Does the Past Have a Place in the Future?

P1200234I was in Reims and Paris a week or so ago, just before the bad weather but not in good weather either. The thing that struck me was the decline in skilled work and craftsmanship and then the decline in maintenance outside of the capital’s key buildings being eroded by foot traffic of a world of global tourism. Magnificent buildings of course nurture national pride no matter the nation, that’s what the massive iconic structures and statues were designed to do. Aside from such iconic structures drawing the eye and admiration of all, there were men and there were women, perhaps in some work mostly men and in others mostly women. Genders split apart anyway, who carved and shaped a culture we recognise as belonging to France or England or Scotland. Divisive to divide 196 counties rather than unite I suppose.P1200247

This week, spending restful time in Oxford six miles from my home, people, mostly Asian tourists, stood like statues in front of Oxford’s iconic buildings with their arms extended holding telescopic poles that clawed their smart things and snapped pics to impress people with before they even return to Asia. Of course  we all do similar things by degrees. What struck me was that whereas people took pictures of recognisable buildings, they didn’t seem to be looking at the buildings themselves at all. I suppose the culture of ‘me‘ is taking ever-more ground, but what also struck me is that no matter the country and no matter the buildings they are indeed eroding and there is no longer the wealth of invasive cultures to feed the brute that built arches and cathedrals and towers  and such things that merely expressed the dominance of one culture over another. P1200196Of course there is no need for a fancy gold statues of naked triumphants returning from undiscovered worlds and bold eagles exemplifying aggressive dominance. This is now internalised in peoples.

P1200121

I watched people in a cafe sit drinking and eating beneath some love art work produced by a carver. last week I sat and stared at the work of french cravers now long dead. It’s the same the world over. Whereas we may have one person who can capably and efficiently carve and make a living from it, possibly, there would have been 2,000 carvers 150 years ago. I don’t know how I feel about that but what I do know is that those days of creative work are over. They will never return.P1200624

It is of course  a reality that if France has its triumphant expressions of success so to do most other countries of Europe. For me it’s the eye of the Industrial Revolution that intrigues me the most and the reality of woodworking throughout that era. P1200635P1200640In the Scientific instrument museum in Oxford I was struck by the amount of wood used in the construction of instruments and also the protective casings that held them safe. Multiple floors and casings kept them for the generations to muse on. let’s face it, all of these instruments were the precursor to the ever smarter smart phones that allow owners to access a million times more info than the instruments in the museum. P1200646Actually, that may be true if I use the word ‘access’ but the instruments, in the hands of those that developed them,  provided much more. Imagine what they would have done with a smart phone! Actually, that’s probably not true. Perhaps they would have competed in games dumbed down to two thumbs too. I suspect not. Some people see beyond life’s games and are ever-plumbing the depths for newness and new knowledge and technology.

I do look forward to the future with apprehension on the one hand and hope on the other. who nows what will shape the cultures f the future. I wrote this following my trip to Oxford and Paris:

It’s not that Oxford’s disappearing but what made Oxford that’s disappeared

P1190701I looked up from my coffee and saw a lovely art work and knew that the man, anonymous in the carved relief, was done.
A thousand carvers died and so too the craft slowly dies to soon be gone.
No man will carve such skilled things of creative art in future days unfolding.
A lost living seems now to have no value.

Someone devised a copy CNC machine to rough-carve deep elements to size a leaf, a flower petal and a linen fold in wood with no soul.
He asked a woman to carve what the machine could not bring to life.
She walked from him and never carved her living again.P1200734

So the man reads his news-filled paper beneath the art carved and never saw the enriching work.
The coffee cools and he sips and laments that banks are dishonest and politicians lie.
He never knew the honest man that carved the honest art and laments not the loss of art that will never come again from the gouge and the chisel’s edge.

P1200726One day the cafe will change hands and sell out to a smart phone company selling its smart sleeved plastic virtuality beneath the lost and hidden artwork covered by smart phone signs.
And the texture of a man’s lived life in Oxford will one day disappear.

