Cast away

After arm surgery a few weeks ago, I finally got the cast off. Itís great to have two hands again, but Iíve learned some things.

Although the cast is gone, Iím under strict doctorís to take it easy and to use my right hand and arm as little as possible. On the plus side, that means Sally mows the lawn at least one more time before I have to resume. On the down side, I still canít get back to work in the shop.

I can resume some lighter right-handed tasks like brushing my teeth normally after three weeks of nearly poking an eye out trying to brush left-handed. Iím back to touch-typing again, which is a blessing, and the mouse is back in my right hand where it belongs.

However, in the three weeks I was forced to use the mouse in my left hand I got pretty good with it. In fact, I got so used to using it that way Iíve occasionally reached for the mouse with my left hand out of the brief muscle memory of using that way. Same thing for buttoning shirts, swiping a credit card through a reader, and using the TV remote with my left hand. All were nearly impossible three weeks ago. Now theyíre only mildly awkward at worst. (I never did improve on the teeth-brushing thing, though.)

And this has gotten me to thinking. Muscle memory, as I discussed in my Sept. 8 blog, is a strange and wonderful thing. If I can train my left hand to do mundane tasks normally done with the right, why couldnít I train my right hand to do some things that it should be able to do, like cutting decent dovetails? Iíve mentioned before that Iím not very good at hand-cut dovetails. But then, I wasnít very good at left-hand mousing either. All it took was being forced to use the mouse as a lefty, and I eventually got the hang of it. I didnít have the option of giving up on it like I do with hand-cut dovetails. My choice was to do it left-handed or not at all; with dovetails, I can give up and use a router.

With hand-cut dovetails, giving up and using a router is very easy. But what if it wasnít? Iím not getting rid of my routers any time soon, but if I stopped looking at my router as the easy way out of learning to do decent hand-cut dovetails, I might actually develop the muscle memory needed to master them. Itís worth thinking about.

Once I get back up to speed in the shop and finish up some projects that are behind schedule, I think Iím going to block out some time to consider my router a cast-off. It took three weeks to master the mouse; if I devote as much time to learning dovetails Ė I mean really learning them without using the router as the easy way out Ė Iím thinking Iíll have a better shot at success.

Till next time,



  • imdrmarshall says:

    i know exactly how you feel, a few years back i crushed my right hand and thumb in a football accident..ummm yea lets leave it as a FEW years… and was in a cast for almost 6 months. in that time i learned how to do just about everything, writing, drawing, picking my…well you get the point. i still to this day try to keep my “wrong” hand in tune, and from time to time force myself to do a whole project (small ones of course) lefty style. but never any dovetails, shoot i am doing good to get one to fit together using my right, but i now have a new mission (i will post a pic and results when done).. the whole muscle memory things is VERY difficult, maybe even impossible to overcome, i find that even on day 2 or 3 of a “lefty project” every time i reach for a pencil, or any tool for that matter, it is my good ole right hand stepping up for duty, and i don’t even realize it till i am just about to put it in action..and then i have to swap hands re-align myself and close the other eye…lol…i am interested in seeing how your lefty dovetails come out, so if you could, please show us all how the pro’s do it. and left me know if you figure out the secret to overcoming that danged ole muscle memory.

    keep on writing and i will keep on learning

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive. For more information, please see our Terms of Use.