I just did a podcast episode (did you know that I have a daily podcast called Emmet Audio? In many ways it's a good companion to this blog) of the same name in which I talk about pacing myself in the work on the tree farm that we have and that has just started, but I thought I'd take a moment to discuss pacing yourself with spoon carving, because there is no substitute for correctly pacing yourself so that you don't create a chronic injury.
Pacing yourself carving happens at two levels. On the macro level, it means building up to carving for hours at a time. Our bodies are capable of stupid levels of exertion for brief periods, and are generally happy to do something to the point of aggravation or injury before they signal to us that we should stop. There is a time lag between doing the thing and the infammation or tightness that incapacitates us. So it is up to us to use our brains to stop ourselves short of this point.
This is a decision born of experience, and in general more caution than most of us show would be a good thing. Carve for a little bit and then stop. See how you feel the next day. Carve for longer the next time. Don't let yourself carve 3, 4 hours until you are sure you know what that will do to you.
On the micro level, pacing is actually about speed. The faster you carve, the softer the wood will be because it won't have air hardened. Moving a spoon along from rough to refined in a timely way will dramatically reduce the wear and tear on your body because the whole thing will happen with softer wood. Obviously, there are things you can do in terms of selecting good wood and bagging up your work in process that can help, but all things being equal, a fast carve is always easier on your body than a slow one.
Chew on that paradox for awhile.
My blog has evolved into a series of short essays on the nature of entrepreneurship, craftsmanship, and their overlap. If either of these topics is something you think about, you will probably like this.