Thank you for your responses to the blog about woodworking on the weekends yesterday. I was of a mind not to post it, but then felt that I should and did. The important thing is to keep whatever time you can spare beyond your work and family as a special time of re-creation. A time when you can rest from the pressures of work, spend quality time with your family and then dedicate some re-creational time making this things that help your family. I don;t care if it’s a lifetime cutting board, a spoon, a spatula or a bedroom suite. My dream came true each time my sons came in the workshop to make their first spatula and use a spokeshave to do it. Seeing them grow to make benches and mallets as part of their income-producing life in their teen years meant they were working to standards of excellence and then suddenly their are selling pieces of furniture or making a violin. I equipped them by passing on my skills to them. Now, in my daily life, I am equipping others. It’s empowerment that translates into humanity, family, shared life, shared space and much, much more. My weekends are seven days a week. The weekend is Sunday evening. Why, because I found my fulfilling work passing on what I have to others regardless of their background, age, gender, religion or whatever else causes barriers.
Today I worked hard all day. I am currently teaching a nine-day class here at my Penrhyn Castle workshop and I am straining to make certain I pass on the essentials. The foundation must be right. Sharpening, the right tools, the right joints. Thinking through things and the reasons we do what we do. Five decades ago western woodworkers used western tools, western techniques. Someone introduced Japanese saws and suddenly the western tools were abandoned. Gradually people returned to their western heritage and kept some Japanese tools as well, a few anyway. It was very much a marketing strategy in the same way coining the term “power tools” became the new description of machines. It kind of softened the invasion and made it sort of , well, harmless. Once you could persuade the majority that using machines was just a natural progression from the hard work of hand tools (which most of it wasn’t) to using a more advanced system that freed you from needing skill, you were on a winner. For many, the evolutionary process left the same sort of emptiness people felt working with the same factory machines they used at work and after a few decades they suddenly started waking up to the fact they they too could develop their own real skill, become real woodworkers of quality with knowledge and pride.
I am so glad that we have turned the tide and become more independent of the “power tool” trap. Stemming the tide was critical to the preservation of true skill in the lives of those who love the craft the most and that is you. Amatuer woodworking seems to me the best and only way to preserve skill and the reason is this. Woodworkers who love to work with their hands can continue developing their skills even though the demand for what they make may be declining in terms of finding a customer base. I actually don’t believe that to be the case, but I also know that people can earn better living standards in jobs they do to make money and practice their craft working in their spare time whenever they can. My hope one day is to see more and more people not going in to work but working where they live, being able to stop at 11am and walk into their garage for an hour or two doing something with their hands and then going back to income-producing work. More and more people are working from home than ever before. They are not wasting time in traffic queues, two hours a day traveling to and from work and an hour for lunch away from home and family.
We do tend to see industrialism and working in a global economy as somehow normality and proudly use words like global and sustainable growth to somehow depict real progress. Well, back to the bench for me and sanity. John blew it today and what would have been perfect ended up flawed. He told me I could blog on it and show you where he went wrong so that you would never do the same. I did this some decades ago but my bosses were less forgiving and nailed it to the beam above me. To remind me of wedge orientation. I wouldn’t have posted this if John hadn’t wanted you not to make the same mistake when you make your mistake. But, I must say, John’s work is excellent!
John decorated one of my new bookcases with essential shop supplies. He liked the green of the coffee grinder and the green of the matte that he drinks.
Penrhyn Castle opens its manorial doors to the public again next week, so, if you want to see some majestic woodworking, stop by the National Trust and see what makes this incredible place such a terrific tourist attraction. I posted on a tour I took you though on my blog here some time back, but nothing is better than the feel and atmosphere of the real thing. Book into a B&B for a long weekend and spend some time discovering North Wales. For those in the US, fly into Manchester and discover the heart of the iIndustrial Revolution for yourself and then come to North Wales and see wales in all its glory. Better still, consider coming to one of my nine-day foundational courses. Stay for two weeks and take in the sights either side of the class. You WILL love it!