the same manufacturer and use the same batteries. Then you can move from one to another  to test this sort of thing. To say nothing of having spare batteries if things do go awry.

So on with my tale of woe. Go to grab the saw, only to find out that the battery is dead(?), and thatbatteries the other one is too. Put one in the charger and keep myself busy for a while until there was some charge. Tried again, no go. Move on to the other battery. Same thing.

Now I have to wonder, did two batteries go to hell at the same time? Seems odd. Or did the charger suddenly go on the fritz? That seems like a good bet, but how the hell (ommm ommm) do you check it? (If I had another tool kit by the same outfit…)

Then it’s time to look into getting new batteries for my sawzall. Do you have any idea how much batteries cost for this thing? Geegolly! And a new charger isn’t much better.

I’ve been down this road before. Buy this, then that, then the other. Maybe it’s not the batteries or the charger. Maybe the tool is bad.

Anyway – light at the end of the tunnel. Now is the time to change over to lithium. They are definitely better choices when it comes to cordless tools. The batteries are stronger, they charge faster, they hold a charge longer in storage, in short they are all around better pieces of equipment.

But. They cost like it too. And how do you justify spending that kind of money on a new tool when you have an older version that is doing the job just fine.

Until it isn’t.

Enjoy Joy

There is simple pleasure in working with wood working equipment. Something about the way they smoothly work their way through the wood just in the way they’ve been asked to.

A good sharp tool can work through hard wood like a knife through butter, to use a cliche. That is why it is such a soothing thing to do when you are in the zone, so to speak. Visualizing a finished piece and taking the steps to make it a reality is a joy that only those who create can understand.

Seems a bit above it to be equating making a piece of furniture with art, but the fact is that there is an equivalence. Even though the end result might be a bit more plebeian (not that that is a foregone conclusion given what passes for art at times), the act of visualizing and then realizing is pretty much the same.

There is something about the whine of a woodworking ban saw that is much like music when it is working its way through a piece of pine. A bandsaw is a tool that not all home wood shops have. It is a somewhat limited tool in the vein of the types of things that most home shops make.

But if a woodworker has a desire to make stuff that has more detail to it, a bandsaw can be a worthwhile investment. It can literally do things that no other woodworking tool can do quite the way it can. The wide and relatively rigid blade will make cuts that the finer blades on a saber saw or a scroll saw can’t handle.

A saber saw is a useful tool, but the blade has a tendency to wander since Resawingthe bottom of the blade is not captured by the tool. And while a scroll saw is another tool that has a rather unique set of capabilities, its fine blade makes rapid cutting difficult and straight cuts a real problem. It also has a difficult time with hard woods and with thicker pieces, for the very  fact that the fine blade can’t take much stress.

One thing that a bandsaw, albeit a more powerful one that many shops will have, is the ability to do resawing. In the most extreme cases, larger saws with wider blades can cut very thin slices of large pieces of wood that can be used as veneers. That is something that no other saw can really do, though it is certainly not something that can be done with any run of the mill band saw, or by someone who doesn’t know what they are doing.

Anyhow. A bandsaw is a wonderful and unique tool that is a joy to use for a serious woodworker. And I consider myself to be at least a wannabe serious woodworker.

Zen. Really?

Well I just read over the last post and fear that I might have gotten a little heavy with it. Maybe Zen isn’t the right word to describe your relationship with your hobby. It works for me, and my wish is that everyone have the opportunity to experience that sense of timeless joy that comes with reaching that state.

Even if you don’t experience your hobby as a feeling of serene bliss, it is very likely that you do achieve great relaxation from it as the cares of the day wash away, lost to the experience of focusing on one simple task at a time. After a while the challenges of a hobby are not really challenges any more, but opportunities. When you understand that any new obstacle that gets in your way is not a reason to fear failure, but an opportunity to grow – that is the time when your hobby begins to occupy a special place in your life.

That is the time when there is nothing to hold you back from your enjoyment. A time when you can always look forward to the next thing. And a time when you can finally unload all fear of not measuring up to your own expectations or to the remembered expectations of those who no longer have them. Let it go. Let the expectations go. Let the fear go. Let the cares of the day go. Let it all go. Live in the moment.

Enjoy. Joy.

There is Serenity

It doesn’t really matter what you do for a hobby. If you have selected one that complements your personality you will find some measure of serenity in it’s practice. In fact it is probably not to controversial to think that if you don’t you should maybe look at finding a new hobby.

Almost any hobby has two purposes. The first and perhaps the most important is to spend time doing something you truly enjoy. The other, secondary, purpose – to produce some outcome that has intrinsic value of some sort can defeat the purpose of a good hobby if it becomes central.

That is, it’s the doing that should be the purpose not the having done. Though that is not to say that a sense of delayed gratification can’t have utility in getting the hobbyist through the tough parts – since most hobbies that are challenging have their challenging parts.

Indeed some of the value of a good hobby like building a cabinet or a street rod comes from the challenges and the mastery that eventually comes from meeting those challenges. The frustration that early on accompanied the new skills that stymied the newcomer to the trade, eventually give way to the calm assurance that whatever new challenges come up can be met.

That Zen place is a much nicer place to be than the state of anxiety and stress that leads to small parts being chucked against the wall. It’s also much easier on the wall.

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