“Remember, a chip on the shoulder is a sure sign of wood higher up.”
This quote from a BBC radio program about craftsmanship. Grayson Perry is a British Turner Prize winning artist.
"A lot of young people are somehow put off struggle and difficulty. Boredom thresholds now because of the nature of entertainment, people are adrenalin addicted and I think that one of the big unspoken addictions in our society is adrenalin. We are addicted to drama, everything has to be exciting, black and white there's no middle ground, we're all being gradually pushed into this area where our attention span is that of a gnat. Difficulty, learning a skill that might take 10 years over 10,000 hours is something that frightens to death, when in fact when you attain that it is probably the happiest most joyful thing you can do".
Grayson Perry BBC radio4 Thinking Allowed April 2008.
The most important tool for ANY project.
I have some meaningful words posted on a large sign above my workbench. It describes the only tool one really needs to accomplish any project. I want to share it:
“Nothing in the world can take the
place of persistence…
Talent will not; nothing is more common
than unsuccessful people with talent.
Genius will not; unrewarded genius is
almost a proverb.
Education will not; the world is full of
Persistence and determination alone
As an apprentice blacksmith my only interest in wood thus far was purely its burn strength. After spending the past few weeks helping my dear friend Jan I have an all new love and respect for this unforgiving material. If you make a mistake with metal you can fix it with a big hammer, not so with wood. Last week I picked up a beautiful piece of rough Christmas pear and used it to eradicate Jan’s mouse problem. Only after cleaning the gore off of the piece of wood and vowing only to use a designated piece of pine in the future was I forgiven!!
Jan, I can only hope that one day I will love wood as much as you do.
“During my career as an amateur woodworker, I have been faced with a continuing problem: the need to improvise. A screwdriver becomes a chisel, some bricks become a clamp, and it goes downhill from there. It was for this reason, that when faced with a kitchen remodeling project, I turned my garage into a makeshift spray booth.
It all started very nicely – the wood was bought, sawn, shaped, sanded and readied for finishing. Converting the garage into a spray booth was an excellent idea. It afforded plenty of space to lay out all the doors on the floor and spray them all in one motion. Besides, the bike and the garden tools could do with a fresh coat of overspray. The doors came out great and the garage door was shut on a very satisfying day’s work.
Later in the evening, unable to fend of the urge to admire my work, I strolled out to the garage. It was not a pretty sight. Spread over the faces of the door panels were large white blotches. I panicked. Humidity? Chemical reaction? Then it dawned on me that I had seen this effect before – on statues in the park. I looked up to see the culprit perching solemnly on a rafter – a fat robin. His blood shot eyes showed the effect of the lacquer fumes as he stared down at me, while I worked feverishly to repair his damage. A wet rag sorted out the mess, but no amount of cursing or throwing things would remove him from his perch. I left him there thinking that maybe he too wanted to admire my expertise. Back in the house, I thought maybe he saw a familiar tree limb in the face of one of the doors. Then I thought (sigh), he was probably just letting me know what he thought of my work. “
Written by Don Feldman in Fine Woodworking, July 1989.
Oom Pieter Brand came out to the shop today to buy some blackwood and yellowwood planks for a jonkmanskas and other furniture he wants to make. He is a 77 year old retired woodwork teacher and part time cabinetmaker.
After changing planks for freedom chips, I got him into the shop for a coffee and off course, to talk some sawd*st. Talk drifted to changing times, dying crafts and loss of skills and knowledge that is not passed along.
See, Oom Pieter is moving to the old age home soon. The jonkmanskas is his last project. When I asked about his workshop and tools, he said that he will give it for free to the right man. A youngster with passion for wood. But where to find him ? Says nobody is interested anymore, that the craft is dying, that today's "cabinetmaker" is actually just a machine operator.
So is it true ? Are we a dying breed ? Is there no future for us? Are there just a few true craftsmen left, stubbornly hanging on to their chisels, still believing they can make a living by actually cutting dovetails by hand?
My response to Oom Pieter and more thoughts on the matter to follow.....