42 comments on “Does the Past Have a Place in the Future?

  1. My wife and I are buying a house and I recently walked through it with a home inspector. In the master bedroom there’s a door that goes out onto the roof. It’s original, and therefore has some cracks for the continual changes in temperature over the last 60 years it’s been in service.

    The home inspector suggested replacing it with a steel door. I was appalled, but not surprised.

    Now this door was likely almost entirely machine made, but it was part of the style of the house. One of the things that attracted us to the house was the fact that so much of it was original: floors, trim, doors, many windows, railings, etc.

    People are so quick to run to the nearest big box store and replace something that is part of a style, an aesthetic, with the cheapest viable option. Little by little the beauty of the original creation is lost, and you’re left with a hodge podge of ikea/target/Home Depot garbage.

    • Brian, this is so true. I live in Michigan, USA, in a house built in 1942… so not incredibly old, but right at the tail end of that pre-WWII construction style that was, in my estimation, a bit more craftsperson-made (even when “manufactured”) and a bit less “robotic.”

      (As an aside, there are oodles of post-WWII houses in America that really mean so much to this country. I will tell you my opinion is that most of these houses that were built from the 1960s onward are a bit soulless/artless, but they are generally well-made, follow predictable codes, and have allowed countless families to live happy lives, for certain.)

      Anyhow, our house is small, nothing that would’ve had ornate details. But the living room has the coved ceilings that were a common and artistic touch of that era. And it also has nice millwork around the fireplace and a door to the entryway/mudroom that is wooden with the sash-window style glass panes (forgive my ignorance of the proper terms).

      We are only the third owners of this house, but someone in the past painted the woodwork around the fireplace and this door white. And under that, a couple other coats of paint.

      I cannot help but wonder what is under that paint. Given that the entire house is floored in white oak, with tongue-and-groove subfloor instead of plywood, I really wonder if I ever take that paint off if I will find white oak underneath.

      Unfortunately, that’s a massive project, so I’m not sure I’ll find out anytime soon. But I can dream. And it blows my mind to think that someone would’ve willingly painted over white oak…

  2. I’ve spent hours wandering round different cities in France looking at front doors. Largely in the unspoiled back streets. Some real honest craft there.

  3. I have a photograph of my wife standing in front of a doorway in Quebec city (the vieux ville.) We chose the setting specifically because of the door.

    The purpose of art is to decorate our lives, and, sadly, we seem to have lost sight of that.

  4. Not to mention the poor souls who upon that spine chisel was wielded. What worries me the most is not the smart phone addictions, but that which comes next.

  5. THANK YOU Paul for your commentary.

    As a still-novice woodcarver, your remarks touch on an interest very dear to me. While you left your home country to visit others, I was visiting your UK, London in particular, for the very specific purpose of appreciating the 300 year old woodcarvings of one man, Grinling Gibbons.

    While Gibbons is celebrated for the work of his own hands, he employed many more carvers, and as you state, in the time that he lived there were thousands.

    Today, there are precious few souls carving mostly in isolation. Some struggle to help others learn the art, while the rest of humanity seems content with lifeless, but smooth, CNC milled carvings from China. My own son has a house full of furniture decorated with carvings … Chinese CNC carving, on furniture bought at prices American manufacturers can’t match. When he sees my carved work, he asks why there are noticeable facets instead of perfect smoothness.

    Your own recent lesson that included carving might encourage some to learn more about carving. I hope so. … and I’ve carved that “Texas star” many times myself. (not bad for a NY resident!)

    Thanks again for your thoughts.

  6. I have to disagree a bit about the “culture of ‘me.'” I will admit I am defensive about this as a 30 year old person, but it seems that this is a common thing that older generations will say about my generation. The truth is that no generations are monoliths and every generation is filled with plenty of vain and shallow people, but they are all largely filled with good-natured folks trying to do what’s right for them and their families and survive and enjoy one day at a time.

