Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Tool Marks

with 4 comments

I’ve reached the phase of my latest wood sculpting project where I’m happy with the shape and am ready to sand it smooth, but that goal is hampered by the straggling tool marks that remain. Each time I move to a finer grit of sandpaper, the next level of imperfections become apparent.









I used a grinder to rough out the shape and then some rasping with a metal file to refine it before switching to hand sanding. Inevitably, there ends up being one bothersome spot where the previous tools went a hair deeper than anywhere else. That spot pretty much ends up defining the point of completion.

At least, in that spot with that grit of sandpaper.

Usually, as I move to the next finer grit, several new scuffs appear. Rinse, repeat.

It’s very meditative for my brain, despite becoming a bit of a burden on my aging arthritic grip.

If I don’t have a bright sunny day to illuminate the finest detail, I resort to a headlamp. Otherwise, it looks just fine the way it is to my old eyes.

The prefectionist in me would never settle for that.

While working to clear snow off the roof a few weeks ago, I resorted to repeatedly telling myself that perfect is the enemy of good enough. Any snow removed was better than none at all.

When it comes to a polished wood sculpture, my feelings are just the opposite. I can’t quit until tool marks are gone. At least, on the primary features, anyway. I grant myself some leeway where my design transitions from the rough unfinished bark to the smoothly shaped and polished wood grains.

I have the advantage of not being faced with time constraints in my sculpting projects. That makes all the difference, allowing me to work as fast or slow as I choose to reach the end result I seek, infusing love into the piece all the while.



Written by johnwhays

February 16, 2021 at 7:00 am

4 Responses

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  1. I remember when I learnt French polishing as a child, that you’d dampen the wood between sessions to make the grain rise and more accessible to the next round of sanding. I don’t know if this helps your process in anyway, but just wanted you to know that I am following along. Of course, you are right about the destructive side of perfectionism. In some religions they see that as the realm of the Divine, and will purposely add an imperfection as a sign of reverence and humility in the face of the Almighty. All to say, that you can get pretty close to perfection:-)

    Ian Rowcliffe

    February 16, 2021 at 7:26 am

    • Complete agreement on dampening the wood. I commented to Cyndie that our extreme weather was drying the piece and opening the cracks. She came up with a container and wetted sponge to create a humidor for storage between working sessions.


      February 16, 2021 at 7:35 am

      • If you consider Fresh polishing the final piece, I may have a few more tips:-) That said, you may not wish for such a perfect finish:-) Imperfections are the real form of perfection, paradoxically.

        Ian Rowcliffe

        February 16, 2021 at 10:06 am

      • Honestly, my level of perfection actually includes a fair amount of imperfection, so we are in agreement!


        February 16, 2021 at 8:08 pm

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