Tag Archives: leadership

Woodworker for President?

What qualities might a woodworker like to see in a candidate for president, the leader of our country?

  • Woodturners like to work with green wood.  Green wood is easy to work on the lathe… however, it will probably sling water at your face shield.  It also tends to change shape and crack as it  ages, usually over a term of one year.  We are generally impressed by its figure in the beginning but as the cracks form along the grain of this figure we are disappointed. So maybe we don’t want a green wood candidate for president.
  • Some woodturners and many general woodworkers like seasoned, kiln-dried wood.  This wood is about 8-9 percent moisture, very stable but more difficult to work. When you work it, it produces more dust, requiring you to wear a respirator to protect your lungs. This wood has been around for awhile and may surprise you as you cut it, to find some history buried in the fibers, that cause the wood to spring into a different shape. More experienced woodworkers may prefer air-dried wood. This wood seems to be easier to work, like green wood, but is more stable. So maybe we might like a president who is more like air-dried wood.
  • There are many ways we can join pieces of lumber  into some useful implement: loose tenons, mortise and tenon, glue and screw, glue and nail, pocket hole techniques, etc.  Some of these techniques are quick to solve the problem of joining two dissimilar shapes of wood, but the connections are weak and will not stand the test of time. Some are strong and will provide an heirloom-quality connection.  We need a president who can form strong, lasting commitments to bonding dissimilar people and ideals.
  • Woodworkers like to have a variety of tools in their arsenals: hand tools, power tools, computerized tools.  The trick is to select the right tool for the right job. Are we looking for accuracy, speed, portability or maybe some special quality or texture?  It isn’t necessarily how many tools we have, but do we have the right tools for us? Will some of these tools be able to take our mediocre ability to a new level? Can these tools be trusted to come up to full capability quickly?  Will the accuracy of these tools always be there when we need it?  Will we end up spending dollar after dollar to keep these tools operational and will we get a good cost-to-benefit ratio over the life of our tools? Are the tools designed to be forward-compatible as the tool technology changes? In other words, will the battery we buy with the tool today work with the tool we buy tomorrow? We need a president who will select advisors, cabinet members and agency heads that provide the same qualities as a good arsenal of tools; a president who looks for the best tool to do the job and is not afraid of getting rid of a tool that has outlived its usefulness.

Providing Oversight for a Safe Environment

  • Woodworkers have to deal with issues today that our forefathers and mothers didn’t directly deal with in the past, such as lack of common sense and being focused on our work flow. Woodworkers in the past had accidents, no question, but they also had a focus and method of workflow that kept them relatively safe.

The tools we work with today run at high speeds, and in many cases they produce harmful higher-frequency noises. We can now hold machines in our hands that have cutting surfaces spinning at thousands of rpms.  We turn large pieces of wood on lathes at thousands of rpms. We find that in this world of noise, speed, portability, dust, fumes, VOC’s, and flying wood particles that, like the OSHA cowboy, we can hardly get to our tools for all the safety devices we wear! Only kidding, I’m a strong proponent of safety devices, the right ones for the right applications. [See our blog on lathe safety.]  Is the respirator we are using suitable for the size of dust particles we are exposed to, or for the fumes or type of VOC’s produced?  Is our hearing protection suitable for the sound pressure levels produced at the frequency involved? Too much of the wrong hearing protection, and we may lose the ability to realize changes in our work environment that might give us insight to how our board is reacting to our cutting machine. Is our face shield rated to some safety standard and is that rating suitable for the job? A set of safety glasses won’t necessarily protect your eyes from an acetone splash occurrence.  Gas- or liquid-tight googles won’t protect you from a three pound chunk of wood flying off the lathe at 2500 rpms.

  • Safety is extremely important to the woodworker. A president of a leading power in the world has the responsibility to provide the correct level of safety for the homeland.  The homeland needs to be constantly informed on what tools our administration needs to use to provide this safety. The tools must be specific to the danger and proportional in cost and application for the danger.  We need to use our fantastic network of news and social media to inform the homeland on the basics of these without giving away the farm. Though we may be the leading power in the world, it’s a relatively small world, one to which our president has further responsibilities regarding safety and oversight. This is an awesome task for any one person or even a group of experts, and certainly should not be delegated to a group of political cronies .  The president of our great nation should take on leadership in the world. 

Commitment rather than Compliance

But a leader is not a boss.  I learned this from a very strong leader of a major corporation.

The boss drives his men; the leader coaches them.

The boss depends on authority; the leader on good will.

The boss inspires fear;  the leader inspires enthusiasm.

The boss says “I;” the leader says “we”.

The boss assigns the tasks; the leader sets the pace.

The boss says “Get here on time;” the leader gets there ahead of time.

The boss knows how it is done; the leader shows how.

The boss makes work a drudgery; the leader makes it a game.

The boss says “go;” the leader says “let’s go”.

