A Cutting Edge

Most of the time I’ve heard this term used it has been to denote a new phase in the work to be done. I am taking on a new project or trying a new technique. When I was at the beginning of my woodworking life, the idea of a cutting edge was beyond me. I was just trying to survive.

As I’ve gone along, however, I’ve begun to see that a cutting edge refers to a new set of problems or challenges. It is clear to me that I am never away from this situation. Every morning I contend with it in my shop. Every operation is fraught with the unexpected.

I’ve been watching a Netflix documentary of World War II in color. While I watched the landing on D-Day, the narrator detailed the hours and hours put in on the planning and preparing for the actual landing. I have read a lot about this particular segment of World War II, and what is held out most emphatically is the way weather and the sheer inability of the combatants successfully to predict the reaction of the other side. Parachutists were dropped into France behind the German front lines in Normandy. Because of the weather, they didn’t know where they were. The joke was that the Allies knew what was going on, but not where they were while the Germans knew where they were, but not what was going on.

That’s the experience we all have when we start working in our shop. There are so many imponderables. We are all on the cutting edge. What’s more, when we first start in woodworking, the cutting edge is all we have. In other words, we’ve all been there.

My contention is that one of the prime inclinations we must have to be successful woodworkers is to be problem solvers. On top of that, we can’t pick our challenges. They simply fall upon us. We are on the cutting edge.