Becoming a craftsman

Becoming a craftsman is a heart condition I have tried to deal with for twenty years. Not in my own life but the lives of others really. Whether it’s me teaching others or others wanting to learn, it means on either part  proactively engaging in change rather than merely acquiescing by default.


Saw sharpening: a discipline that changes are made by




I at one time invested my life in an organised strategy to change the way people thought about crafts so that they could develop and grow in their chosen craft. Men and women by the dozen invested time in developing skill to become what they were not. To do this meant my becoming too. This meant writing instead of working at the bench, it meant becoming a photographer, becoming a writer as well as a craftsman, becoming a teacher and much more. The years passed and I became a writer, an author if you will.


Apprenticing: a discipline that changes are made by

Becoming a crafting artisan means accepting self discipline, working out where you go wrong and reversing the work until it matches the level of good workmanship. That means an exact non-fudging precise cut placed where it needs to be first time. Our willingness to accept change by correction marks the mature craftsman. He sees a failed cut for what it is and doesn’t misname his mistake under the guise of “signature” or “character”.


These are my hands. They are disciplined and trained. Were they not, my work would be the work of a novice.

It was at times painful to train myself: most of the time actually. Blisters burst and sometimes bled. I hade to keep going. The skin calloused after a while and stopped hurting. One day, forty years later, I noticed that my hands were subjected to pain most of the time. To effect my work meant that my hands must be subject to greater or lesser degrees of pain. I had become unconscious of the presence of necessary pain.

My students are occasionally unwilling to accept correction no matter how kindly a criticism is given. The difference between those and the ones who welcome a criticism is quite remarkable. The one who refuses never resolves the issue and never exemplifies fine woodwork but blunders on in self-deception cloaked producing poor work under the pseudonym “character”. The other is transformed in an instant and, with bright-eyed enthusiasm, launches along a path leading to repeated successes. Issues are resolved and, usually, never occur again. A remarkable phenomenon when you think about it. That’s what I meant when I said becoming a craftsman is a heart condition.