Creativity of risk

There can be no doubt that one contrast between craftsmanship and the machine-maker woodworker is not so much the difference between hand work and trying to produce the same thing by machine, but the mentality of the workman. Having worked in both camps I can comment on both. Firstly, I quite like the certainty of what the machine makes. I like its dead square cuts and of course the ease it brings to work. I like the speed of different cuts too. What I don’t like is that people are now left out of many pleasing processes and that they fail to develop skills I think they would find thoroughly enjoyable as I have these past 4 decades. Secondly there are a myriad other concerns too massive to go through here.

Now it’s not that anyone is forced to not develop skill or that they were given an option and chose a machine method over a hand method. Machines take no skill to use them and save for a few safety steps to be understood, can be used by any responsible adult. I doubt anyone would contend that. For the main part they need confident strength, with mechanical control and reactivity. On the other hand, hand work requires a working knowledge of the tools, materials and equipment and progressively developed skill in a wide range of areas. On the machine end, you can learn most of what you need to work wood with in an afternoon on each machine, on the other, the traditions of hand tools, true skill comes with many hours and days of practice over months and even years.

Creative risk is what hand and craft thrive in. The uncertainty of handwork makes the work vibrant and real. Handwork is of minimal risk to the craftsman and is generally safe; at least a thousand times safer than machine woodworking. Instead of a worklife absorbed in thinking constant safety issues and rules too, I never have that problem because I rely on machines only as a minimalist and so I focus only on my work in its optimum sphere of free creativity. Creative certainty on the other hand, that is machine work, centres on the machine’s guarantee of predictable outcomes. One frees you from the risk of injury while increasing the risk to the work, the other demands your focus on the risk of injury and makes the general outcome of the work highly predictable.

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