Working Accurately

If you know anything of me by knowing me or reading my musings, watching the uniqueness of our videos and then through social media too, accuracy is one of my favourite words. Of course, accuracy isn’t so much mere spoken and written words, it is that too, but for makers and doers of things, accuracy is the intent carried out in every action we make. Accuracy, sensitivity, precision and carefulness, in my world of making anything at all, watching anything at all, yes, too, manoeuvring (US maneuvering) through it each day, can be used interchangeably. Accuracy means everything!

Manoeuvring too can be interchanged with manipulation, dexterity and so on. Manoeuvering demands mental and physical acuity in the same way we speak words to counter opposition. Hand tools demand manual dexterity to counter the opposition of the wood presents second by second. We often make one slice cut to expedite exact cuts one by one rather than by the thousands we get from machine cuts. You will have read and heard me say most often that it is not so much what you make that determines the outcome, the levels of enjoyment, fulfillment and satisfaction, so much as how you make. This to me is a true saying.

Making Makes New Masters

The last twenty projects or so, that I have made since the lockdown and isolation almost six months ago, have resulted from something I call compression — a zone of workmanship that pulls on the self-constraining elements of making to make the work itself so special you cannot stop yourself from making. This is how the ordinary becomes extraordinary. This is often how I measure myself and the worth of what I am doing in the process of making. The enjoyment I get from cooking a meal when I take a break from woodworking to make and eat my lunch, breakfast or supper, is immeasurable. Crafting food, washing up the dishes, prepping anything and then making everything is all glued together by accuracy, economy of movement and methodology. Making is art in craft and craft in motion.

Such things are no longer taught but they are still learned by those pursuing any art form no matter the medium. Why do I say that? Well, since the demise of hands-on apprenticing and apprenticeships, the teacher-mentors who once were indeed artisans by earned and practiced rite and right, in general, no longer exist. They were replaced by technical college educators who were mostly just that rather than the once practicing artisans. This sad reality left a void in the training of young apprentices. The college lecturers and teachers I have come across do their best but some often present a confidence that’s unreal and speak not from a working background of skill and knowledge combined with actual practice. Sadly, this has a knock-on effect within the industry of woodworking resulting in underskilling in all spheres of woodworking. In the realms of our amateur output, on the other hand, we do see much incredible work and the establishing of lifestyle woodworking. A success story for our decision to make my work with training and teaching woodworkers online!

My next blog will show some of the work of those who have learned from us through woodworkingmasterclasses.com, commonwoodworking.com, and then of course my blog. Quite incredible!

19 Comments

  1. Ermir on 24 August 2020 at 12:12 am

    Your teaching is quite incredible!

    It is known that the medium tranforms the message. The internet tends to make everything “fast” as in “fast food” – fast information, short videos on everything, “the only 10 rules you need to know about…” and so on. Yet, you have managed to convey worldwide a calm, human-paced, meaningful way of working, comprising technique, work attitude and working philosopy. We are in your debt!

    Kind regards from Tirana, Albania
    Ermir

    • Chris Stasny on 24 August 2020 at 9:55 pm

      I second that.

      • Adam on 25 August 2020 at 2:09 am

        I third that!

        • Jeff Tapp on 26 August 2020 at 7:12 am

          In a world I struggle daily to come to terms with, your teachings and enthusiasm for craft, are a true wonder.

          I am probably a bit squiffy on this, but your words here echo to me, the Japanese Bushido. Like I say I am an ignorant English man, but the feeling I get from Bushido, is to do everything as perfectly as you can. Never thoughtlessly trudging through, but rather think on every thing as important, to consider it carefully. I try (and mostly fail) to follow this “code”. And your words here and your many hours of teaching I have enjoyed over the years, exemplify this precisely. Whether cutting a dovetail or a tomato, do your very best!
          Thank you sir.

        • Jeff D on 17 September 2020 at 7:38 pm

          I ate that!

  2. Anthony on 24 August 2020 at 12:26 am

    Paul,

    Your accuracy has helped me in many ways. I am a consistent woodworker and a much better one. This has also helped me in other ways as well. For example. rushing is no longer a way of life for me. I have also gotten into gardening.

    Thank you,

    Anthony

  3. Steve P on 24 August 2020 at 5:46 am

    What a timely blog post. Today I watched your video on making the sharpening jig for the #80 scraper. I made the jig and used to tune in my 80 scraper. Put the iron in and did exactly what you did in the video, set it on a desk I am making from Quarter sawn White Oak and got shavings like in the picture above. It was exhilarating seeing these fine shavings come off this wood, as I was previously getting tearout on it even with my #4 nice and sharp.

