Of workmanship

I think about workmanship most of the day these days. In my own work I expect my joints to fit and though I stay connected to my work and the outcome has become in general predicable, those I work with have rarely achieved this level of what is certainty in work.

Achieving high standards in common work such as working wood and making joints for a working man is not merely implied or virtual but fully real and tangible. It’s not an almost there but an actual. You cannot cut and paste, change colour by a button or in any way edit in or out the fibre and substance of the woodwork on your bench. Workmanship demands consistent accuracy and this is only achieved by connectedness in hand and eye coordinates throughout the work.

With those I teach I see the struggle in that they want the highest standard and expect that of themselves, but without the training and self discipline it takes for the work to become natural and predictable. It doesn’t take so very long to gain the working knowledge they need, but they somehow feel compelled to prove themselves to themselves and of course others. Some of them hate any flaw in their work and become angry with themselves or the wood or the tools. Others seem forlorn in disappointment while others accept that training results in changing standards and step by step they would gradually achieve a more positive outcome. Workmanship depends greatly on how you worked when you were young. Craft is critical to the forming of manual dexterity we look upon as skill. Skill is achieved by the combined stimuli of thought and physical motion. In essence it is emotionally driven workmanship that critically develops a project and so we challenge our emotions and charge them to the very specific task of development, which for everyone is as critical as the university professor of music and the first cellist in a recognized symphony orchestra still looking to their teacher to help them continually improve.

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  • Stephen Tyrrell on The Draw of Skilled HandsIt goes back much further than that. It was written in the 1920's and has been recorded many many times. Still being recorded by modern swing bands today. A great song and a great…
  • Stephen Tyrrell on Someone Wrote MeIt may be true that your efforts will not influence the mass producers Paul, but you have encouraged, tutored and trained thousands of "lifestyle" woodworkers in a craft that they…
  • Michael McGinnis on Someone Wrote MeThe book "The Perfectionists: How Precision Engineers Created the Modern World", by Simon Winchester, describes very well how we ended up the way we are today; without the skilled…