    I think that a lot of times the observation of all the smartphone photo-taking is true, but I’m not sure it’s usually nefarious. I think many people think that they have this amazing piece of technology with them all the time, and this piece of technology can allow them to capture a memory and a point in time so that they can keep it with them forever — not just inside their head (where let’s face it, it’s prone to fading, or at the very least we could say discoloring), but somewhere they can go back and look and regain a fraction of the visceral sense they had from being there.

    People have done this for a long time since point-and-shoot cameras, whether it be a Polaroid or a disposable or a digital point-and-shoot, or now a smart phone.

    I will say Paul, I think you are right about one thing — we are very prone to, in our well-meaning focus on capturing moments with these magical devices, end up sort of missing the actual experience of what we were busy trying to capture. It is a balancing act. If you focus so much on taking pictures you might look entirely past all that which was standing before you, waiting to be soaked up. I know it has happened to me and I try not to let it happen any more.

    • Often it seems more important to impress others with what we are doing than experiencing the reality of the moment we came to immerse ourselves in. I am guilty of this too unless I take stock of where I am. I am not sure I made the point though because I watched the people for an hour and they seemed oblivious that there was a building there behind them beyond the snapshot. And the point is that what built this or that distinguishable city is the people that had skill not the mass manufacturing of poured concrete slabs and plate glass. Oh well.

      • I was in Jasper National Park last summer. Here we were in the splendor of the Rockies, and the tourists are taking “selfies”. So the idea is to travel at great expense to some of the most beautiful landscape in the world to take a picture of ones self. I don’t really understand that, and if I ever do, it’s time to put me down.

        • I try to put myself in other shoes because there is something nice about having your pic taken with a famous scene or iconic building or person. So I don’t want to be hard on people who just want a picture to remind them of where they were, who they were with and so on. In Oxford the other day it was had to get through the crowds of tourists at different points for those who wanted pics with a ‘Morse‘ background. Funnily enough I was watching some footage on a video including Paris and could identify with some of the lesser scenes of Paris because I was there, not the least of which was the thousands upon thousands of scooters and the apparent complete disregard for road law.

  7. What concerns me more than the future of man’s monuments to himself is where their heart, soul, and might is focused upon.

  8. The think my wife and I loved about our trip to Wales was the old buildings. I love to look at them and think about the time and skill it took to make them. I do love pre 1900 European architecture and it was a blessing to see it first hand. Plus the rarebits from the Bell Tower Cafe in Caernarfon are very tasty also.

  9. If you go to Paris (France) you should not mis the “Musée des Arts et Métiers”.
    If I remember well, I have spent 4 to 5 hours there.
    Sylvain

  10. Paul,

    Thank you for your very insightful and thought-provoking article. I sense and share the frustration you feel with the ever changing economic reality that no longer supports highly-skilled craftsman and artists. Though we can all debate about the cause, we can probably agree that the cause is many-fold. To me, narcissism and self-absorption are the effects of a much greater cause: the snowballing culture of consumption. It is an intangible and mystical vicious cycle. When we passively consume and don’t employ our feeling, intuition and natural need to create, we lose our sense of individuality and become armored. When we become more armored, we find it harder to be ourselves and be an individual, comfortable in our own skin. We begin to lose the sensitivity and feeling we once had as a child, and our day-to-day experience becomes less integrated with our environment. It becomes less palpable and more subjective. And we find ourselves, as tourists for instance, just gobbling up these untapped experiences as more “things” to consume. Taking a selfie while remaining oblivious to surrounding beauty, whether to impress others or not, is just more of this compulsive gobbling.

    I suppose I am writing about this not as a critique of others, but as a confession of identifying with this behavior. I confess that I may go weeks without any time in the wood shop – wherein I usually lose myself in the work and process – but yet will “gobble up” many of your blog posts and videos. And I love it all, frankly. It’s just great! But then I realize that I’m just back to pigging out on information and not bridging the gap between taking and giving. In those moments, I’m not serving the intended purpose of the information. You give yourself in creating this content, much of it for no cost of admission, and in taking in that information, I am then obliged to (and ultimately benefit from) translate that potential by giving myself into the work. But once I return to my little bench and sharpen my chisels and irons, the energy starts flowing again and, in an instant, all is well again.

