Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Quick Post

Not much to say at the moment, except that the month of November agrees with me.

Perhaps it's growing up in Chicago, which is gray and chilly 4 months out of the year, but come
November 1, I'm switched on in a different way. Holidays, nostalgia, wood stove, and the rugged outdoors all combine for a perennial seasonal feel.

I dig it.

Over and Out,


Sunday, November 04, 2012

Nick's Redneck Paradiso

Well, enlightenment has my come way: Making chairs is going to be my woodworking vocation from here forward. Most likely, for a good long time. Yes, I will do other oddities, but chairs will be the focus. I'll still be working two gigs for now, but on the side of woodworking, I've sort of landed, pretty happily, in the role of a chair-maker.

No one in our shop digs chairs the way I have come to dig them, or so I believe. Perhaps that's because the project I put together before the first most recent set of chairs was a 400-lb. kitchen island of doom. It was beautiful but monstrous, and a ginormous craftsman style bed before that. You
cannot manipulate large projects the way you can smaller ones. You move around them, they do not move around you, and that aspect can be quite time-consuming, tiring, and even irritating.

Enter the set of bar-height chairs I had to build for that island and it was a deep breath of fresh air. Small manipulable parts give way to massive ones. Assembling a chair still takes skill, but your work table is not overwhelmed with a massive project. You can focus on finesse and accuracy as opposed to fastening together a larger, complicated endeavor.

Don't get me wrong, chairs are still complicated enough that they pose their own challenges and variances, depending on style, but because chairs are regularly ordered, efficiency in production naturally becomes more streamlined and the work becomes more meditative and fun, rather than the common feeling of difficult drudgery often associated with the "oh shit, I have chairs" realization experienced by some, or the uncertainty and dread that come with a freshly-conceived custom project (which always results in mistakes, hang-ups, and/or design-issues).

So yah. What makes this more intriguing on my end is that my small shop in the back yard is capable of producing chairs regularly. At present, I can do some of the work there, but the addition of some other tools is required for start-to-finish production: a 4-inch orbital sander, disc grinder, a better (contractor grade) table saw, band saw, and eventually a Festool Domino joiner not to mention a dust collection system.

My mini-barn also requires some re-arrangement as well. New old windows will make their way to the South facing wall, under which will go the hand-tool bench that is half-complete. Next summer, I an outside canopy/overhang on the front of the building will hopefully appear, which will allow me to work outside in the shade. Other ideas include elevated lumber racks in what was the goat area and lining the interior walls with antique pine for a more woodsman feel.

Expanding out the back of the existing shop remains a long-term possibility, but it may not actually be necessary. As it is, I have enough projects to keep me busy.

Over & Out,


Friday, November 02, 2012

A Scatterbrained Look at MMA

I have been reviewing cage fights in my down time of late, mostly UFC-type stuff.

As I have been re-evaluating my martial path, looking at how other warriors train and fight has become of interest. I remember when UFC first started and was only on pay-per-view. I ended up seeing a lot of those fights, and one of my high school classmates, Stephen Bonner, is now a UFC ring fighter.

Anyway, after 20 years of thought and interest in the martial arts 7 years of hard-core training, here are my observations.

MMA is typically great if you want to go fight in a ring and prove you can kick ass against other people who want to prove the same thing. I am not interested in that. I am more interested in a martial way with practical street value.

The biggest asset of MMA training is first conditioning. You become prepared to go round after round, endure punishment and dish it out. Your body becomes weaponized and tough. Technique follows. And after about 6 months of training, you have someone who can at least handle themselves in a brawl, fight, or possibly a mugging.

I am a boring person in that respect and am rarely in brawls or fights. Mostly because I know where not to walk. This is called awareness and it is an integral part of following a martial path. I am not aware if MMA students are taught to practice martial awareness unless they have learned it elsewhere first, but this is the most valuable asset in my martial tool bag. Street awareness and being able to sense the signs of trouble before it comes. This, more than anything, has saved me from having to do battle or from bad things happening to myself and others.

Techniques and martial ability are next. These are what you use when you have no choice or the best option is to duke it out. MMA is good in this regard because the student, particularly the dedicated one, has a large tool bag of techniques. In and out of the ring, basic American boxing and the kicks of Muay Thai are, in my opinion, some very effective means of destruction. Combined with some basic techniques from wrestling and you have a strong, competent fighter.

I speak as a karate-ka and aikido-ka. I love those arts and will always practice them in some respect, but I can say without a doubt that the addition of American boxing and arts outside my core makes my personal skills so much stronger and gives me another answer to a potential problem or situation.

Finally, I would add Judo as a strong path to strengthening fighting ability. Judo is sweet, but needs strikes to make it viable. If one is fortunate to find training in an aiki-jitsu-ish art, such as daito-ryu, that would be the cat's pajamas in my opinion.

Anyway, these are my scatterbrained thoughts on MMA. It's good training as far as it goes. I think the well-rounded fighter needs to steep themselves to some degree in an MMA environment, and also because that that's the martial arts being promulgated in our present day. That's the type of trained fighter your are likely to face. But at some point, one needs to train for living, and that's where I think going back to the traditional (I like the Japanese) arts, where a formalized martial path is evident, has its strength.

Over and Out,