Craft work

A man I once knew wrote a book about craft work some years ago. I read it many times and I liked what it said, particularly the quotes by philosophers describing the value of work; and I suppose the meaning too. As I passed along the pages, reading the words carefully and considerately, I saw that the writers were somehow trying to convey some hidden depth, yet most of the authors never quite plumbed to the essence what working with your hands to earn your living really means: Especially to a craftsman. Truth was neither the author nor those he quoted had ever really worked for a living. I concluded the book of minimal worth because neither the author nor the authors of the quotes, for the main part, worked what they wrote of.

I suppose I give more credence to writings by those who have earned their living working their craft for a decade or two and even more if they’ve done so for a lifetime, yet craftsman written books are rare. The reason such books are hard to find is that most craftsmen are content to work at their craft. Writing about it would be for them the same as watching a video about work rather than doing the actual work.

Few books are written about woodworking by working artisans these days, yet if we rely on philosophers and writers to tell us how we should feel about our kind of work when they have no means to connect to the work we do except by philosophy, we too lose connection. I would that there were more David Pye’s and Jim Krenov’s. They worked wood differently, sought wood differently and wrote wood very differently. It wasn’t clever or witty, or nostalgic but, well, just real.

The great demise for woodworking literalists as writers is I believe because most woodworkers no longer rely on tools but machines. Machines remove the risk of workmanship to bring sterile certainty and monotony. Why write about dullness. I hope that we can see craftsmanship restored to our clever world of technology. Plumb those depths of integrity and wholeness again. I loved the whole-grain woodworking they connected to and wrote of. Did you?

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