The search for perfection

If anyone has seen me in the last 2 years, they know that I do some woodwork. It doesn’t mean I am good at it. It means that I am very happy when two pieces of wood that I shaped actually fit together. That’s my claim to fame in wood work. I like the patience it takes. I like the rough wood I have to plane, to cut, to rout, to understand. I like the process of seeing something slowly coming to completion. It’s a desk with curvy legs, it’s an end table with ornate drawers, it’s a jewelry box with mitered corners.

When I first started, we had just bought a place with my wife. A bit shy and reserved, I proceeded to empty our budget to get some tools and supplies and allocated myself the garage for my workshop. I was still timid. My wife fought valiantly against the winds of creation that were assailing me. But to no results. I wanted to build something. Besides, I tried to reason with her: “We have a house and it needs to be furnished, wouldn’t you like a desk custom for your home office?” I argued.

I think what made her give up was that my mum, whom every one respect, told her: “Look, I know it’s scary at the beginning, but let him do what he wants, it won’t be just a little thing, it will produce results and you can ride that train.”

My wife took her soothing words to heart and gave me a laundry list of things I was going to do (I am still working on it, by the way). From cutting boards to game boxes, from clothes chest to a bed for my son, she went through every room and put items to the list. Also, that goes without saying, every Christmas, every birthday, she relays to me what friends and family want from my work shop. My point, is, she’s not getting a bad deal.

Where is music fitting in all that?


When I get a beginner drum student, we usually start with rock. During her first lesson, she will be able to do a basic rock beat. It might be wobbly and unstable, but, at least, it can be recognized as something vaguely resembling what she hears on the radio.

Should she continue to study the drums (And she definitely should!), she will become intermediate and then, eventually advanced.

Once she’s gain more expertise, the new exercise I give her, whatever that may be, will need to be much better than just wobbly and uncertain in order for her to be satisfied with her effort. She might spend 5 hours polishing up the new pattern, listening to all the little imperfections, the minor problems and trying to solve them.

Well, I do the same now in wood work. I used to make a box in an afternoon. It now takes me 3 days. And I am working like a dog at it. I pay attention to so much more details. I sweat the small stuff. I always question my measurements, my concept, my results. I sand the pieces much more than ever before. I resolve the little crack. Everything has to be stronger, more natural, more flowing, more precise. I drive myself crazy. I am trying to grab the Holy Grail of simple furniture making, and it is not easy.

It is the same thing in music. I play a song, even if the pattern is simple, I question everything. It is the same obsession, the same madness as in my wood work. And one would think that my ever going quest in music would have made me wiser in other activities. Not at all. I am still the same dummy. Never happy, and yet, so proud of making the effort, of caring. Because, that’s the only thing that truly counts: caring for your work, making it worth it.