I had an “aha” moment tonight in the shop, after a frustrating attempt to design and plan a “bowl from a board.” The technique involves cutting concentric rings from a board with the saw blade set at an angle. The rings are then stackable – think of the way you can cut a thick slice from an onion and reverse-stack the rings into a sort of cone. But there are trade-offs – if the cuts are shallow (toward the horizontal) you won’t have very many rings, and consequently a shallow bowl. Cut the rings steeper and the walls end up being very thin – fine for an “art” bowl but I was looking at a solid 3/8″ thickness for a salad serving bowl.
But onto the interesting part. I spent about 2 hours tonight working on this – tweaking the design, measuring, staring at what the rings looked like laid out on wood and thinking “this just isn’t gonna work.” When I came back in the house I was feeling quite frustrated at the lack of progress. But then I remembered that I had that same exact feeling this morning at work. I was stuck on a modeling problem that I couldn’t resolve, although by the end of the day I’d made considerable progress. That modeling problem had a much more satisfactory resolution than my bowl construction.
The moral of the story? (other than I appear to like working on hard problems all day?) At work I had an 8 hour day of relatively uninterrupted concentration to tackle this problem (plus a few hours yesterday when the problem originally arose). I only spent 2 or 3 hours on my bowl problem. And that’s my lesson learned for the day: hard problems take time. What makes the bowl relatively more frustrating is that I don’t have 8 hours a day to play with designs. I had the distinct feeling tonight that if I’d brought my bowl problem into work and labored at *that* all day, I’d have some satisfactory resolutions by now.
So I’m trying to remember that as a hobbyist, I just don’t have the time and energy to apply myself to woodworking (or music, or biking – you name it) that I do to my day job. The learning curve(s) take more time (in days/weeks/years) when I don’t have the hours to put into the practice.
Oh, in the end I think there is a good solution for the bowls – if I use thicker stock (1.5″ instead of .75″) I should have more wiggle room. I’ll start looking at that option next.