Shop Day

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Let’s talk about my first day in the shop. Where the rubber met the road. Where the wood met the saw. It was a big day for me– I had stayed up late the night before, finishing a step by step plan on everything I needed to do. At $100/day for shop time, it would be painful to waste any time. Plus, I was excited to blast through this and get to enjoy the final product. I directed my energy to planning every aspect of the shop day. All the cuts were calculated and written down, each assembly step and test step noted precisely, all the supplies and materials listed. It was going to all go off smoothly, right? I’d be ready to have a speaker listening party the next weekend, I was sure.

So I showed up at the shop with a Home Depot rental truck loaded up with big sheets of wood and other supplies. I found John and got unloaded. I walked him through my plans and drawings. He’d ask a question at some points and then nod at others. Then he just said straight up that he didn’t think it was going to work. The ground fell out beneath me and I couldn’t believe what he said. I started feeling indignant. How did he know? He’s never built something like this before. People had used this same technique before and it worked for them. I’m glad I just shut up and listened though.

John’s counter-proposal was that instead of bending big sheets of wood along the curve, we would cut long, square wooden sticks and line them up vertically along the curve, like a curved fence. I imagined all the gaps in between the wood sticks and cringed at the potential of sound leaking out through them. I felt sure he was missing this key point but he was making other good points about the sheets of wood I was trying to bend. They were just too floppy and even if we clamped it down with straps to bend, there would be places in between the straps where the wood would bow out again. Those guys on the internet seemed to make it work, but the curves they were bending weren’t as tight as mine. Plus maybe they did have imperfections that just didn’t show up in the photos. My plans were starting to unravel.

I still remember exactly where I was in the shop as my head tried to make sense of what to do next. My stomach clenched and my thoughts felt clumsy and detached. It was so hard to abandon the plan that I’d meticulously put together, but it was starting to seem foolish in the light of John’s expertise. He’d spent his whole life woodworking but did he have any expertise with sound? How could I have confidence that these wouldn’t be musical sieves? Was it worth abandoning a plan that people on the net made seem simple and successful?

Finally, I figured out we could fill the gaps between the sticks with Bondo (autobody repair putty) to prevent the sound energy from leaking out. I didn’t know how much it would help. It wouldn’t be as good as solid wood because of the inevitable gaps where the Bondo didn’t reach but would that really matter? Would the tiny gaps filled with air cause some kind of vibration? I wish I understood physics a lot more but I figured this was worth a shot.

So I agreed with his approach and we scrapped my plan. Part of me reeled as those words came out of my mouth but after that moment, it was too late.

Thankfully we didn’t have to abandon the whole plan. The construction of the frame that the sticks would attach to was the same and so I had all those steps lined out. I was glad to start out on something more straightforward and John helped me get familiar with the tools and procedures I’d need to use.

We started out cutting the large pieces necessary for the fronts of the speakers and for the subwoofer (almost forgot about that, right?). He was trying to explain the difference between different types of cuts on the saw and showing me the right techniques but it just wasn’t soaking in. I think a combination of lack of sleep and stress from the plans getting scrapped had rendered me dumb. Thankfully he was patient and made most of the cuts himself. This is all part of the other service he offers– his mentorship.

To riff on that a bit– the hands-on mentorship approach is what makes his shop, IsGoodWoodworks, unique and what kept my project on the rails. From his re-write of my flawed design, to his patient instruction of tool usage and all the little tricks he showed me along the way– his mentorship was invaluable to this project. I had his lifetime of experience at my service and I probably wouldn’t have turned out much without it. Thank you, John!

So I came to appreciate his mentorship pretty quickly that first day. We didn’t end up making it very far, but I did leave feeling like I was in good hands. Which was great because the project had more twists and turns to throw our way. This design hadn’t ever been done before and there were unseen problems lurking down the road. More next time!

Written by admin

June 10th, 2015 at 10:47 pm

Posted in Speaker Project