This weekend is the first hands-on workshop of the season. The class is full and it’s nice to be in a fixed location after three months teaching on the USA tour. I still miss my US friends though.
The mountains are looking lovely above the castle.
Opening-skills workshops continue to increase across the continents and I am glad to see more and more people developing core skills in the tradition working with hand tools even though what they do, these days, defies the limits of tradition.
I knew 20 years ago that there was enough gathering inertia to break through the barriers into real woodworking because the people I met in the US were determined to be master craftsmen and women in their own right. Amazingly, the tools and skills they would start using were actually becoming lost, if that makes any sense. Once they learned a few basic skills, they were launching into both paid and unpaid careers as lifestyle woodworkers. It all began with an at-the-bench lecture, a 30-minute demonstration, a craftsman sharing his skill and friends gathering in a show and tell club meet. How to sharpen a chisel, a plane, a scraper and a saw was the prelude to watching them being used and people started believing that they could do it. That’s working wood.
When joints started coming together, no matter how roughly, they felt that inner reward only one word can describe – ‘fulfillment’. For some, that was something they had never experienced in this way before. Their hands were working, arms, muscle and sinew united in a common goal. The experience was electrifying and that’s something you cannot put on a conveyor belt or in a bottle or can and sell. Every joint seated was pristine joy. They tried again, got better and practiced more. Stroke by stroke confidence grew and then projects were limited only by their own imagination. From day one, 24 years ago now, we started teaching hand sharpening. We knew you couldn’t work wood without it. Progress was so fast, much faster than we expected and right there at the bench things became so amazingly coherent. Then there were the exercises we undertook throughout each day. Immersed with no distractions meant a deep quality of workmanship for everyone there. That’s how we got where we are today. It all boils down to dedication. Not only mine, but those who help, who make, who study and research with us and care about the future of woodworking.
We ended up with the ideal starter course for men, women and young people and especially children, everyone attending must be over 18, but then they can help others younger than themselves to get started. Grass roots knowledge begins at the bench. What’s a combination gauge and what does it combine? Why is pine considered a soft wood and oak a hard wood? Is one hard and the other soft? Not always easy questions when they have more to do with growth patterns and leaf shape than wood hardness, density, colour and smell. Tomorrow, we begin.
I love this workshop, which has as much to do with bringing down barriers and eliminating intimidation as it does to do with working wood, even though we work wood to do exactly that. Part of this class takes place in the woods and a walk of the Penrhyn Castle grounds where we look at hardwoods and softwoods growing side by side (weather permitting). In the US we have to settle for the beauty of Upstate New York woodlands. Equally lovely but no castles. We already sent out the welcome letters for this coming weekend and I look forward to seeing everyone as I prepare the table for dinner and a feast in working real wood begins.
Next week we start a nine-day Foundational Course. three workshop modules all in one. Just two places left right now. The class runs Saturday through the week to the following Sunday. Keep you up to date!!!