I had an incredible day again. That may seem like an over emphasis on the ordinary; an exaggeration if you will allow me. Well, remarkably, it was an utter success and at the end of the day, around 4pm, the class concluded with swept benches, stowed tools and well-made fully finished, dovetailed Shaker candle boxes. Not one of the attendees had ever made a box before and 75% had never cut a dovetail.
I talked about the success of shavings yesterday, the success of sawdust and hearing sounds of success from planes and saws being well sharpened, well adjusted and now well used or, better still, used well. Trying to relax the grip from a full-throttling, bulldog grip doesn’t come that easily to new workers in any craft. We live and come from an intensive, insensitive world. We are born insensitive and sensitivity is cultivated in many ways as a developed crafting of our lives into the large context of the world. Very often this crafting results from many mistakes or even one. The plane rips the grain and we force the plane a second time over the wood before we realise we are ripping into her and tearing. Had we felt the surface even as the iron touched down on that surface we could have turned the plane around and planed the opposite way before any harm was done. Experience makes the difference. I saw the grips relax, arms, planes and saws and fingertips flexing to the task with greater accuracy than they did two days ago.
Our steps may seem basic and I am glad we can see that. These boxes like hundreds I have now seen before these, from students in my classes through two decades, reflect the care of the makers. They took home boxes and that’s important, but much more important than that is the underlying skill it took to develop and make them.
No, not every dovetail came out perfectly, but most did. The fact is that they took the risk. Instead of entering the unreal world of unreal woodworking they entered the real world of real woodworking by picking up a small handsaw instead of Leigh dovetail jig and an industrial router. They chose to learn skill, discipline their minds and bodies and make them work accurately. Wow! How real is that?