Real Woodworking Campaign #2

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I’ve come to think that lots of people feel thankful that they discovered woodworking, regardless of whether they came to it young as I did or whether they found it in their later years. To deny that we like being constructive and indeed even creative is to deny the very nature of our being in that that’s what we are supposed to do and be. I think that we all know someone that makes something, cooks something or grows something using his or her hands. It’s intrinsic to who we are to be that way, whether we are good at whatever it is we do or not. Those who grow, cook and make are involved in real life and are thereby making a difference to it; hopefully in a positive way.

Who are we?

Armed with this irrefutable fact, woodworking as a craft is only a very small aspect of this creative living, but surprisingly it is a high profile interactive occupation and people around the globe enjoy it greatly. All through my working life I have met people who feel the same way about wood as I do. They became friends and colleagues, business associates and much more along the way. Working wood and real woodworking is about association with people like this and it’s no small thing either. Europeans, Australians, North Americans have varying reserves of woodworkers and it’s fairly proportional throughout the world. For instance, in the USA there are 13.5 million people diversely involved in woodworking in some measure and at some level. Regardless of status or gender, working wood is one medium that answers the cry of the human heart to be practical and work in some quiet way with our hands. When many of us interact with a high-demand world filled with stress and seemingly chaotic, we find a few hours of working with wood therapeutic; it somehow makes sense to be, well, creative. When our minds are troubled and stressed we discover a peace in hard, manual work. The type of critical thinking we need to work with our hands  seems more valid than the work we do in the every day of life and so it’s no wonder that we pursue the hours we can work in our shops and become highly protective of the afternoon we dedicate to the task.

Sanity in an insane world

For me, working on the Hope Chest restrains me and allows me to function within the certainty of reality. I stand at the end of my day in the shop, look at the work and capture the feeling of being fulfilled and contented. It’s who I am. If I couldn’t make my living from it I would still do it whenever I could and wherever I could, even now after 47 years of doing it full time every day.

Therapy for all

Some of those I have taught have been highly involved in technical worlds – dozens upon dozens of professors, doctors and dentists, in one series of workshops I trained a former vice president of Intel. For most of these people it wasn’t just a cute hobby, and I have never once taught hobbyists, it was something they took seriously, invested in financially and gave their whole heart to. What does that mean?

Real Woodworking

This is really what real woodworking is really all about. Factor into this equation that I am talking about real woodworking and not machining wood and you get a strong sense of what this campaign is all about. Does this mean that I am opposed to woodworking with machines? Are we in the Real Woodworking Campaign hand tool purists? Not as far as I am concerned, but I will resist cutting dovetails on bandsaws and using jigs to cut box joints. We are searching for balance, not mass manufacturing machines and equipment to substitutes for skill. Its unlikely that we will feature articles on routed projects, but I have no problem with lathes. Ask me why? I can explain the difference.


    1. Regardless of how a lathe is powered, foot, pole, engine or motor, the lathe is peripheral to the manual dexterity of the one manipulating the tool’s cutting edge to form and shape the wood. The lathe is the only woodworking machine that suspends and turns the wood to the cutting edge of a tool held, guided and controlled freehand by the craftsman who determines the entire course of the tool into the wood, whereas, in all other cases, the machinist feeds the wood into the machine or the machine into the wood. I conclude then that skill is a direct requisite for all lathe turned work (unless using a copy lathe with automatic cutter feed) and that woodturning stands in equal measure as any other woodworking craft.

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