I’ve learned many things through my encounters with woodworkers through the decades. Amateurs have many characteristics the more notable is their willingness to talk about their aspirations to improve their skill levels and their knowledge and then their willingness to share their gain with others whether likeminded or perhaps just interested but more remotely. So I listen as they tell me things important to them. A young couple wandering towards my lectures last weekend marvelled at the diverse architecture in the quadrangle of Somerville College when I greeted them. They weren’t hankering for the past but tried to resolve their condition in the present. Another younger man told me he had no penchant for nostalgia but sought a pragmatic approach to his present and future because his daughter wanted to be with him as he made things. Hand tools allows that because woodworking this way becomes an invitation for those surrounding you to become part of a whole lifestyle. Especially is this so with family as my own life attests to with five boys in the shop with me every day from being three years old on through to adulthood. To give an account of all my conversations at the event would likely become more a book, but they were Spanish and Polish, Turkish, English, Welsh and on goes the list. They enriched my life and then too one another’s. What more can I say.
Because the event was hosted by Rokesmith Ltd the demands were simple for me. Arrive a little ahead of time, set up my workbench and tools as I like them and do what I want to do as one of my three primary life objectives—present, teach and write. Who ever gave a man such a palette to work with? What a remit!
For me the above means dig, plant, nurture. First the seed, then the head, then the harvest. These things I have done through decades and now I see a good harvest that keeps growing. My working with amateurs has indeed my way of securing the future for woodworkers in the current stream and those yet to be born, yet to emerge and yet to embrace their personal future in woodworking. I don’t care too much beyond our successes. It’s working. My support comes from this and last Saturday’s demonstrations came at a time in winter when we preface the work ahead by looking ahead at possibilities. I felt totally buoyed up by those I work with, my family and my friends, which are those I work with every day, but then and not the least in any way, all of my woodworking friends near and far.
I have to give more than a nod to my friends in the USA. Mostly it was because of you that this path for me began. As many do today, you came to my workshop and asked me to show you what I was doing. It wasn’t too long before I grew into teaching others the concepts that began with my coining the phrases I use today. Things like, “It’s not what you make that matters so much but how you make it. This determines the outcome.” or “Use the knifewall for guaranteed accuracy.” What about, “Accuracy and sensitivity are one and the same for any crafting artisan.”
Last Saturday was a special day for me because of the freedoms given to me by all concerned to share my own freedoms in my life’s work. Those who came to hear asked good questions and not all of them wood related. I slept well before the event knowing everyone working with me was pulling together their part in the background. Everyone arrived on time to set up and I had so little to do. So I thank all of them for their efforts and willingness to take up the slack as needed and make the event what it was. Cristina coordinated the event like a choreographer as she always strives and is very good at. She is already planning to work on the next events as they occur in different parts of the UK and the world too. I don’t yet know where all of them will be but the venue of Somerville College, Oxford was about as good as it gets once you plan around the lack of parking.
Most of the time my saw and chisel slipped into and through the wood without much effort. One of the dovetails in some very hard cherry was a tad overly tight and small crack began to appear just as it bottomed out in the tail recess. I was sorry that that happened but I was running low on time and wanted them to see that the method worked anyway. So I let it go this time. Even so, the dovetail technique I was showing them really worked. One man said it made him feel better. Hmmm! Other than that it was a tremendous blessing and I want to thank all of you who came to support our work in the Real Woodworking Campaign as it continues to reach those who love working with wood around the world.