    I am aware of the irony in me making a supportive or encouraging statement in response to the person who has (via an electronic medium which – just to say it – is usually read on a smart phone or tablet) given so much support and encouragement to me and others. But I think we all need to encourage each other to prevent such feelings of hopelessness. We cannot change the trends and, yes, the odds are that those scores of carvers will never have a place in our modern economy again. But we’re keeping the flame alive. Or rather, the Creative Spirit is keeping us alive, driving us to find ways in this modern context to honor and channel it through our work. We only need to remain open to allow this influence to flow through.

    Thank you for all that you give. Your work is a shining example!

    Best regards,
    Will

  11. One of your more thought provoking topics. Some 30 years ago we were working on a job in Washington D.C. and had the good fortune to have lunch outside with some Italian stone carvers, who were working on the National Cathedral. They said if they didn’t finish the work before they died, they didn’t think there was anyone else who knew how to do the work. Fortunately they did finish the stone work.
    I could tell you other stories of European trained craftsman who repaired antiques with great care and skill that I have also had the chance to meet. As far as I know, few if any have learned their skills. It saddens me to see these talents not being passed down to future generations.

  12. On the subject of “Smart” phones: My young co workers have great sport with my old flip phone. I explain to them the folly of spending large sums of money on something that will be obsolete in 2 years. I point out that the combination wrenches my dad gave me 50 years ago still work. I have a wooden plane that my great grandfather used, it still works. They don’t understand, even when I can get them to look up and listen.

    • I think I am starting to understand what it means when it says, “they have ears to hear but cannot hear and eyes to see but they cannot see.” Teachers that come with smaller children are the same. The children totally understand what I am saying and teaching them but some teachers themselves seem only programmed to think and act one way and that troubles me greatly because it shows how inoculated they are to any shift from what they’ve been taught and think.

    • I’m happy enough without one. I couldn’t achieve what I achieve with one and, indeed, who will pay his or her wages from this completely free and voluntary resource my friend? This is only the second complaint in three years. Perhaps people are just kind and the writing is rubbish. All of my blogs are free-writings. It’s the best i can do.

    • Laurent,
      I experienced a real surge of fremdscham on reading your comment.

      Paul is loved and admired by many, many people. His work, both his writings and his doings have and will continue to be a source of inspiration and knowledge.
      I’m sure it took just a matter of seconds to compose and write your comment.
      Check back in 10 years, 20 years – You will be able to see your input into Paul’s work.

      Just as I’m writing this, I’ve realised the irony in such a comment – Paul, you could just get a machine to correct the spelling and grammar! – I for one prefer to see the ‘knife-marks’ – Your words are all the more honest finished straight off the chisel.

    • I’ll second Laurent’s observation. While the intended meaning of the content is not lost, the extra parsing that’s often needed distracts from it. My preference always falls on the side of clean syntax because it greatly enhances understanding.

      That said, Paul is once again depressingly spot-on with his observations. Any more articles like this and I just may go find a beautiful old building and jump off its roof…

      • I really don’t mind people jumping on me for my poor writing. The way I write I can love writing. When I was in school I hated it it because writing for nothing made no sense to me. I am glad he said what he did because when I was 14 the headmaster told my parents I was completely ineducable; according to them I could never be educated. So 10 year’s under state educators couldn’t make any claim on my accomplishments to date. Now I don’t think I need to go back to school or employ an editor. I think most of my audience can read between the lines here. More editing would slow my output. I suppose anyone can take what I write, edit it to correct it, and then read it to themselves.

    • Dear Lurent,

      This is a blog open to all. Lack of command of the English language should, in my opinion, not bar anyone from participating in the exchange. Hence, I believe various levels of prose, grammatical skill, and (the Oxfordian comma may have been officially abolished; I have not) syntax, have to be not only accepted but welcome as tokens of a globally shared interest in woodworking with hand tools.

