Shavings and sound prove success at many levels and what I see and hear as my students plane and saw, others are rarely conscious of. My way of measuring success is not in the pristine dovetail joint but the body stance each student has as they work. Self-discipline is key to proper development. It’s not my place to force this discipline but reinforce the essentiality that it comes from within. Soon, by self-discipline, they become what they once only dreamed of through working knowledge and developed skill. Their hands begin to reach for the exact chisel they need and they know now what the plane will and will not do. Shavings build around their benches and chisels are no longer left dull but sharp. Each man and women reaches a point of disappointment, even moments of discouragement sometimes, but perseverance produces endurance and suddenly there is victory in one seemingly insignificant joint.
I cannot measure exactly at what point the shavings on the floor seem right. They just seems to, well, they just happen at a certain time somehow. The forearms, hands, wrists and shoulders are aligned to the body in such a way that the body now leans into the work as a draft horse into its collar before its first pull of the day. It’s gauged, the control more measured and compelling.
Much of what takes place is indeed that accompanying willingness to risk failure, but never in some cavalier way. I see them as they lean and at the same time think, shift position, shift thought and micro-adjust their bodies to task. The plane seems to at first resist. They shift, twist, and stubbornness is overcome by determination. Smoothness traced beneath light fingertips develops a sense of wellbeing they never before knew and success exudes in each of their countenances. So too the chisel’s deepened housing joint routed first by chisel and then the router plane is something they alone will see and know for once the joint is closed no one will ever see the work inside again. It’s now that the chisel rests and so too the router plane, and then the joint comes to together and rests alongside the emerging artisan that made it. Joinery brings the certainty of rest and harmony.
Each time the students gather at my bench it pulls something from me as I teach them. I give them truth that defies pluralism and the illusion that constantly tries to defy limits. The craftsman sees and respects the limits of his material. He lives within them and gains peace in his work.