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Accuracy, sensitivity and the senses

Becoming accuracy

Accuracy is not something we are so much as something we become. We must first see what we are not before we can become. Accuracy comprises a blend of qualities seldom considered connected yet for the main part these qualities remain inextricably interwoven in the life of any craftsman. For many years I decided not to view sensitivity and accuracy as two separate dimensions but two sides, faces, of the same coin. To be more accurate, sensitivity and accuracy can be used interchangeably at will without compromising the value of either.

Developing accuracy through accidents and underachievement

Tomorrow, someone in the class will use more energy than he or she will be able to control. This energy may simply spill, but sometimes it bursts. Energy out of control comes unexpectedly and until we experience such outbursts of uncontrolled energy at the chisel’s edge or beneath the sole of the plane, we can lose control, damage or material, hurt ourselves or others and so on.  Every crafting artisan must experience these levels of failure to truly understand it through the consequences that occur. Others, on the other hand, will use less energy and fail to deliver the power needed to energize the work for fear of risk. You can see the fault in both when you are in the class and yet you cannot blame either because they haven’t experienced first hand the results of these two dilemmas. The problem is that I can understand both situations. One time I passed a highly figured panel into a thickness planer. The result was true perfection. I took the book-matched counterpart of which there was only one in the world and did the same. Loud bangs and popping noises filled me with grief. I never did the same thing again. I looked at the perfect piece, offered it to the mirror, but only a reflection of what might have been remained.

Dead on accuracy is precise sensitivity no matter the task

Accuracy is a dimension. A day comes when a man sees the fully orbed expanse of accuracy and realizes he only glimpsed what it was momentarily. Accuracy is the dead-on sledge strike and the ax edge placed with precision only the swinging arm can deliver. I like this well placed accuracy that coordinates every muscle and sinew in exactness. To be sensitive to the work demands that all of the five senses be fully engaged. When this happens, and a man’s body is trained to respond to what he alone senses, there is a coordinated union that takes place and he, aptly constrained, delivers full measure to the tool as a direct extension of his complete intent. To do this means he must train his body to task. The athlete is under training and strains his body by high demand, so too is the way of the craftsman. He demands no less and so we begin to understand that sensitivity and accuracy both cost us something. Just as information demands attention, so to accuracy demands sensitivity. Just as information consumes attention, accuracy consumes sensitivity, for sensitivity comes only from what we sense.


  1. Russell Schmieder on 14 January 2013 at 10:13 pm

    Wow, what a great piece. Sensitivity, accuracy, information, and knowledge all tied together by hope and progress. After an evening of making dados with aweful tearout it makes me want to try again.

  2. Denise Gaul on 15 January 2014 at 2:08 am

    Russell, you sum up what I like most about Paul’s instruction. He ” makes me want to try again”.

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