It All Takes Time

Last summer I was hanging out for a week at Mike Seimsen's Home for Wayward Woodworkers  during one of his handtool immersion weeks. The concept is to take a handful of younger folks interested in the craft and get them up and running with tuned up "previously loved" tools and a tool chest to carry them home in.

One evening, during an after dinner drink (or two or more) I was telling Mike what an awesome experience this was for the students. "I wish I'd had this opportunity when I was beginning to figure it out."

"Hell," said Mike, "How do you think I felt. Nobody was writing, or even talking about hand tools when I was starting. You has Chris (Schwarz) and the internet!"

He was right of course. I had great teachers and influencers to draw from. (Mike included) but I've also had the sustained time in the saddle that has taken things I've read, seen, and heard and  allowed me to amalgamate them into my personal style. I'm still learning I"M STILL LEARNING. and so we all should be, but it all takes time.

The short attention span theater is all around us. It permeates our everyday and almost all of us carry in our pockets a little index card sized dopamine dosing machine designed to keep our divided attentions divided. Instant information and gratification at the swipe of a finger in a tool too useful to ignore. But mastering a skill, a craft like woodworking is not something you can download or plug in. It takes time.

It requires making mistakes, A LOT OF MISTAKES. It requires abandoning failed projects and clinging to desperate ones. It requires time on your feet at the bench, sweat dripping onto your boards and it requires long car rides with the radio off to contemplate, problem solve, and plan. It requires constant evaluation, self competition, and sometimes competing with those who don't know it and sometimes competing with those who are long dead. It requires you put in the time and effort. It all takes time.

The good news is that it doesn't judge. Your tool chest won't mind if it's closed for a year, it's patient. It will wait until you're ready. A little sharpening and you can be off and spending more time. The skills are only slightly perishable. The familiarity will diminish some but the human hand is amazing. It will remember quicker than you expect.

You can get there, but you do need to spend the currency of time.

Ratione et Passionis


  1. Right on Derek, right on. I find as I have less and less time left I seem more willing to piss it away with things about which I don't give a damn. I failed to get heat in the garage this winter and I am sneaking out just now trying to get my corner vise finished so I truly can say that I am finished with this bench after seven or eight years. Ya gotta get after it and make those mistakes!

  2. Weird, there must have been a lot of classical schooled woodworkers back then (nearly all of them): Hayward, Wearing, Frid, Klausz, Lee, ... and last century has seen a lot of books.

    1. Frid and Klausz didn't write anything until after the 1980's and libraries didn't carry them for another 10 years, Hayward was hard to find if your father didn't subscribe to the magazine. most libraries did not have "how to" sections or if they did they were small. in my hometown I was told once that they couldn't afford to waste money on books no one would read when I asked why they didn't have more. so what I'm saying is that those things may have existed, but were not easily accessed, unlike watching youtube instructions on how to do something. be well.

    2. Maybe if you're not in woodworking it was hard, but Frid book 2 is 1981 and in my library I find:
      The complete book of woodwork, Hayward 1974 (reprint 1954)
      Furniture making, Blackburn 1978
      The complete woodworker, Jones 1980 (reprint 1920?)
      Hand Tools, Watson 1982
      The essential woodworker, Wearing 1988
      And to be honest one book is often enough.

  3. Well said!


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