Saturday, April 13, 2013


Herman Finkbeiner passed away on April 1, and he will be missed in the woodworking community. He was one of the founders of the Northeastern Woodworkers Association and served as the first president and executive secretary for a group that went from an original eight members to approximately 1000 members today. I tip my hat to a fine man at his passing. It is certainly not enough to simply say that he will be missed.

I was invited to have lunch with Herman (Herm) at the Woodworker's Showcase in 2008 (or was it 2007 or 6?) and we'd corresponded since. He was deeply concerned that children in schools were not getting the kinds of experiences that woodworking can offer to build character and intellect and he wanted to brainstorm with me what his club could do to turn the tide. He was not one to ask idle questions. In response to my concept "Wisdom of the Hands." He asked, "have you heard the German term, "fingerspitzengefühl"? I had not, but his question launched my investigation into the meaning of the term.

 I'm awaiting the arrival of a group of visiting arts enthusiasts from the Oakland Art Museum, and so will not write much about fingerspitzengefühl except to link to an earlier post. Reading Herman's obituary, you will notice that he knew the meaning of fingerspitzengefühl from first hand experience. German philosophers distinguished between Wissenschaft and Kenntniss, two forms of knowledge. The first is that of second hand experience such as what might come from reading a book. The second, kenntnis, comes from actually having done something yourself. When both are assembled on the stage of learning, profound intuitive insights are available.

For example, working at GE for 35 years, Finkbeiner wrote over 20 scientific research papers and was granted 30 patents. As a human being, he was involved in a wide variety of community pursuits in behalf of the public good. In the midst of it all that, Herman became a competent and enthusiastic participant in the woodworking art.

There is a greatness of purpose that comes with fingerspitzengefühl, and one can look back at Herman Finkbeiner's life to see how it works to have both sides of human knowledge, both wissenschaft and kenntnis at one's fingertips... a thing few schools bother to teach.

 I was sent a link to photos from my box making class last weekend. Go Here!

 Make, fix and create...

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