The Healing Journey Project

Renewal and Transformation Through Kung Fu

Progress Journal

Bonds and Stains

Posted by Robert Bibeau on August 8, 2011 at 1:25 AM

As mentioned in a recent post, I have been doing a lot of woodworking.  My teacher and I have decided to start building various training equipment to enhance our Kung Fu and our school in general.  I have obiviously welcomed this opportunity as it combines two of my favorite activities... carpentry and Kung Fu.  A recent project, which we are calling Chan Heung 1 (named after the founder of Choy Lay Fut) is a Ching Jong.  Known is english as a "Balance Dummy."  It is ultimately the first real attempt at a Kung Fu training product that I have built and I am proud to say it is coming along smashingly.  I have very little work left to do on it at this point and I am very excited about getting it up and testing it out at the school to see what kind of abuse it can take.  Admittedly, I am able to see all of the imperfections in the product but it is really beginning to look good even so.  Tonight I put the first coat of stain on the body and after a second coat tomorrow the body ought to be complete.  I milled the blanks for the arms today and all that is left there is to carve them into a nice tapered round.  Honestly, the only thing that has got me worried about the whole product is the lamination job I did.  I found there were some unexpected complications and I have been left to wonder if the bonds formed by "face joint" required in this type of pressed laminate job will hold.  Honestly, at each step of the process since having removed the clamps, I thought the joints would just burst apart at any given moment, but they have held.

On a seperate and seemingly unrelated note, I have had a lot of family in town over this past week.  An aunt, a cousin, a sister in law, a couple of nephews and of course my brother lives in town but due to our work schedules, there are extended periods of time in which we do not see one another.

Tonight, as I was milling the blanks for the arms, which are also laminated and I was doubting the strength of their bonds, I thought a bit about my brother.  To mill these arms I was running them through a Jointer-Planner and I was trying to get them perfectly square and reduced to the precise dimensions I need to complete the Ching Jong.  Its a powerful machine and I was convinced that the lamination job wouldnt hold up to the abuse of being milled.  But I was wrong.  I was able to make many, many passes of the work piece through the jointer without it causing any damage to my work and only milling away preciesly the amount of material I desired.  As I got the material whittled down to the dimensions I wanted, I noticed that the material was looking really good.  I even marveled some at the beauty of the grain pattern.  Of course this beauty was only revealed because I had shaved away just enough to have it present just so.  Formed in nature and through some very hard work and patience, shaped by my hands into something beautiful.

As I finished up the milling process, I found I had more time to continue my work so I turned my attention to the unfinished body of the Jong.  I set it on some saw horses and set up my sander.  As I began sanding I doubted yet again the strength of the face joints even though my doubts have been proven baseless at each step thus far.  There have even been times during this build that I was so convinced that the bonds would not hold that I was practically abusive to the product or at least careless with it.  Even so, it has not failed me.  So I as I was sanding away, I noticed that the body of this Jong was beginning to look absolutely magnificent.  The lines are even and smooth, the form taking shape looking more like artwork than a tool for conditioning your body, an absolutley graceful looking object.  Of course the Ching Jong is purely utilitarian in nature but, I thought, this thing is starting to look good enough to sit in my living room.

Than I thought about the extended family that was actually sitting in my living room.  I thought again about my brother.  I thought about my sisters, my mom and dad, my wife and son.  I enjoyed my thoughts for once, instead of feeling drawn down by "family drama" I was just happy to think about them.  It was nice to have a few peaceful moments to myself, while I continued to work so intently on the Jong to reflect positively about the people I love.  As I thought about them, I laid down that first coat of stain and saw for the bright lusterous shine that had been waiting to burst through.

I thought about what a valuable lesson this project has taught me.  Our family relationships are simply bonds.  Often times we dont always trust that a bond will hold sometimes we even attempt to intentionally cause the bond to break since we already think its going to fail anyways.  Somehow though, those bonds manage to hold.  True relationships with our family often take hard work, but the beauty of the grain pattern revealed during the milling process teaches us that through hard work, even after having sustained some serious hardship, a natural beauty can be revealed.  The stain I applied doesn't teach us that you can cover things up or make them look better than they are.  No, infact every single error I made in the construction process shows up far more clearly.  However, the stain also reveals the beauty that was already there and it attracts far more attention than anything I did to mar the appearance.

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