I have a bandsaw. It’s a good one, not a plastic, big-box, disposable one, but a bring-by-pup-truck one that takes two people to construct and some training to use well. It has many moving parts, each with its own set of parameters and eccentricities. Once it is set up, it still requires care, because it has a sharp moving blade and a very powerful motor. It is not a kid’s toy. I would not let one near it, not until they’re twelve, anyway.
One you turn it on you can become captivated by the draw of it all. The sound of the current playing with the magnets, the whooshing of the wheels coming to speed; the metallic hum of the now nearly invisible blade as it sings its siren song to any soft object that it would happily – and dutifully – rend asunder. And that sound of rending too is unique and draws near to melodic, a musical tearing of one into two, straight, curved, or some more complicated mixture of the two.
It is easy to see why it is so powerfully desirable: it is powerful yet elegant, destructive yet creative, divisive yet musical.
And once you have one, every task looks like a job for the band saw. Every board should make the blade sing, no matter how thin or thick, no matter how hard or soft. To the bandsaw, every plank is just waiting for its “real” shape to be sheared out of it.
While this song is true at the onset, it soon becomes clear that the siren song is not a welcoming call at all, but an invitation to ruin. Many a board was sacrificed, too many lost without any opportunity to explore their own ring-demarked legacy. Too many boards faced a battle of the blade where either board was sundered or blade was broken. Either way the music was less than pleasant, a requiem rather than a celebration.
Such is the way, this dance between man and machine, where machine dictates the terms and man must say yes or suffer. Machines do simplify, but at a cost: all to often they render false choices, leaving destruction in their wake.
Better to take a step back, unplug the machine, get to know the wood, and skillfully discover its form-yet-to-be-revealed. Machines shorten the decision-making process, and all too often lead to a collection of scrap as opposed to anything of lasting beauty.
Beauty, after all, is what it is all about. Taking time to discover the beauty of a thing (or a person) is crucial to the meaning of existence in this world. To settle for mechanical short-cuts diminishes the act of discovery, and renders subject to object, shoves life towards death, and pushes beauty towards desolation.