John McBride

Mar 142017

RULE 1 – Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff

Don’t sweat the small stuff. I have heard this saying over and over throughout my life. It always made a kind of sense to me, but had never become real to me until I stitched it together with the next two “Rules” .

Not sweating the small stuff could be taken as a polar opposite to what constitutes craftsmanship. The taking of the time and the effort to “sweat the details”. This is NOT how I choose to use the phrase here. I insist that a craftsman deliver their own, best effort, at all times and in all their projects. No corner cutting.

Rather, by embracing rule 1, it sets the stage for a woodworker to free themselves from fear. What I mean here is that in woodworking, and in life too for that matter, Fear is often times the major stumbling block to those good and satisfying things we wish to have in our lives. Fear is a barrier to attaining what we want in our heart, to accomplish.

Fear of failing, fear of embarrassment, fear of not measuring up to our peers. There seems to be no end to the number of things that we as people, let alone craftspersons, can convince ourselves to be afraid of.

By adopting a philosophy of “not sweating the small stuff”, we open ourselves to possibility.

Sure, all those things we convince ourselves to be afraid of don’t just go away. The chance that we might fail or be embarrassed surely do exist and may indeed come to pass.

The difference is, if we adhere to these three rules, and do so with genuine and honest effort, we can reach a place of Madcap Nirvana. That is to say, we just don’t care if we fail, we just don’t care if we do something embarrassing. We embrace the failure, we embrace the embarrassment.

A key element of Madcap Nirvana is redefining failure or embarrassment or other negative, fear driven outcome, as an outcome other than what we initially had hoped for. In embracing the possibility of outcomes other than what we initially had hoped for, we open ourselves to what is, rather than what should be.

Taking this a step further, it is in the acceptance and willingness to embrace what is, over what should be, that we can find avenues of creativity and discovery that would otherwise have been unavailable to us were we to remain fixed in the focus of what should be. Learning to operate in acceptance of what is creates an environment that allows the artisan savor each moment in the creative process fearlessly.

RULE 2 – It’s ALL Small Stuff

It’s all small stuff, and I can prove it…If you woke this morning, were able to open your eyes, see the dawn, wiggle your toes, stretch, feel the sun on your face, smell the lilac, walk to the kitchen and make fresh coffee… those things, are BIG STUFF.

Everything, and I want to emphasize this, EVERYTHING else is small stuff. The rest of your day is icing on the cake. Just realizing that having the ability to do those things I mentioned above, is reason enough to take the rest of the day as something to be grateful for, enjoy, and hypothetically would make the rest of the day something of a vacation day.

That is in spite of having to go to a job we dislike, or having to interact with people that leave us with a bitter taste in our mouth. We are ALIVE, and…and this is another big one… we are alive and have the ability to go out to our shop and make shavings or make sawdust.

What an amazing gift that is!

So if those dovetail joints don’t fit just right, or that board is not as square as you had hoped it would be….so what? So what if it looks like a failure?

It isn’t.

It’s a demonstration of effort. It is a celebration of our ability to take advantage of having opposable thumbs. It’s an example of a creative soul attempting something different. That alone makes the attempt worthy and worth doing. Everything else, just as in the example above, is gravy.


This rule sounds almost flippant, or as something said as a joke or tag line, but is actually the most important rule of the three.

I try every day to remember not to sweat the small stuff. I try every day to remember that it is ALL small stuff.

Am I successful? Sometimes yes…and…sometimes no…and that’s just fine.

Sometimes I forget that it is amazing that I woke up in the morning. Sometimes I forget to wiggle my toes. Sometimes I forget that each day is remarkable simply because I am alive to experience it. It’s natural. It is part of the human experience to live some days with less than monastic meditation and gratitude each and every moment.

However, on those days when I remember rules 1 and 2, I find that I enjoy, even the smallest victory, more vividly. I find that things seem to flow more smoothly. In those times when the inevitable mistakes are made, I try to remember to embrace them, and look for the lesson in them. Or look for the discovery in them. Or look for the creative method to manage, or even fix the mistake. If i’m faithful in this, I nearly always find what I am looking for.

Remembering these rules has absolutely changed the way I experience the world. I would be willing to wager that it may be a game changer for others as well.

I would say this though, take the three rules and make them uniquely your own. Don’t take my word for it. It is through the prism of an individual’s experience that these rules should be applied. Apply them to your own experience in a way that makes the “rules” yours.

Or not.

I submit them as an example of my own experience, and fodder for contemplation and consideration, not as gospel. It would be presumptuous of me to make the assumption that these three rules are universally applicable. They may very well not be. They are truth in my own experience of life, and it is my hope that they are in someone else’s as well.

John McBride is a professional woodwright, blogger, and writer, living and working joyfully and with abandon in Denver, Colorado.

Jan 272017

John McBride is a self-described hopeless addict when it comes to vintage woodworking equipment, hand tools, and building workbenches. Already well-versed in European style workbenches after building two and working on several others, John discovered Chris Schwarz and launched the build of his “Madcap Roubo”.

Follow John’s journey in this build series – click here to read part 1 of The Madcap Woodwright’s’Roubo Build with a Twist’

Jan 052017

Happy New Year to everybody reading this. I don’t know about you, but 2016 was a mish mash of wonderful, and downright discouraging. I am very ready for 2017.

Each New Year, I am faced with the challenge of making resolutions or not. Normally, I choose not to. I have felt that they seem to be a recipe for disappointment and, at least in my case, are quickly forgotten.

This year however, I am inspired both by my fellow contributors here, and by the hopeful promise that 2017 seems to hold. So, what the hell, here are my resolutions for 2017. It will be interesting to see if I can tick all these boxes.

1) Get myself published. – In a way, this is already happening. After more than a year of submitting endless queries, often not even getting a “Thanks, but no thanks” for my trouble, it seems I may have found a place to broadcast my ramblings and to the world…..stay tuned.

2) Finish the Holtzapffel / Roubo build – Also happening. In fact, this is less a resolution, and more a “GOTTA GET THIS DONE” sort of thing. You see, my shop is small, VERY small, like….one car garage small. What this means is that I am restricted to working a project of this size and complexity out start to finish without interruption. There is no “set it aside to work on later” in my shop. It is up close and personal until it is finished.

3) Sharpen every blade. This may seem trite. However, I have been remiss in my sharpening duties, and need to take care of this sooner than later. It is a little embarrassing to admit to here, but I have been a bit of a lazy pillock in this regard.

4) Prototype development – Another area that I have been dragging my heels. I have become a little lazy in my sketching and actual fabrication of furniture designs. It is critical that I get some lumber into my shop, and begin sorting out build methods and operations for some, more conceptually developed designs, and to get pencil to paper to work out some newer ideas I have floating around in my head.

5) Become much more active in my local community/artisan community – This is something that requires some investigation and sleuthing skills. Where I live in Denver, the artisan community is there, if you know where to look. So far, efforts to discover any kind of organized entities like guilds or associations, have been a little disappointing. Still, I find the slowly reviving artisan/maker/craftsperson community to be a siren song that is irresistible and something I would love to be more involved with.

There you have it. Five very doable resolutions. This will give me plenty to chew on over the next year, and I reserve the right to be flakey about any of these at any time.

Here is to wishing everyone a very happy 2017. May it be prosperous and full of new discoveries.

John McBride is a professional woodwright, blogger, and writer, living and working joyfully and with abandon in Denver, Colorado.