The Three Rs of Saw Sharpening

"Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe." - Abraham Lincoln

3 min. read

As I mentioned a couple days ago, I’ve got a bit of a break before I head back on the road for my next gig. This is important time for me, because it’s the time that I set aside every year to sharpen my saw. Saw sharpening is an important part of life, which is why it’s the theme of one of my favorite zen stories. But what is it? Here are the three Rs of Saw Sharpening:

Relaxation: designating a block of time as a break from whatever you normally do. This doesn’t need to be on a beach, or even time spent resting, it just needs to be a time you’re able to relax the part of your self (brain, bod, whatev) that you normally work.

Reflection: using this time to meaningfully reflect on your past. It’s easy to relax and completely tune out of life, and that’s nice sometimes, but that’s not going to sharpen any saws. It’s also easy to keep working and doing and progressing and never look back. This is your time to look back.

Readjusting: making small changes to the way you approach your life and work. This doesn’t have to be (nor should it be) an overhaul. While you’re reflecting, you’ll likely think of a few things you can tweak that will make for a more fruitful future. Fruit is good. Tweak for fruit.

I like to do minor saw sharpening throughout the day or week, but I’ve found that the most effective way for me to be me is to set aside a big chunk of time every so often to do some serious saw sharpening. I guess I have a hard, durable saw, so it takes a while to dull, but once it’s dull it takes a while to get it back to its razor sharp glory (like one of those knives you can cut a soup can _then _a tomato with).

Depending on what your life is like, or how you operate, your sharpening schedule will vary. But unless your saw is made of Adamantium, it’s gonna need some love. It might just be 10 minutes of time you set aside, but you might need ten days (I need ten days). Here are some things to look out for that might be a cue it’s time for some R & R & R:

  • You hear yourself saying “why is everything broken?” more than you usually say it, which hopefully isn’t that often
  • You’re losing sleep (because you can’t keep your mind off your work, not because fun)
  • It’s taking you an hour to do something that would normally take you ten minutes
  • You feel like there’s a big invisible wall between you and what you’re trying to do and you keep smashing your face against it
  • Your coworkers keep saying “somebody’s got a case of the Mondays”
  • You are more easily distracted than usual (e.g., you actually went to buzz, like, the homepage, not a link from Facebook)
  • It’s Wednesday

Now I’m off to continue my Saw Sharpening Saturday, which is day one of I-have-no-idea-how-many-I’ll-need days of serious sharpening. Let me know if you have any tips to get back into soup can then tomato cutting shape.