The world needs leaders but nobody wants a boss.

The difference between a boss and a leader is that the boss gets compliance, the leader gets commitment.  If you want commitment rather than compliance, you have to earn it and you have to keep earning it every day!

Keeping an Eye on the Economy

Woodworkers must try to be cost-conscious in their tasks. Wow, that is a stretch. Given enough resources in the form of currency, we probably would blow most of these resources on tools. But a perfect woodworker would only buy the tools needed to accomplish the day-to-day projects and would only purchase the quality of wood needed for the project. This woodworker would plan out a cut list to minimize waste, maybe even look ahead to see how the waste wood for one project would fit into the cut list of a future project. But let us not forget where this money comes from.  As an economist would say, “there is no free lunch!” Someone has worked, provided a service, invested, taken risk, or borrowed to get this resource.  The question for the woodworker becomes one of understanding the margin. What opportunity is the woodworker giving up to take this money to buy this tool or wood? What is the return, the sale of the woodworking effort, or a grin on a grandchild’s face?

Woodworkers are concerned about our natural resources, especially wood.  We see projects to use pallet wood for a multitude of applications. We see woodworkers concerned about sustainability of the wood we use. 

 I found the concept of “urban forestry” a useful concept in solving a problem resulting from 21st century applications of sustainable energy. In a few words, I took advantage of a tax credit (supported by you taxpayers) and a feed-in-tariff contract from my local utility (paid for by the other utility customers) to install a photovoltaic system completely manufactured overseas except for the aluminum supports. Remember, “there is no free lunch.” If it hadn’t been for a desire to investigate this method of producing power, I couldn’t have considered this very ethical.  So what has this do with woodworking?  This environmentally-friendly solar system would only work at full capacity if several mature trees in my back yard were cut down.  I called a couple of local tree surgeons and found two companies that could work together to cut down the trees, process them into usable lumber and sticker and stack the lumber in my back yard for air drying. So I now have a stock of wood that I can will to my grandchildren.

Conservation of our Resources

  • What value should our president put on sustainability? What can we do to encourage good use of our natural resources, such as energy, air and water?  In my engineering experience, I have found that there are not many technological solutions to our problems with sustainability that are sustainable. This may sound trite, but the only tried and true solution is conservation.  This requires education at all levels of income and a change in our basic culture.  This will not be an easy task. A president must be able to value the complex relationships involved in sustainability, and communicate that technology throughout the globe. It is not easy to see how a butterfly flapping its wings in the Butterfly Museum can result in a tsunami on the other side of the world.

As a case in point, you can argue until you are blue in the face that carbon dioxide emissions are not causing global change. Who can argue that taking carbon buried in the ground for millions of years wouldn’t have some effect when reacted with the oxygen in our air?  Water vapor is a global warming vapor and we put zillions of gallons of this into the air every day.  A paradox…power plants evaporate gallons of water every minute to reject heat from burning fossil fuels that produce carbon dioxide. Conservation affects both effects.

Woodworkers certainly don’t have to deal with the complexity of the problems facing our president every day but 300 million plus American patriots, including woodworkers, should respond to educated and sincere leadership.

Working with Defective and Destructive Elements

Every once in a while, defective wood finds its way into a woodworker’s shop. One type of defect in wood is a knot. There are knots that are loose and some that are firmly entrenched in the lumber. Woodworkers can generally see the knot as an enhancement to the project if it can be stabilized and used as an accent in the finished project. But when a loose knot finds its way across the workshop border, it presents a unique challenge. The woodworker may be able to isolate the knot from the rest of the lumber and then use epoxy to lock it in place. However, this may challenge the woodworker’s finishing process and may be a distraction to completing an heirloom piece of work. Another defect that finds it way into the shop is spaulted wood. This is wood on the way to becoming pulpy and rotten.  However, if the woodworker can stabilize the spaulting, it may add diversity and beauty to the final project.  This figure of controlled decay can ultimately enhance the overall project.

Focusing on the Big Picture and Long Lasting Results

  • A president must be able to provide leadership by understanding when an element may create an unstabilizing condition within what might be considered “the norm” in the global humanity. Can this element be stabilized, can it be integrated or must it be removed and discarded? What will be the butterfly effect if this element is isolated or destroyed? How does the global community support a president’s leadership in dealing with controlling these unstabilizing elements? A president must be able to comprehend the big picture, not an easy job for any human being.
  • Some woodworkers strive to create a legacy with every piece of work… an heirloom.  This work may end up in a museum, or it may be illustrated in many books. But a multitude of woodworkers are merely striving to make a functional work that can be used and enjoyed. It may end up eventually in a museum, but only because it withstood the test of time and showed the scars of everyday use.  A president should focus on leadership that produces long lasting results… results that withstand the test of time.
from your friendly neighborhood political pundits (photo taken at Oasis, St Augustine Beach FL