Tuesday, March 04, 2008

I have a snow day today and am off from school with a chance to catch up. Things have a a way of taking their toll. To many irons in the fire... a phrase that originates from the black-smith trade. If you have more irons heating than you can successfully hammer and forge, you rush your work, it suffers and the finished blade may be found lacking.

You can only hammer one blade at a time. Today, I am working on sidebars for the book. Some will be technical in nature, some will convey information about design, and some will, I hope, convey the kinds of information that will help readers feel comfortable with their work and inspire their creative participation.

Here is a start. Please let me know what you think.

“Setting up shop” also called "Keep it simple"
Years ago when I had written my first book, a reader contacted me and complained; “I want to make a present for my father-in-law who arrives in two weeks. I went through your book, buying all the tools. Now I’m having trouble knowing where to start.” Unfortunately the project he had chosen was one of the most complicated in the book, and he had no skill or experience in the use of any of the tools. I suggested that he start with simple projects at the beginning of the book, and that his father–in–law would be as impressed by the sincerity of his efforts as by the physical product that results.

If you’ve seen woodworking on TV, or in books and magazines you’ve seen a wide array of tools in use. It would be easy to jump to the conclusion that most of those may be required to make furniture. But, people have been making furniture for years longer than most of those tools have in existence. Too many tools can actually complicate the matter and make it more challenging to start.

If you are just starting out, keep things simple. Each tool has a “learning curve.” Even when the brain gets it, has read up and understands it, the hand and body must adapt themselves to its use. It takes practice to grow familiar and comfortable with the tool’s capabilities and your own. And even experienced craftsmen discover new uses for old friends.

In time you will discover yourself working like those experienced craftsmen who make things look very easy on TV. Like them you will have had practice in the use of each tool. Remember that what seems effortless in books and magazine or on TV is not as easy as you might think. Expect to feel clumsy at first as your hands and body find new relationships with each tool and the movements required in its use. Cut yourself some slack. Start out simple. Allow yourself some success.

Over time you will acquire new tools that will make your work even more fun and productive. At some point you may need a full-featured workshop with all the tools you see in the books and on TV, but take your time and enjoy the gradual unfolding of your woodworking skills, using one or two new tools at a time.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous4:33 PM

    That sidebar makes good sense to me, but then I've already found myself in the situation of not knowing quite how to get a tool to do what I want done. People tend to be impatient, and to want to know things without the learning curve.