Clearing Away the Fogginess

The past two days have been foggy, but, even so, tomorrow is a big day for me. The daffodils are out and if the sun shines, our day will be so brightly coloured we will remember the day forever

My personal expectations are always high the first day of class. I am sure that this will be one of hundreds I have had and always look forward to. At 9am I will meet people I’ve most likely never met. We will gather around my workbench  on stools and not chairs so we can all see what we are doing. At first the students will call their workbenches desks and tables and I will smile quietly as they correct themselves apologetically. That is unless they read this post. My plan is always the same and that is to change their lives by giving them something they don’t have or at least releasing something that they do have to become something they may not yet be. My workshop is a culture – an environment wholly designed and developed around making things with your hands and one that embraces the need for change, for teaching and training, for learning not about wood but about hands and hand work, body stance, presentation of tools, muscle use and mental gymnastics. In essence it’s about changing the way people think,  deindustrializing processes, undoing wrongs, evaluating the validity of information from elsewhere and reforming what should never have been industrialized – the human mind.

Different strokes for different folks

Not everyone that reads my blog is sympathetic to what I write here and elsewhere. A few consider what I do as unreal and of course to them it will be unreal because, for the main part anyway, their objectives are very different and they have often been forced by circumstances, finances, education and training to think only one way. Labour and work is what we sell for money to pay bills of every kind. This a reality of life, but I think most people I work with want to climb over that to where they can simply work wood and as much as possible minimise the impact of a money-making world. In the workshop is a place they can take control of an area of life they feel to be more sacrosanct. I personally strive for that in the every day of my life and have done so since 1988. I have enjoyed working every day in carpentry and joinery, furniture making and woodworking six to seven days a week for 50 years, and made my living from making and selling what I make with my hands. Now in this supposed unreal world, strangely enough though it may seem to some, are hundreds of thousands of people who would prefer to turn themselves off from what they are told is “power woodworking” and turn on their senses in a way that they can sense by touch and sight and smell, sound and taste differently. When they work without a hand tool they sense loss even when, amazingly, they never actually used the hand tools they dream of experiencing.

Opening the day

So what tomorrow morning brings is heightened sensing through those things that actually touch all of the senses. Trying to understand how we sense differently through our hands is the difference between thinking and talking about what we think happens and actually developing an experiential multidimensional occupation of doing it. Sitting around the bench may well be the fulfillment of a dream. Not that I am anything, but the reality is this next twenty-four hours  opens a door to reality and depth. It just makes so much sense when it’s all right there, in front of you, at the bench I mean. Deindustrialising brings a clarity I can’t explain but know happens in the seeing, hearing and touching. Smells and tastes are present but more subliminally present.

We have a schedule we work to typed up to stage progress so that expectations are realistic and not too high. This helps everyone to pace themselves and to understand the steps we take to the completion of each of the exercises and also the projects.

Sharpness and accuracy 

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These two elements are so pivotal to our work for the next nine days. Sharpness and sensitivity become synonymous and it’s this that separates the true craft artisan from an industrial processor. In the first hour we dismantle many elements that come from our mass-manufacturing world. Without these two elements, woodworking can only be frustrating.

2 Comments

  1. Ira Copple on 15 March 2014 at 2:48 pm

    It is getting harder in the industrialized world. I spent an hour at the local home depot picking through their lot of 2×4’s and finally decided that it was a waste of time trying to find enough quality boards for a work bench. I am just glad I was not being asked to build a wall out of this weeks offering. Luckily there are other sources in the area and tomorrow is another day.



    • Steve Massie on 15 March 2014 at 3:43 pm

      I feel your pain ………. I did just that last year, I know I looked through close to 100 or so 2 X 4’s before I found enough to build my work bench. The quality was less than stellar but when it is the only game in town there isn’t much choice.

      As it turned out my bench is stout and rock solid, maybe not as pretty as some but after all it is a work bench meant to take a beating and pounding. I don’t like bashing people or Company’s but in my area I think they buy the cheapest thing’s they can get their hands on.

      Buying Lumber and having it shipped in for me is not an option, and is totally out of my budget now that I am retired. So I look at my projects as challenge’s now and am starting to appreciate this so called wood more and more.

      Sorry about the rant, and Paul great Blog I enjoy it very much.

      Steve