I’ve given it my best shot so far. For 25 years and few more I’ve given it my best shot and I’ll keep giving it my best shot for as long as I can. Seeing things in black and white somehow dispenses with the peripheral and gets you to the core issues and that’s what hand tool woodworking and teaching it to others has done for me. I don’t really care much about cutting tenons with a router and dovetails by the same. I am sure, though I never have, I would find it as interesting as watching paint dry. What I do find fascinatingly black and white is my students and my apprentices and my trainees. They are more vibrant in black and white than any colour could ever bring to me. I sit at my bench, listen to their questions and, old or young, I feel my pulse surge and my heart beat fast and my mind buzz when they ask me a question and they listen so attentively for my answers. Often it leads to another question but i don’t mind at all. I never do. Then there are those new to this who don’t know as yet what questions to ask but soak in everything said like sponges and I mean sponges. They could be 70 or 17. How could I give this up??? I just love passing on what I know and am learning in the minutes of every day.
Today we finished off the dovetailed boxes and you would be amazed at the standards. Amazed! Three days into hand tool woodworking and never used a tenon saw or a plane and they got it. Also today we started oak wall clocks, which gets finished in two more days. The joints are all tight and flawless so far. I mean water-tight dadoes like most of the dovetails they made on their boxes. Hannah and I are making ours together as demo pieces but she gets to keep the finished pieces. We have gone through saws and saw sharpening, changing pitch, set and negotiating grain with different types too. We have also covered planes thoroughly too. Watching them work them proves to me that they listened and they learned. We are different than other schools and colleges, I know that, so we progress at an amazing rate because of the way we teach what we teach. These guys will go from Shaker box to Craftsman-style rocking chair in 12 days. You better believe it. I have taught this system since I developed it in 1995 and it still holds good. No other comes close and I love it. These new-found friends are a joy to be with and they excite me. They always have and they always will.
I watch their faces closely and I listen to every saw stroke and mallet blow throughout the class. I engage every second of every minute of every hour they are with me and never cut out. I look up at a sound and correct something misaligned and miss-struck. I help them to listen and to feel and they become more highly sensitised as they draw on senses beyond the common five they know. They trust me and they shift stance, alter courser, step back, watch and listen. Their saw strokes the fibre and the cut goes to course. You cannot buy this, it’s given. It’s deposited, invested, built on and gains interest more than the bankers can give you and your savings can afford. This is progressive woodworking and it’s dead real. They are always right there for every demo and lesson time on time unless they get a flat tyre. They never miss a beat when I call out above a dozen or more mallet blows, “Can I get you around my bench for a minute?” and I never need to call twice. So it is in every class I ever had of the 6,000 students I have taught this far.
It’s really all about hands and discovering how we work them skilfully and efficiently in realms where professional woodworkers mostly these days say you can’t. Amateurs can, you see, because they believe in themselves and they will do it this way whether they get paid or not. They don’t care as long as they are developing skills and skilled workmanship. They just don’t care. So I ask you. Look at these hands of these people in these photographs.See how poised they are. Look at how they hold their hand tools and compose their bodies after just three days for some of them. You see they are listening all the time. They want input into their lives. They want to try and they never get offended when I suggest things to them including when I say, “Whoah! Not that way, try this” And they travelled too. They came from the USA and Switzerland, Denmark and Canada. All in all the represent many nations from western Asia to eastern Europe and across the Atlantic. So, here we are, two thirds through a six-day event and we are all still laughing our sides silly at our silly mistakes and sharing an immersive session in creative spheres we want everyone at some point in time to experience when we turn off, and I mean truly turn off the invasive realms of the Industrial Revolution to simply share our lives in a very wonderful way. Woodworking knows no bounds my friends, no bounds!