Comments 6

Woodworking, Cussing and Nick Saban

So here is a topic for discussion: “Why do I cuss while woodworking?” I hate to admit it, but I sometimes get frustrated while woodworking and the cussing can begin.

An example would be the time I was doing a complex glue-up where multiple pieces of wood needed to meet up just right and I’m using sort of expensive mahogany. Not only that, I had spent a lot of time at this point preparing the various parts. A lot of time and money was at stake.

I have learned that yellow wood glue can begin to set up quickly. After spreading glue, and getting most all the boards seated in their mating joints, I went to pull everything tight with pipe clamps and one joint just would not close right. Wouldn’t do it. The glue in this last joint had already begun to set-up, but the boards were not aligned correctly. So I cranked the pipe clamps tighter. Still no movement. Then the cussing started. This was the style of cussing similar to the famous example provided by Darren McGavin in the movie A Christmas Story

I did finally get the joint closed correctly and to this day the table shows no ill effects of poor joinery or bold cussing (the 12/17/10 blog entry for this example is here, it is sort of a funny read).

That was 11 years ago and unfortunately cussing continues to be part of my woodworking. Charles Neil once said, “Sometimes the creative process requires foul language.” A humorous quote, but letting my emotions get the better of me is something I’m not proud of. Sometimes I’ll walk upstairs after a woodworking session and my wife will ask, “How did it go?” My reply: “Great, I did not even cuss.” But at other times, I’ll hope nobody heard what transpired in my basement workshop.

My wife and I are graduates of the University of Alabama. We began dating there. It was a time when Paul “Bear” Bryant was having great success in football. My daughter also graduated from Alabama. During the four years she was an undergraduate, Nick Saban won three national championships; a great time to be at Alabama. I try to watch just about every Nick Saban video I can because his principles can apply not just to sports, but also to business and life in general. Saban is also famous for his explosive anger which often includes cussing. You can even read his lips sometimes and think WOW! I was watching this video today…

In the video Hally Leadbetter asks Saban about emotions related to coaching football and playing golf. Saban talks about the stress, tension and high expectations for success as a coach. Then anger. In golf, he says such things are not worth the anger because the stress isn’t there. But I could not help thinking of similarities between Saban’s anger and my own woodworking.

I’m writing this blog entry because I think other woodworkers get frustrated just as I do. When I begin a session in my workshop, I usually set goals. My woodworking time is limited these days and a significant mistake is usually a much, much bigger set-back. I need things to go well and dumb mistakes especially frustrate me. In these instances maybe I just need to take a break. Maybe I should take up golf.

So, just a thought provoking blog post I hope. Woodworking should be something I enjoy – all the time; even when things start to go sideways. Another quote, this one from Henry Lincoln Wayland: “Show us a man who never makes a mistake and we will show a man who never makes anything.” Mistakes will happen and I need to do better dealing with them.

On a side note: I did get my pneumatic brad nailer as a result of woodworking cussing. I was having a terrible time adding spindles to my foyer staircase when I hit my thumb with a hammer and the nail goes flying off into space never to be found. Just as Darren McGavin, I wove a tapestry of obscenity which my wife heard (and my young daugher). She says, “What is going on?” Me: “I need a brad nailer!!!” Her: “well why don’t you buy one?” Which I immediately did.

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During the week, I work in the flooring industry. Weekends, you'll find me in my basement workshop making furniture.


  1. Generally I don’t cussing out loud during woodworking until I start banging my hands with tools or start bleeding on things. Silent cussing at mistakes is a constant in my brain.

  2. I too cuss when the expected unexpected thing happens. I don’t think that part will ever change but my desire is to not use the Lord’s name in vane. I just need to change the vocabulary and not direct it where it’s not warranted. I can change, pretty soon I’ll be saying “Oh Fudgsicle” or “How Fascinating?” when the inevitable happens.

    • I don’t use the Lord’s name in vane as well. Maybe I could just learn to smile when something frustrating happens? We will see.

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