  4. Vittoriano on 24 August 2020 at 1:29 pm

    You’re right, accuracy always make the difference, no matter what job you do. Patience and perseverance also factor it as you show with your personal example in your video. Thanks very much for your efforts to teach something which could otherwise be lost.

  5. Carlos Gilberto Almanza Torres on 24 August 2020 at 4:52 pm

    Gracias por enseñarnos, soy un aprendiz de este bello arte que es la carpintería, Éxitos!

  6. John Carruthers on 24 August 2020 at 5:47 pm

    So true.
    I found an hour spent on looking at, and planning a job in my mind saved a day or more come fitting day.
    In my last job, if I didn’t remove and refit a bay window, or 4 seperate box sash windows each day then questions were asked.
    Now I can take as long as it takes.
    If it’s a Georgian town house I can take a week if I like.
    The folding shutters that disapear into the reveals, all moulded and fielded are a joy to do.
    Your videos have upped my game, and my standards which were getting complacent I must admit.
    Thanks Paul.

    • Steve K on 24 August 2020 at 7:43 pm

      Paul with the lack of masters to teach the proper techniques many of us are left with learning from our mistakes. I have posted a sign in my shop
      “Failure Spawns the Professor of Perfection”

  7. Paulo on 25 August 2020 at 9:03 am

    Wow Paul, I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on tying the crafting of words to the crafting of anything handmade.

    That’s just poetry to me. I too have been lucky enough to hear my call in life at an early age, mine is towards non presumptuous language/communication and quiet/contemplative handcraft.

    Only recently I came across the ‘advent’ of woodworking and by association your views of the world – I thank you for sharing both 🙂, I’ll take it.

  8. Paul Boegel on 25 August 2020 at 5:18 pm

    I find that your teachings allow me to progress in the skill level I have taken a long time to gain. I feel the learning coming thru when I tackle a project and understand to a great degree what you are talking about. I just delivered a reloading table I built for a friend that wanted something he could not buy. Aside from helping me get a set of welded steel legs and a glueup that a passed away friend started in the shop years ago get out of my shop, it is always a serious booster to hear someone crow over what they are getting. He was quite surprised as well as another woodworker he knows that commented that it was truly nice work. Life is good. You touch us all in ways that we have not been able to appreciate until now. I value these vids and watch them faithfully. There is ALWAYS something to learn.

  9. Robert Burchard on 26 August 2020 at 12:08 am

    Good afternoon Paul, I hope this note finds you and your family well.
    The lesson you have given us is not only to be applied to the gift of doing good work, But to life itself! To do the very best I can every day. Then there is no regrets.
    God’s Blessings
    Robert Burchard

  10. Nathan Jones on 26 August 2020 at 3:43 am

    There is a project I’ve been working on for a few months now. It’s demanded an accuracy I can honestly say i may not have faced without the lessons you have taught me Paul!.
    Now I always strive for accuracy because why not.

  11. Mike Z. on 26 August 2020 at 7:43 pm

    I always struggled with the over measuring, living and over dependence on the ruler and micrometer, until I found the way of woodworking closer to the style you have lived and taught for decades. That made my life so much better, and easier too – my accuracy has not suffered one bit learning to measure off the parts, an opening or even a story stick. Where this obsession for over indulgence of sharpening, measuring and general factory made or machine oriented outlook came from is a bit beyond me. I’ll choose the more organic and realistic approach any day of the year, and indeed from here on out.

  12. John Challis on 27 August 2020 at 4:53 pm

    I suppose I am simply rephrasing what you have said, but it’s clear that the time taken between a master and student in an apprenticeship allowed for the transfer of the philosophy behind accuracy and craftsmanship. Once the philosophy becomes ingrained, the attention to accuracy becomes automatic. It was a much abridged philosophical underpinning I received years ago while I worked on a small crew building swimming pools. My boss’s repeated mantra was “if a job’s worth doing it’s worth doing well,” — sometimes repeated with a scowl if my workmanship didn’t meet his standards. I still learn as much by my mistakes as from the philosophy, but I try to keep the mantra in mind while I’m working.

  13. chewy on 28 August 2020 at 2:51 am

    Thanks, Paul. I just discovered your master class videos a couple weeks ago. You have inspired me. Now when I am contemplating my next move, I think about how to do it with hand tools instead of witch power tool to use. It is so much more peaceful and relaxing and fulfilling. And I am sure my neighbors appreciate it as well

  14. Brian Edgeler on 29 August 2020 at 8:23 pm

    Five words I’ve yet to hear from Paul, “Here’s one I made earlier.” It’s like having one’s own personal tutor, showing you step by step, not just telling. I’m slowly learning the near enough is not good enough.

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