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Refining our methods… growing in efficiency

Here I am doing one of my least favorite jobs. What you see is one of my scroll chucks, and a very good one at that. This is the large chunk of metal that facilitates holding wood on the lathe. To accommodate different sizes and shapes of wood to be fastened on the lathe it requires that many different types of jaws be fixed to the chuck. Some will hold a large spigot of wood and some a small one. Others are the flat metal discs that grip the wood with the plastic buttons seen in the previous essay. Still others are made to fit into a dovetail recess that has been turned on the bowl or platter blank bottom. These different interchangeable jaws greatly extend the usefulness of the chuck and this in turn increases productivity. This is very exciting when you are starting out because it opens up so many new possibilities. So in this picture I am in the process of changing jaws on the chuck.

It is the nature of man to always look for more and more. People are restless moving here and there looking for something better. This is what motivates growth. I am no exception. When the novelty wore off of having so many exchangeable jaws on my chuck, which enabled me to do so many more things, the reality set in. To change the jaws takes unscrewing a minimum of eight metal screws that hold the jaws to the chuck body. So, unscrew eight screws, remove the jaws and use the eight screws to reattach a different set of jaws. This task is time consuming and not very uplifting and not creative in the least.

I would much rather use my creative energy and skills in turning the wood itself. It has occurred to me that it would be much more efficient to have many scroll chuck bodies with the different jaws already attached. Then I would just have to exchange different chucks on the lathe for different jobs. This takes a lot less time than removing the chuck, unscrewing the jaws and then refastened the new jaws. I would have reduced my labor steps to two rather than four and I estimate that I would save between ten and fifteen minutes each change. In an average day in the shop I estimate that I would change jaws at least three times and sometimes more. Now there is a lot you can get done in thirty to forty-five minutes of uninterrupted work time.

So we start out in life not knowing much but with a desire to know more and more. As we learn more we learn how to employ technology to increase our output and creativity. Each new technology offers advantages and drawbacks. At first we are so excited to have the new capability that we are not critical of the time it takes to employ that technology. After all it is already saving us lots of time and energy. Yet after we work with it a while we begin to wonder if there is some better way to extract more efficiency from the technology. We begin to fine tune the use of the technology to make us more efficient. In this case fine tuning would be having as many chuck bodies as I had separate interchangeable jaws.

This solution comes with a price tag. The chuck bodies are fairly expensive ( at least $200 apiece). I have at least eight different sets of jaws and there may be more that I would like to have. Soon I would have more invested in jaws than I did in the lathe itself. So I think further. There are just a few jaws that I use most of the time and if I just had two more chuck bodies, it would still save me most of the wasted time. Now I figure what my time is worth per hour and see how long it would take to pay for the extra chucks and see if it made sense from an economic standpoint. Somewhere in here I would find a formula for maximum time and creativity saved with the least expenditure of cash.

So, we are never done growing. It is the nature of life to grow towards more and more. Thus we remain dynamic and do not become static. We keep thinking on ways to improve what we do. We try to minimize the dull routine work and maximize the creative part of the job. This brings us more and more pleasure because we are becoming more and more creative day by day.

Another point comes to mind. Time is the most precious thing we have. Past is past and is forever gone. We can never bring it back. The future is always the day after this one. So the present moment is all that we really have. That is why it is so important to use the present in the most efficient and uplifting way possible. Then we see that we are progressing on our road to have more and more, whether it be creativity, wealth, security, love or whatever.

How have you become more efficient in your work or play?

{ 1 comment… add one }
  • Brian March 18, 2014, 8:38 am

    Hello Edwards,

    I just discovered your site and am greatly enjoying it. I use a cordless drill / screwdriver with a bit to fit the jaw screws. This makes changing the jaws much faster. But still I also am considering a second check as I mainly use two sets of jaws.


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