      Kindest regards

      Sven-Olof

  13. I love the pictures you post of furniture and architectural details. I do not see them in the Midwest (U.S.) or really in magazines. They inspire me as to what can be done. I am an engineer and do not think in the artistic realm but seeing it, I could apply it or modify it for my use. Just a reason to practice making something so beautiful, not my attempts. Thanks for your teaching!!

    • I have looked at the many Japanese saws through the years and consider the Japanese saw market fundamentally flawed for many reasons not the least of which is the fact that all information about Japanese saws comes from the manufacturers, catalog companies and media magazines and not from Japanese craftsmen that use them and can expound on their virtues. These saws are disposable throwaways so I generally avoid them for this reason alone in that 98% of them cannot be sharpened. The teeth break off too and they are indeed extremely difficult to resharpen even if they were resharpenable, which they are not. Oh, and I took out the reference as I am trying to keep my site clean from advertisements.

      • Paul please don’t change I love your style and technique and agree you don’t need an editor, I can totally understand what you are saying or going. I have learned so much from you so I want to Thank you for unselfiness time you give to many of us. I am educated went to College but I think most of what was taught is useless, common sense and the willingness to learn and use your hands goes a long way. I am old school and some of this modern technology is hurting our younger generation IMO.

        Thanks for what you do and keep up the good work.

        Steve

  14. I took an adult education class in carving was really good an I learnt lots but the carving chisels I bought before the course were so bad it put me off continuing which is shame they couldn’t keep an edge and I had no money for phiel ones which are the best shame really and now I have moved too can no longer take the course again . it wont die out while we have those that love to carve teaching other adults I suggest you look at you local courses and try it , it is easier than you think with a good teacher helping you as is anything in life.

  15. Craftsman are a rare breed nowadays in my opinion. I’m 27years off age and served an apprenticeship in site and bench joinery (machine). I’ve been taught by a guy who showed me the right way to do things or a thought. I have made everything from windows to full kitchens corian worktops etc. But it wasn’t till I bumped into Paul’s blogs that a realized that why as that no4 been on the shelf for the last 9years, so i picked it up one day and tuned it up and took a shaving it shocked the guy, he looked and said what you doing we sand that I replied you do i ain’t. He looked at hand tools as redundant as he would cut tenons on the 5 headed tenon machine and mortise on the morticer which is all I ever knew. Then I watched Paul every night for a year almost going over and over the details then went to work one morning and put my notice on he’s desk. He looked at me and said what’s this, I replied I’m leaving, why he asked I’m going to try and become a craftsman was my reply and since that day I’ve become more and more my own man who no longer works. I make less money but I make things the way they should be made. I find it hard to get the clients/customers to understand the difference between quality and rubbish. Which is why in my opinion most craftsman are a dying breed as its hard to compete in modern society where we are brainwashed from adverts etc in to a throwaway world off replacing things every couple of years. But that’s just the way it is now. Its also reflected in peoples characters now I find people more ignorant and care free towards the environment and other people. Its just a constant consume everything and throw it away that’s why we have a island off plastic bottles floating in the ocean. Sad times indeed.

  16. Thank you Paul for developing my skills via your books and DVDs over the last 4 years. I give you alone the full credit.
    I am struggling to find like minded folk with whom to woodwork and share in a quiet shop. Blogged idears from your devotees may help many of us in such a predicament.
    Further to your recent trip to France!
    The shop window chair, second from the right, that you have pictured front on, has been scaled up, drawn, pattens cut, seasoned timber selected and bench cleared in readiness for a build (four planned) here in Central West Orange NSW.
    Warmest regards
    Roger

  17. I’m not so sure that the creative days will never return, at least as far as woodwork is concerned. 3D printing is very much in its infancy and, If it really fulfills its promise, then simple consumerism will be so easily satiated that it will become boring and unique, hand-made articles will become desirable. Let’s face it, you’ll never be able to ‘print’ wood.

