When One Woodworking Door Closes…

…another new two-day Discovering Woodworking starts…

…and that’s this coming Friday morning at 9am. Of course last weeks course is designed to open new doors for new woodworking hand tool enthusiasts. That’s what we have always been about and will always be about. There is a lot to getting the start right when you begin woodworking with hand tools and so this is an important first step for people to get the right information. If you have never picked up a sharp hand saw or plane then you have no reference point to relate to and a lack of knowledge as to what to expect from any given tool. I first taught this workshop for the Texas Arts and Crafts Council in the late 1980’s and I have taught it with little change ever since. back then I worked out that with three joints and ten hand tools you could make almost anything from wood. Simplistic? Perhaps, but I have found that I reach for about ten hand tools throughout any given day. That being the case, how many joints do I use? You guessed it, three.

I love the foundational courses I teach because they are so freeing from distortion we face today when a visit to a chain store woodworking retailer often leads us down the machine route instead of the path towards real woodworking and in particular the development of simple skills machine work seems to hide us from. Skill has be achieved by the determination of a made up mind to accomplish. They easy route of machine only can be learned in a few hours and still you feel like the machine did it and not you. Why would you feel that? Because that’s what happened. Machines do have their place, but in my experience and questionnaires over the years I discovered one thing. Almost all woodworkers started out wanting to work wood with their hands but could find nowhere to really learn the craft in a proper way. For some time in the early 60’s and 70’s almost all of the info out there was geared toward the machine and Of course the big backers then were the machine-making giants that controlled the magazines. Nowadays that’s changing, all be it too slowly.
Above is a good example of perseverance and endurance together with fortitude and overcoming. She never picked up a saw in her life before last week and never made anything from wood before. 20 minutes from completing last night and needing a few hours for the glue to dry in her table joints overnight, we met this morning to attach the tabletop and send her very happily back to London.




DSC_0057 So too Andrew (Left, from Essex I think). He stayed on for a couple of hours to fill the time before his 12.2) train home. Two very diverse backgrounds united in an ambition to create with their hands something they never made before. There is a certain defiance in my line of work and theirs too. They prefer not to use machines for so many good reasons not the very least of which is the sense that they want to do it. A bit like when children say, “No daddy, don’t you do it for me, I want to do it.” This matters. They want to achieve themselves rather than feel like they cheated. They want the harder path, they choose to climb the mountain rather than take the lift. DSC_0065 Theirs is not machine work where skill is always pretty much subservient to compensate for the machine but real visceral palpability subsumed in the creative realms a machine can never elevate them to. And so, here you see relaxedness, enjoyment and outcome tangibly expressed. It’s definitely deeper when you hand cut the dovetails and mortise and tenons and it’s so much wider than anything a machine can ever give. Energy directed and coordinated by hand and eye beats the socks off anything I can think of. If they make ten more boxes and three more tables to compliment what they made here they will have become competent and internally fulfilled woodworkers. DSC_0053


  1. Got to your blog late, which three joints and which ten hand tools? Just curious.


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