These past few days have been long and hard. It’s a long drive 800 mile drive from New York to Indianapolis too, but it’s during this time of valuable reflection that I often find new direction inspired by current trends many might not even notice. For many decades we have seen TV personalities behind face masks lock down macho ear defenders, grip their skill saws and routers and present themselves like gladiators in the face of an adversary. These exponents stack up routers behind the scenes and make a fortune at the watchers expense as they show how effortlessly the machines make the task seem. In seconds dovetails are cut and skill saws slice through boards of plywood and OSB like a pastrami cutter through meat. Throughout these decades we had nothing to fight back with because we really didn’t know hand tools still had some real value in the work of woodworking. Well, this weekend and over the past three weeks we have been able to present a more balanced perspective and as usual, most of my demonstrations have been very full, but, you know, even the one or two that weren’t had real depth, meaning and value. Most people sat for up to two hours and watched a couple of demonstrations that empowered them in very different ways. At the end of it I knew we had made some solid connections and friends.
In the world of mass-information we find more and more increasing levels of misinformation. I will be the first to introduce woodworkers to hand tools simply because I have never been able to dismiss them as truly valuable to my work. Hand tool skills equipped me to enter realms no machine-only woodworker can ever consider entering unless he or she displaces a few concepts. This evening, as I was about to leave the show, a man came up to my booth and started to tell me he couldn’t sharpen his chisels and planes square without a guide to hone with. I told him that I hadn’t found anyone who couldn’t sharpen freehand and it made no difference to the work if the chisel was slightly out of square. I realized what I was up against after just a few minutes. The man had no desire to change. He had no desire to master skill and really wanted something that would substitute for gaining mastery over even simple tasks such as sharpening chisels and planes. Furthermore, he told me he couldn’t cut a straight line with a saw and he couldn’t sharpen a saw. This didn’t seem so unbelievable to me because I know of many who have felt that way through the years. Knowing many who believe such things I realized again that he was basically left in a defeated condition and that in a defeatist condition there is very little hope. I know one thing I have learned as a skilled, crafting, working-artisan woodworker developing any skill is that I must have a made-up mind. I have found that 99% of achieving anything is having a made up mind. When you have that, you cannot persuade someone to change. So, I concluded this one thing; just as it was basically impossible to persuade someone to believe that they can do something, it is equally impossible to convince someone that they can’t. I think that at the end of my demoes I was standing in front of dozens mounting to hundreds of people in a day who believed that they could master skills as a direct result of what I shared and showed them. They knew that they COULD do it. That’s why I was there at the shows and that was what I reflected on as I arrived in Indianapolis. Now that’s the POWER of REAL woodworking.