    • I am learning that we live in a generation that will be the replacement of say who I am. This generation of professional woodworkers, and I use that term to separate those who would do it with both arms tied behind their backs versus those who would never do it without machines, seems ever destined toward mass made methods to work simple tasks. In another ten years we will discover the sad loss of skilled workmanship if indeed we are not already facing it now. A CNC router and 3D printer will only replicate from a program. A man, and I mean a skilled man who has trained and practiced for a decade or three, on the other hand makes these tiny but critical interactions with the wood and the tools that cannot possibly be quantified nor replicated by a rotary cut from a machine. Always remember that machines are NEVER tools and therefore can never replicate a cut made by human hand.

  18. I greatly appreciate your writing on this and I couldn’t agree more. Now, I admit, I am no woodworker of any sort. It is a moment of pride for me that I can even make a square cut in a 2×4 with a circular saw. And I can already hear you thinking, why would I ever read your blog? Two reasons, One, my father was an exceptional woodcarver his who life and I was always able to pepper our conversations with bits from your blog. And Two, I am the compliment to your woodworking, I am a blacksmith. When I walk around an older city I stop to look at railings, gates, and fences to see the craft and care that went into the work, see how the joinery was done, look for hand hammered welds, and discover other bits of my trade. I too see the piles of aluminum junk people buy and dispose of, the toxic mix of who knows what Chinese metals that people bring into their houses, and the cheap metal lawn art from the local mega mart. I see the heaps of every galvanized thing and sigh at the loss of true pig iron that would look better and last longer in it’s place.

    However I also see bits of green coming up through the asphalt at the same time. In my area anvils are getting scarcer because more and more people are picking up the craft of hammer and tongs. I see more houses that when redone are getting more metal work built into them. And I see more and more people asking about getting work done. I see more masters having classes and hand down their hard earned skills. I even know of a youth program for troubled kids teaching them the basics of the trade. I think craft is starting to come back, oh not to what it was to be sure, but I see people utterly rejecting plastic and 3d print as fast as others are adopting it. Time will tell of course, but the light has not died out yet, not by a long shot.

  19. So I was musing on the question, that is this blog posts title today. Some time around a marvellous century being made at Lords, on the radio and my tea going cold I realised that it’s all about outreach.

    Now I am totally commited to learning and improving with hand tools as it’s what I enjoy in my spare time. So I am not making this comment from the perspective of an experienced machine or hand tool user ( in the woodworking realm ) more as a casual observer of many different trades in many different environments.

    Paul your always talking about your experience working as an apprentice and as a joiner, at a time when the use of hand tools was far more common on work sites. I think it would be a good idea to do a series of videos about a basic, but what you view to be essential, set of hand tools that a joiner working on sites today could take and use to compliment their power tools. Not just the tools themselves but the most common tasks in which you see them being useful, for which they are currently being overlooked but could help with finish and efficiency.

    My reasoning behind this is giving tradesmen the impetus and understanding to try and use hand tools efficiently in real world construction scenarios will draw more people in to hand tool woodworking. I think as you’ve often said it’s just getting the tools into peoples hands in the first place which can prove to be the most difficult.

    People are still people now as they were two hundred years ago, so whatever was made by a person then can be made by a person now. Yes we may have lost touch with a certain way of working with wood, but it only takes a few people to carry a skill on until it’s need en mass is required again. So for now hand tool woodworking may have largely retreated to the amateur realm save for a lucky few. However should the need arise people will be there and they will be able to meet the challenge.

  20. I am just getting involved with woodworking after around 45 years of not bothering. I find that by making items by hand thoroughly enjoyable it’s the growing passion that feeds me and keeps me going and I’m sure that others will agree that when you finish making that item you actually leave part of yourself in it.
    Paul, one thing that I have noticed since watching your videos is that you are passionate about the work you do. You put your point across well and your instruction along with your explanation is well balanced. I have found over here that a lot of experience has been lost and to find someone who now works wood by hand is scarce and I tip my hat to you for passing that knowledge on.

