Stepping Out Of Our COMFORT ZONE - in little baby steps

We tend to want to stick with that familiar - to live in a place we're familiar with, to be around folks we know, to do things we've gotten to know how to do - to stay in our Comfort Zone.

But our Comfort Zone can act as a trap when it comes to creativity - the Box from which folks who Think Outside The Box have escaped.

Stepping Outside The Comfort Zone can open up opportunities for creativity. But it can also seem scary to try. The trick may be to take little baby steps.

I'm going to use myself as an example for getting out of The Box - stepping outside my Comfort Zone. I've Been There, Done That and have the T-shirt. It's not that I'm a creative genius or was born with The Gift Of Creativity. I'm not. But I've learned to get around some of the limitations I was born with - or taught I had to obey.

What I hope to get acrossed to you is the idea "If this bozo can do it - well I sure as hell can!"

So let's Follow The Bouncing Bozo - and see where that goes.

I started out turning Between Centers - initially to turn Magic Wands for the kids in the neighborhood - Harry Potter had just caught on with kids - and they all wanted a Special Magic Wand - made just for them. So I turned grooves and beads and coves and tapered cylinders - out of pieces ripped and cut to length from 3/4" thick boards I had ( I also do Flat Work - boxes, cabinets, drawers, benches, tables etc. so I had a ready supply of stuff to turn. A chainsaw would come later)

Once I'd figured out how to use the tools I had - a small roughing gouge, a 1/2" skew and a thin parting tool, I started playing with turning THINNER. Note that I used the word "play" - I was turning because it was fun.

Anyway, at some Thinness Point, I lacked the knowledge and skills to turn smaller diameter pieces. I'd reached the limits of my Comfort Zone when I had a piece I was turning CATCH - and disintegrate - while spinning at the then frightening speed of - about 500 rpms - the SLOWEST speed my lathe would run at.

I abandoned turning thinner and started doing Weed Pots - still Between Centers where I was comfortable - drilling the hole in through the top after turning the form - for a flower to sit in. But even while turning these simple objects I tried something new - a captured ring - cut with a tool I had - specifically a 1/2" skew


I wanted to try doing some "real" flower pots - and had, by then learned about holding a piece from just one end - using a chuck. But the idea of poking a sharp tool - into the end of a spinning piece of wood - seemed a bit crazy - and scary. I was familiar with turning side grain - but end grain? I'd never turned into end grain. I envisioned the tool catching INSIDE a piece - and all hell breaking loose. A catch on the outside of a turning is "disturbning" enough for me thank you. A catch on the inside of a piece? I think I'll pass on that one.

Once again, I'd come up against a boundary of my Comfort Zone.

It's true - A journey begins with a single step. And if you want to begin a journey - outside your Comfort Zone - starting with little steps - Baby Steps - ain't a bad idea.

So I started turning into end grain - making a little cup. Actually, it was a little cylinder with a big hole running down most of it. - straight sides - inside and out. And I wasn't killed - or maimed making the first one - or the second or the third. I'd stepped outside my Comfort Zone - and didn't die!

So I made TWO cups - and made them so they'd fit together - a lidded box!

Hey - look everybody! I turned a little lidded box! AND - they're FUN to make!

That expanded my Comfort Zone and opened up a whole new area of turning to play in. Again - note that I said "play", not "work".

Work is something we HAVE to do. Play is something we LIKE to do - and enjoy doing.

Here's one of the results - The Nice One - in rosewood and ebony. The finial is a fruitwood - don't remember which one.

Once I was comfortable with turning into end grain the next Comfort Zone Boundary I hit was turning INSIDE - through a relatively small opening - Hollow Forms.

Once again, Baby Steps worked.

It was early December when the next Baby Step opportunity came up - Little Hollow Christmas Ornamanets.

These things are small - and not very threatening. AND - I could do some more spindle turning - for the cap on the top and the"icicle" on the bottom.

Note: When you want to try doing something new, include doing something you've already done and are familiar and competent at. Mix Comfortable with Uncomfortable and your apprehension level about trying something new will go way down.

Because the part to be hollowed is small - I figured even if I had a nasty inside catch - I wouldn't be killed. Might have to change the underwear - but I probably wouldn't be losing body parts - or much, if any blood

Oh - to do the hollow forms - I needed something to do the inside undercutting.- which was a great excuse to MAKE A TOOL. OK - so it was just some grinding on an allen wrench - but it worked. So this little journey outside my comfort zone was a Double Bonus Score - hollowed through a small opening, albeit in as pretty small piece of wood - AND - made a tool. I'm getting to be quite a creative dude!

Here's some recent ornamanets - the first ones were given as - Christmas presents - of course.

Having once again stepped outside my Comfort Zone - and not died - I wanted to try doing larger "hollow forms" - or maybe start with a larger (relatively speaking - since the biggest diameter I can turn is a bit over 9") semi-hollow form. By now I'd bought a Real Bowl Gouge - with what's called a Fingernail Grind. This Wonder Tool was going to make it easy to turn bowls - and semi-hollow forms.

Well that preconcieved notion flew out the window the first time I TRIED to use it - almost literally. My first "entry cut" turned out to be a nasty catch, which, even at 500 rpms and in something only 6" in diameter , was one of those "learning experiences".

What I learned was - I don't know how to use THIS tool - AND - I don't think I WANT to try and learn how to use this tool - yet.

I could have just kissed off ever doing larger hollow forms - and remained in my Comfort Zone. There were still plenty of things to turn using just what I was comfortable with. But I want to explore - to see what's over the next hill - or beyond one of the boundaries of my Comfort Zone. And even though I know that the folks who go out past the frontier - often get shot in the ass with arrows - I still want to know what's over that next hill.

So when I became aware of Captured Hollowing Systems I started considering returning to trying larger (OK so only up to about 9" in diameter) hollow form turning. If anything went wrong - at least the tool would be "captured". The piece might explode - and kill me - but since flying wood seems less dangerous than flying - sharp - steel - I figured I'd lowered the odds enough to step outside my Comfort Zone again.

What I got was the MiniMonster. It even comes with a Laser - so you can see how thin the walls are becoming. I HATE turning through the sides of a piece!
(If you're interested in some of the other captured hollowing systems click here close that window when you're done)

I've gotten side tracked into some other types of turning so I haven't actually used this thing, but a friend I loaned it to has found it quick and easy to use - safely. And that may be another thing to keep in mind when stepping outside your Comfort Zone - Let George Try It First. If he dies in the attempt, mourn his loss - and study the accident report ; )

What I'm getting at is this - sometimes finding the right tool can make it easier to step out of your Comfort Zone.

Of course, I COULD HAVE taken a lesson or two about how to use the bowl gouge I already have. But already I went to "school" for 17+ years and that was enough "school" for me - at least for now.

IN SUMMARY (finally!)

Staying in The Comfort Zone can be a big barrier for creativity, But there are non-fatal ways to expand The Comfort Zone - baby steps, new tools and new methods - oh - and letting George try IT first.

Got any ideas for a piece - which will require you to step outside your Comfort Zone?

Can YOU think of a way to make that piece you've thought of - but which is, for now, outside YOUR Comfort Zone?

I'm just asking you to THINK about Stepping Out.

Now sit down, drink this nice hot coco then grab your Blankie,have a nice nap . . .and go to your Happy Place.

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