Wednesday, March 20, 2013


Veneered tea boxes with their first coat of Danish oil.
We associate the word artificial with fake and fakery. But its roots merely refer to things that are man-made in contrast to those things that come from the natural world. Museums once had cabinets of things designated as natural, containing materials from the  natural world and others designated "artificial" referring to museum quality objects that were made by man and that exhibited human artistry and skill. Still despite the artistry that the word implies, the word artificial carries the burden of association with things that are fake and thus unworthy of real attention.

This morning I went to school to begin a thorough clean up while the kids are off for spring break, and this afternoon I am working on chapter 6 boxes, and applying Danish oil to others. Fortunately there is nothing fake about wood working. It demands real things of you. Miss the line as you saw, and there is no command-Z to set things back.

Cherry box with rough sawn maple lid.

Cherry box with rough sawn walnut lid.
Working in the real world commands that we take things seriously. And it is thus a simple way of getting our kids to do the same.

Make, fix and create...


  1. Doug

    Last year at the 17th-century living history museum where my shop is, a German woman was watching me work, and looking at the furniture and other woodwork… she held a carved panel and said in her precise and formal English “It is very artificial”. It made me laugh, because it’s a very ancient use of the word, so I knew exactly what she meant. I tried to explain that elsewhere in American today; most folks would not understand her meaning.

    There is a term used in 17th-century English - “artificer” meaning one who works with his hands, who makes things…I just checked the OED
    “A person who makes things by art or skill; an artisan, a craftsman.”

    Peter Follansbee

  2. And compare that with this:

    Clever or cunning devices or expedients, esp. as used to trick or deceive others: "artifice and outright fakery".

    There is a sense of the unreal about exceptional work... that folks without skill cannot imagine how it could be done without either magic or machinery.