  21. Hi Paul,

    I really liked this post. I enjoy architecture and spend most of my very rare holidays photographing a cornice in a ceiling, the rosettes carved in a staircase, or in the stone around a window.
    My most wow moment was in Prague where I fond a building whose exterior was like the interior of a Georgian building. It was not a tourist attraction, located down a small side street and to my disappointment was not open to the public as I was just thinking if the exterior is like this whats the interior like.

    The argument is made that when theses great buildings and monuments were made in the past labour was cheap and governments were not “burdened” with having to provide social services for their citizens and the poor were quite rightly locked up for the crime of being poor.

    Todays we hear that workers are paid to much and this raises the cost of everything while being provided with items which are designed to be thrown away and replaced with the same poor materials. Sad to say I can’t even buy honing compound here in Ireland as the “woodworking shops” don’t believe there is a need/demand for them to stock it. In my opinion our buildings are also reflecting our throw away mind set and our need to be flash rather than provide substance, and in other ways stand for how we pay more for less.

    My dad is a retired carpenter and when I was looking to buy my home warned me against buying anything built from 1990 on wards here in Ireland due to the in his words Sh*t materials and shortcuts taken to build a large numbers of houses in the shortest length of time, something which required more than one brown envelope in a pub to pass any inspection.
    Some of these shortcuts are life threatening such as no firewalls in the attics between houses in some developments.

    As for me I’ve ended up with my wife in a 50’s farmhouse where she can run her animal rescue while studying for her vet nursing degree.
    Sure its not where I imagined I’d end up when thinking of such things in my early twenties. Sure it requires maintenance and I’ve to make new shelters etc for the ever expanding number of animals hence the rare holidays:-) but its solidly built and isn’t going to collapse around our ears also all in all life is good and I don’t really miss the three plus hour waits in departures.

    Don’t worry about your writing you make articulate posts and this is a blog not a novel. Also along with my dad the other man I admire the most is my best friends dad who is a blacksmith in his eighties. The man can hardly read or write to what would be considered an acceptable standard today, but was able to make his own bike at 12 years of age and his own crane in his forties both because he needed one and could not afford to buy one.
    While I struggle to correctly sharpen my chisel, I know I need to practice and it will come. I think of my dad and others and their ability to just do these tasks. While I know my dad is impressed with what I can do on a computer in my day job its no way a comparable skill to what they and you can do.

    Keep up the good work.

  22. For me it’s not about the end result from my tools vs what a machine can produce. It’s the development of skill, the connection with the material and the joy of making and crafting. When finished I sit and look and show my wife whatever it is I’ve been making by hand and it is a complete feeling that no machine could ever produce. So so many people don’t get that… But then that’s not my problem.

  23. This is for Mark Casey- I understand you to say you took a course in carving and loved it, and felt you were really good at it, but moved and, did I understand this right, don’t have a way to learn from a teacher where you are? I just wanted to point out that for years I drove 9 hours one way to spend 3 hours with a master carver, then 9 hours home again, every Saturday. I left at midnight and got home about 10 pm. It was worth every minute, even though when I arrived at work on Monday I was exhausted. So I understand how carving can grab you. I absolutely live for woodworking and carving. (and Paul, thank you; I am learning a lot from you!) If you are not able to take courses in person, there are several master carvers who have on-line courses. I am taking one now, and she is excellent; I learn a lot. I don’t think I am supposed to “advertise” on this site, so I don’t feel comfortable saying their names, but one is in the USA and one in England. There may be more, also. There are definite problems with this present age, but learning on line is not one of them!

    And, Paul, I am not so pessimistic – I think if people get hooked on carving, they will create their own clientele, and just like working with hand tools, we educate the people and they understand the value of what we do and buy our goods and that becomes the new “must have”. “Made by hand – see the tool marks? They are to remind you that one individual made this; not some robot or machine. Those are my marks to remind you that you bought something made by a real person- me”. Quite different from digital chips. It requires education – after all, how did Home Depot, Ikea and the rest get so big? Education – only they call it “Advertising”.

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