Friday 8th June 2012 – A working day
Rain set in for the day and the wind drove it hard in every direction. In the castle it makes little difference to us as we work—the walls are three feet thick and solid stone.
Nick Gibbs, the editor of two magazines, Living Woods and British Woodworker, came by for a visit yesterday and we talked about wood and the stuff of real woodworking. I really respect what he has accomplished through the years as owner, publisher, editor of two well managed, well produced specialist magazines. It takes something to do what he has done in that he didn’t start Living Woods as an expert in his field but as a man interested in helping people discover the unique symbiosis between woodlands and forests, woodcrafters, woodcrafts, wildlife and aspects that we might know little or nothing of had it not been for his endeavour. There’s tons of readable stuff in the mag and he keeps things current and interesting at an affordable price. Beyond even that, I think that Nick somehow manages to interconnect the complex network of British woodland craft skills with people of every background who want to know more about what they can actually participate in and that’s real woodworking at its best in my book.
As for his British Woodworking magazine, well, I found that just as progressive and well crafted too. His background in editing woodworking magazines spans two decades with no flip-flopping to appease advertisers. I think what he offers parallels a lot of the ethos we strive for with the Real Woodworking Campaign so our discussions considered the future of woodworking for generations yet to come. These are pivotal for me and my investment now is for those future generations.
Cutting tenons seems so simple to me now. I need not think about it as I work a rectangular block end into a haunched tenon ready for it’s mortised fit. The class doesn’t find it quite so easy but they have stamina, determination and pluck. The wood has substance and they must now split, shave and shape with tools they now know more intimately than they did just 8 days ago. With their boxes done and their shelves too, they are honing their skills in table making and that’s going to further expand their horizons as they consider furniture pieces they only dreamed of making a few weeks or months ago.
Watching them work their way around the bench I am conscious that they ask much fewer questions than before. The knowledge they have gained has settled in them. Their previous lack of confidence seems like in a previous lifetime yet through that period they discovered what real woodworking was all about. They discovered risk, self-imposed demands for accuracy, periods of frustration followed by the reward perseverance brings in success and through all of this wrestling they seem now to possess a relaxed countenance usually seen only in people of experience.
I love this development because for me it measures their character in tangible ways. I continue to press them with hard expectations, encourage them when splits threaten and planes jibe at their efforts with unexpected tantrums at the wrong time. As I closed the workshop door tonight I felt contented. Tomorrow is the big push. Will they finish or run in to Sunday?