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by Steven D. Johnson
Racine, Wisconsin

This month:

It's Twenty-Twelve And All Is Well!

Ankles, Seat Belts & Table Saws – A Market Trajectory

Space, Ears, and Money – How To Save Them All

It's Twenty-Twelve And All Is Well!

Another momentous woodworking year is upon us. Undoubtedly some are waiting for December 21, 2012, the end of the Mayan long-count calendar, coinciding with what some have interpreted to signal the end of the world. A bit maudlin for my tastes, actually.

The great Galactic Alignment is also supposed to occur in 2012 – the earth, the sun, and the equatorial center of the Milky Way galaxy – causing epic earthquake activity. Wow, that would be a real bummer. Generally I am a bit more concerned when my two favorite TV shows are aligned and my DVR is too full to record one of them.

Figure 1 - The Dragon, from a woodcut
by Utagawa Kunisada II in 1860

2012 is the Chinese Year Of The Dragon. Out of 12 zodiacal signs, the fifth, the Dragon, is an auspicious year. Those born during a Year of the Dragon are supposedly brave, passionate, creative, enterprising, self- assured, flamboyant and a bit conceited. I was born under the sign of the Dragon. perhaps that explains a few things…

2012, I think, will prove to be a momentous year for other reasons for all us down-to-earth woodworkers. This is a year I think we will finally define "sharp" in some meaningful, replicable, demonstrable way. We can then all set aside our self-deprecation and fears of inadequacy by having a definitive benchmark. Yep, I could feel pretty good about myself if a blade I sharpened scored a 17.6 on the new 20-point sharpness scale. Would someone get to work on inventing this so I can quit reading 87 articles a year on sharpening? Just a little battery-powered box I can stick a blade in, and the LED readout of sharpness will appear on the screen. Let me know, I will pre-order it.

In 2012 approximately four thousand woodworkers will experience the "Aha!" moment of hand cutting the perfect dovetail without gadgets, doo-dads, and thing-a-ma-jigs that all promise to help us overcome our supposed deficiencies. Come on! Let's make that forty thousand! You're not deficient! Go out to the shop right now, cut about twenty 5/8" to 3/4" thick boards to say 6" by 12" and get to sawing – no dovetail markers, no special saw alignment jigs, no magic potions. I'll bet that by the time you are halfway through the stack you will be cutting well-fitting dovetails. By the time you go through all twenty boards, you will be as good as anyone.

Judging by the way things are going, 2012 might be the year that governments convert their currencies to the "wood standard." With wood prices increasing at bottle rocket rates, people may be converting their IRAs and 401K accounts to wood pretty soon. Rather than cloning sheep and hybridizing corn to get twenty ears on a single stalk, could someone please work on a tree that would grow twenty feet a year?

The other day a major airline announced its pilots will use iPads in the cockpit rather than bulky flight manuals. The press report said that the airline expects the change to save them 500,000 gallons of fuel in 2012. With carbon-fiber construction techniques, nanotechnology, and who-knows-what else, why are we all still using clamps that weigh twenty pounds apiece? Damn the smell amigos, full speed ahead… I'm going back to animal hide glue this year and dispensing with clamps altogether.

One estimate of U.S. market size pegs woodworkers at about 5.5 million people. With 312 million people, we woodworkers thus comprise about 1.7% of the population. Not enough to swing an election or impact global markets, but way more than just decimal dust. If every woodworker showed his/her hobby to just one non- woodworker this year, and just a fourth of those got hooked, we might soon have enough woodworkers to hire our own lobbyist. That would really screw things up!

Figure 2 - Mayan calendar wheel

2012 is the year to put aside our irrational fears, our frugality, and our inside-the-box thinking and be creative, daring, independent, and flamboyant. Let's all become woodworking Dragons!

Mayan Schmayan! You know what I think? Some Mayan dude went to his employer one day and said, "Boss, I've been chipping away at this rock with this same dull chisel for a year… I've written your stupid calendar out like 5,000 years in the future… you ain't gonna live that long anyway. I Quit!" And thus ended the Mayan calendar. No great mystery!

Harbor nothing but optimism for 2012. Just take the advice of Bobby McFerrin…

Here is a little song I wrote
You might want to sing it note for note
Don't worry be happy
In every life we have some trouble
When you worry you make it double
Don't worry, be happy......

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