Hacking away


IT’S A SUNNY Sunday morn here at the humble manse, the coffee’s on and all’s well in the world.

The bride got home from Maine yesterday. She’s been up there four times in the last five weeks, to care for her mom. Meanwhile, I’m here hacking away, on words and trees alike.

I hope to live long enough to publish my novel but I’ve learned that getting 140,000 words down on paper is really just the start of the work. Chores keep taking me away from it, too, so I can’t say I’ve really focused yet.

The little girl’s feet hit the ground running when you set her down, so I’m building a gate across the front of the driveway. Our street is lightly traveled but we’re going to keep her out of the road all the same.

The unheated summer shop at John Ross’s. That’s where the mortise machine lives, so when I want to drill square holes in the winter it’s the summer shop for me. No mosquitoes this time of year, so that’s good.


I made up the tenons in the backyard yesterday, 22 tenons. That’s for three gates I’m building, not just the driveway gate. The other two will provide a second access point into the backyard.

As you can see, the snow pretty much disappeared this week. Yesterday was in the low 40s. Nice working weather.


These other bits had their turn on the sawhorse before the rain started in the afternoon. On some you can see the kerfs I cut to mark the width of the tenons. The waste knocks out fast with a chisel and a mallet.


I’m still sawing up that big oak in the backyard. This is maybe two weeks ago.


This week I split the last two wheels I sawed off the trunk. They have to be moved out of the way before I can saw off a few more. They’re 4 feet in diameter, far too heavy to move by hand.


I knock them into smaller chunks, easier to manage.  Will split them into stove wood at a later date.


Here’s the winter shop at John’s, in the boiler room in the basement, and here’s highbrow woodworking as opposed to the backyard sort. This is Larry Stanley building a four-poster bed out of walnut. A few months ago we roughed out the blanks on a commercial bandsaw in a shop at Brown University, where Larry teaches writing.

This was a week ago today. The winter shop is our regular Sunday afternoon spot for mixing sharp tools with alcohol and bringing our bons mots to bear on the world’s problems. I’ll be there today, too, I’m sure. The sun’s out, road’s dry, good day to saddle up the iron piggy and go for a blast down the highway.


Larry comes from a long line of Maine boat builders and cabinet makers, and is maybe the first one to get his doctorate at Oxford and master the art of French polish to boot. I should post a few pics of his finished pieces. He builds heirloom-quality furniture from antique drawings, with the hand tools they used way back when: planes, drawknives, chisels, scrapers…


Larry’s the best-read person you’ll ever meet, so he knows writing. He wants my book to be literature and not just a yarn, so… he’s after me about that.


I’m supposed to start finding the real shape of it. Pare it, cut it, saw it, scrape it…


The real stuff is in there somewhere…


Keep scraping away until your fingers bleed…


The good thing about Larry, he won’t give you his opinion about a piece of writing, he’ll give you an analysis based on what all the great writers and theorists had to say about the art of fiction. Which is to say he’ll hand you your ass on a platter, as neatly carved as a Christmas roast.

Okay, well, got 140,000 words down on paper, now all I need to do is figure out what I’m doing.

Tony DePaul, March 26, 2017, Cranston, Rhode Island, USA


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