Saturday, March 03, 2007

This is a note from Joe Barry that I will share with you. Joe, I hope this is OK....


With my last couple of notes to you I was inspired to return to a favorite book: The Way of the Carpenter by William Coaldrake.

"Skills of a more advanced nature were absorbed by imitation of the master by the apprentice, a process known universally throughout the arts and crafts of Japan as nusumi-geiko, "stolen lessons". In traditional practice, therefore, the bases of learning were total immersion in a workshop environment and inner motivation, both occurring at an age of extreme sensitivity and adaptability. The manual skills and creative outlook of the apprentice were formed as the very person was maturing. The essence of carpenter education was to mold the person and the professional at the same time, before "the bones hardened." Having been exposed to the subtle psychology of this system, I know that its techniques establish a progression defined not by formal curriculum but by behavioral initiation, and that the whole being is permeated with special attitudes toward collaborative process while the techniques of tool use and building construction are being mastered."

One of Coaldrake's observations was a report by an older carpenter on how kids used to hang around the worksite and absorb what was going on. With the advent of power tools thay had to chase the kids away for their safety. No more exposure to the tools and meterials to inspire them!

One of the most profound influences on my development was Lance Lee and The Apprenticeshop. In 1975 Lance wrote a monograph entitled "Apprenticing Revived" It opens with this paragraph: "East of Bath, perhaps a hundred miles, on a salt-water cove in Passamaquoddy Bay, in 1972, a small boy named Christian began to grow up. His father was a boatbuilder. For his second birthday he had been given a fine German wooden-soled smoothing plane. After the first two days he stopped aimlessly banging away. Christian began to copy his father's sideways motions. Play? Rite of passage?"

Both the Japanese and Lance believe that tool use must be taught at an early age and that those that come to it later will never have the instinctive mastery of those that started young while their brains were still developing.


The photo below is of a smoothing plane made by my friends here in Eureka Springs, Bill Clark and Larry Williams

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