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From the editor: What we make matters

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A simple spoon carved with a keen eye, given to me by a student, is a treasured possession.

The joke among woodworkers is that, since we’d rather be alone in our shops anyway, the social isolation of the last year hasn’t really affected us. While it’s true that woodworking is often a solitary pursuit, there is an important potential for connection to others in the work we make. For the most part, whether it’s a bowl, box, table, cabinet, or chair, the things we make are meant to be used. If we take the time to make something that does its job well and is a pleasure to use, then we enhance the daily life of the user in a small but important way. Even as I make things for others, I find meaning in the pieces that others have made for me, and I feel a connection to them in use. By being mindful of that potential, we can put our passion for the craft to a more important end.

Sewing table with sewing machine on top of it. Next to a wooden chair.
A portable sewing table. My wife requested a perch for her sewing machine small enough to move around, and at a comfortable height for sewing. It was a reminder that a quick, simple project can still be a fun and creative exercise in building.

Wooden table with a redish base and a lighter colored top
A fancier sewing table. Another client had asked for a version of the sewing table in figured woods. Adding more than just a change in color, the tiger maple and flame birch inspired a softer treatment of the edge profiles, and higher-contrast details. A good lesson in how changing the wood in a project can change its basic nature as well.

My enjoyment in spending time in my shop is really only half of the equation when it comes to investing meaning in my work. Without an intended purpose for the things I make, it’s hard to justify the time and effort I’ve spent on the project. When I build something for a specific person—whether a friend, family member, or client— that person keeps me company in the shop. They are in my thoughts, helping to guide my efforts. The finished piece may not be something I would necessarily make for myself, but I enjoy the opportunity to let others push my boundaries a bit.

A wooden bed softly it by a lamp
A bed for an avid reader. The client’s only request was a bed with a headboard comfortable enough that he didn’t need to pile up pillows for a good read. The result was a contemporary sleigh bed, and a good excuse to learn how to make coopered panels.

Perhaps the reason we are so content in our shops, then, is that we are not alone. Instead, we find constant companionship with those who are on our minds and in our hearts as we build.

—Michael Pekovich

A large wooden piece of furniture
A foray into the Federal style. A desk with a gallery introduced a number of unique challenges, including a broken-pediment crown molding, my first and last effort, though I’d be happy to try it again.

Since his job expanded last year to editor and creative director, Michael Pekovich hasn’t let any grass grow under his feet. In addition to managing our staff during a pandemic, designing and editing the magazine, and teaching woodworking, Mike has also been writing his second book. Foundations of Woodworking will be out this fall. Those who know Mike will not be surprised to learn that in addition to writing the book and taking the photos, he also designed it. We’re pretty sure he sleeps sometimes, too.

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