Thought for the day – The man says…

A man came in the workshop and said, “I remember woodworking in school. He was 70. The other man says, “Me too.” They talk for a minute and say how much they love the smell, how bad they were at woodworking and how much they loved it. They talk about their woodworking teacher and remember every wart of personality in him and then say, “those were good days.” Another man comes in. He looks 65 and tells me he is 81. He says, “I loved woodworking classes at school, but by the time I could make things work for me there they saw that I had it academically and they whisked me off into more formal academics and I regret never having the opportunity to pursue woodworking thoroughly. “What did you end up doing? I asked him, “Dentistry.” He said. “But I would have rather done woodworking.” That is true of at least 60% of males that come in. Now it’s too late for them. Fact is we don’t need woodworkers. There are no jobs, we sold them to other continents so we could buy stuff at quarter the price and increase our personal welfare and comfort cheaply. Now we pay the real price. False economics if you ask me. But who am I? Just a carpenter. We have sold out our children and grandchildren though, but that’s another story. Wives, women friends and partners of similar age say that they weren’t allowed to do woodworking in school, as if it were biased and unfair because they had to do domestic science and crafts like sewing and pottery. How was that fair? I liked cooking, sewing and pottery but couldn’t do it. Fact is it was wrong not give options, but it was equally unfair, if that is the right word. Teachers were trying to find balance in a gender-specific world when gender had little to do with anything.

Another , younger man comes in, looks at a mortise and tenon joint and tells his five-year-old that it’s a dovetail joint. Another comes in on another day, picks up a sample dovetail joint and tell his daughter it’s a tongue and groove joint while yet on another, different day a woman tells her son that the dovetail is a mortise and tendon. A girl comes in and tells me she made a dovetail joint. I asked her if it worked, she told me it was perfect and that she was an expert at it. I asked her how many she had made, she said, “One, when I was thirteen.” I was amazed by the confidence all of these experts had. So it is in this age of free knowledge. It seems not to count for anything if the truth is robbed of its essence, honesty. We speak with authority of things we received only the very surface-knowledge of and in an age we constantly bolster others with false impressions to counter those generations that were more disparaging then encouraging. We create false parody and wonder why we live in such a know-it-all, self confident age when all around us we are told the system is trying to counter the lack of self esteem present in people.

As I type, a man tells his wife “They don’t teach woodworking in school now.” She agrees and they walk off. It’s as if they know they are powerless to change something that could be better and of great value. It’s bit like losing. Another couple stand before me and tell me it’s bringing back memories. It’s a positive in them; the vitality of smells, the senses touched in sounds from saws and sandpaper and planes, yet negative regret for future stirs a certain type of remorse because they know it wont exist beyond being a mere ‘resistant material’ in a D &T (design and technology ) class.

Another woman walks in and says, “This smell reminds me of going to me Uncle Les’s workshop.” Wood smell is highly evocative, provoking conversations people would never have had they not smelled it before or smelled it again today in my workshop.


  1. Today who that design a web site or animation using the computer is called creative, for me there is nothing creative in designing something that is not real, and that in each stage you can undo your mistake.

    1. I’m illustrator/animator who works solely on the computer, so I understand how you feel, but the two worlds are far less separate than people think. To be honest, I think it’s how you approach your work that matters. Whether my work emerges from shavings, or is created from pixels, they are both real, and something I am proud of. What I do agree with you on, Gili, is that somehow the world has come to think of the Arts as somehow more creative than the Crafts, and the more I do of either I have a very hard time figuring out which truly requires more creativity.

  2. Thanks for this Paul. I think more and more people are finding their vocational calling later on in their lives and it’s never too late for any of us. It seems my vocational calling is still unfolding after standing within six inches of a vise for almost 50 years.

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