Wednesday, December 12, 2012

On Making A Piece of Furniture

There are, let's say, fifteen screws.  They all need to be fully screwed in; only then will the piece of furniture be finished.  To turn one screw one-half a rotation takes about four hours.

The temptation is to want to take a single screw and turn it in all the way.   The more unscrewed something is, the more painful is to look at it.  It's messy, it's ugly, and it reflects badly on you, the maker of the furniture.  But as long as some of the screws are more than, say, halfway unscrewed turning one in all the way is a fool's errand.  When one is too tight, the other screws can't go in.  That means the screw you've done in all the way will have to be unscrewed.  That's time lost (not to mention that it hurts to wreck what has already seemingly been well-done).

You have to come to believe that, insofar as it's possible, your great, abiding goal must be to be maintain as low "a delta" as possible.  (Delta: the gap in height between the most and least 'screwed-in' of your various screws.  So, if your most 'finished' screw is 80% in, and your least 'finished' screw is in 20%, your delta is 60.)

What this all seems to call for is a process by which the 'maker' goes from the first screw to the second, from the second screw to the third, and turns them each, in turn, one half a rotation.

However, that doesn't necessarily work.

Why not?

The final three screws (THE END) can never be more screwed in than any other screw.  They must always lag the others.  More importantly--the final screws are frequently IMPOSSIBLE TO TURN.  No matter how much you work at them they will not penetrate any deeper into the wood.

When this happens--when the end won't coalesce (and in a sense the entire problem of MAKING the furniture is a problem of the final three screws)--there is no neccessary obvious solution.  Maybe the END screws need to come out all the way, and be put somewhere else?  Maybe if some of the 'earlier' beginning screws are worked on more, are pushed in deeper, the END screws will start to penetrate.  On the other hand, working too much on 'beginning' screws will increase your overall DELTA.  And that is not to the good.

Sometimes the ugliness of the entire thing becomes so overwhelming, so deleterious to your own confidence in your ability to make a piece of furniture that, purely in order to maintain your own sanity you decide to take one screw and work it in as far and as deep as it can possibly go.  Although this...surrender does mess up the delta, it also can renew your confidence.  So maybe it's not so bad?

Also--there is no 100%.  No screw is ever actually 'in' all the way--it will never stop turning in its hole.   The challenge, then, is to determine whether or not, when it turns in its hole, it's helping to knit the wood together, or splintering it from the inside.  And that can't be known--only guessed at.

Vodka is useful, sometimes, during all of this.

1 comment:

Cartooniste said...

ANCIANT. Is this a metaphor? Hmmm?