As my hands seem stronger than ever and my lungs fill and exhale with the pressures of planing and sawing, I catch myself as I reflect on my work training new woodworkers to become truly skilled and competent. Very few courses offer what we have given these past 25 years. Imagine making a dovetailed box within a few hours of finding out the difference between a marking gauge and a mortise gauge or a tenon saw and a gent’s saw. Imagine knowing that sharpness comes in a few minutes at the bench with a few short lectures and that your hands are but hours away from mastering the same skills I have used for 50 years. I’m talking about a fully dovetailed box with rounded edges and not a single trace of machine work in the whole. Recessed solid brass hinges that have no gaps and an heirloom quality project to boot. More than that, you then make a wallshelf unit with through dovetails and then go on to make an oak table and thats nine days. Also, it’s not just a box or a shelf and a table. All of that translates into box making, big and small, book shelving and even dining tables and more. That’s what will happen as I close this year with yet two more Foundational courses and 8 more online broadcast videos that will go to thousands of people around the world. The courses are about full yet again. There may be one or two places left but that’s all. I’m gratified by the support we have gained over the decades and now as we plan the 2015 schedule I’m gratified all the more by invitations from around the world to spread the good news on other continents too. The 2015 classes have been well received too. I am looking forward to meeting you when you come from Israel and New York, from Sweden and Denmark and Switzerland too. Thank you for booking your bench spaces early.
Our year has seen tremendous successes too many to number and we embrace the prospect of a new year ready to unfold. How you measure success in my line of work is not by the bottom line at an accountants pen or a spread sheet but by the number of people who we feel have been transformed in the way they think and work and live their lives. Consistently throughout this year we have managed yet again to debunk myths and mysteries and false statements and claims. Yes, all this is true, but more than that we have equipped a new generation of people who love the idea of working with wood to become real woodworkers on the different continents of the world. In India I see many of you searching for peace and a simpler way of providing for your families and you tell me that our video teaching has helped you to better understand how to make changes for an alternative lifestyle working wood. You say you now are better able to question false hopes and aspirations and search out real ways that you can master skills and establish yourselves as skilled craftsmen and women. These are success stories for me. In the USA and Canada you say that you are now wring with your sons and daughters in the evenings in the workshop and on the weekends you are building projects you never dreamed that you might. You’ve unplugged some of your machines and left them that way for months. Your are splitting and riving materials and making joints that look as though they were made by an ancient crafting artisan. This is how my accountancy measures success. You can’t really buy this because it isn’t for sale and it cannot be bought. It’s whole new way of erudition and I see fruit in people’s lives that they know was well worth the investment of time and finance because, quite simply, it changed them.
As I work towards this weekend and the start of a new class of foundational woodworking my hear begins to sing inside somehow and for some reason. Why is that? Why after 25 years of teaching over 5,000 people to work with their hands do I feel the same as I did all those years ago. Well, let me tell you. It’s because I have learned that I can change the way people think about woodworking. It’s because I prove you can live and work successfully in an unplugged shop with compromising quality and by delivering skilled craftsmanship to men and women. My pulse beat pounds and my heart races as I just think about these things. One by one people get off the conveyor belt and discover what they were searching for when they began woodworking 20 years ago and couldn’t find it. Now they sharpen their saws and there planes and chisels. They split tenons to lines with exactness and cut the mating parts of dovetails one by one and put them together knowing that they will be married for one hundred years.
The projects we make are major for foundational work because we feel we can press people to a level that they feel they accomplishing good standards of workmanship as they learn. Look at the boxes and the shelves and then look at the people’s faces. It’s all about relationships. That’s how I measure success!