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Humility and Ignorance

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Blog entry by Gary Rogowski posted 06-02-2015 02:28 PM 1084 reads 0 times favorited 14 comments Add to Favorites Watch

One of the lessons that every woodworking teacher must learn is humility. Being more knowledgeable than a new student doesn’t mean that you’re smarter [that’s certain] or more skilled. It means simply that you’ve put in more time. You have made more mistakes and after repeating them enough times you do learn to avoid them. But then you forge on to make new ones.

If you, as a teacher, forget that everyone starts from a place of ignorance then each question is irksome to you. Don’t forget. Remember how it was when you started. When I began, my test for strength in a piece I built was to get up and jump up and down on it with my boots on. I was never one for fine tuned metrics.

If it survived, I felt good enough to press on. In ignorance. There is much to learn still. Stay humble.

The Northwest Woodworking Studio

-- Gary Rogowski...follow my wit and wisdom on twitter @garyrogowski



14 comments so far

View JoeinGa's profile

JoeinGa

7482 posts in 1471 days


#1 posted 06-02-2015 04:20 PM

Words of wisdom … good words ! :-)

-- Perform A Random Act Of Kindness Today ... Pay It Forward

View Andre's profile

Andre

1022 posts in 1270 days


#2 posted 06-02-2015 04:27 PM

I don’t think the Lady bug house I built for my Granddaughter will pass that test, well maybe it might!
Sure glad I stopped making mistakes last year.

-- Lifting one end of the plank.

View longgone's profile

longgone

5688 posts in 2773 days


#3 posted 06-02-2015 05:19 PM

The more time I spend woodworking the more I realize how much ignorance of my chosen craft I have. There will always be individuals, both past, present and future that will know more than I ever hope to know and will be much more skilled and talented that I will ever be. All I can do is to have fun and passion with my work and enjoy every second I am able to spend doing it…

View DocSavage45's profile

DocSavage45

7703 posts in 2307 days


#4 posted 06-02-2015 05:46 PM

Gary,

If we share the wealth of our experience and the knowledge that comes from our errors maybe someone will build upon them. We can only hope that someone will say ” Oh Dah!”

As I stumble along I hope to learn the cause of my errors. Asking, then applying what I’ve been told has made my road a bit easier. I only hope to do the same. Sometimes it’s buy sharing the errors i have made.

I also hope to remember that mistake the next time? LOL!

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View bosum3919's profile

bosum3919

338 posts in 1084 days


#5 posted 06-03-2015 02:14 AM

Gary,

I was involved in a design industry for over 40 years that could not allow mistakes as they resulted in natural disasters or even death. However, no matter how hard we tried we had a learning curve that included accidents such as Piper Alpha in the North Sea up through the bp Maconda blowout in the Gulf of Mexico. The one thing that stood out to me was that competitors came together to share knowledge and experience to make sure it could not happen again. Lumberjockers are sharing this same attitude to ensure that we all learn from each other’s mistakes and success. In my short time here, I have learned more about woodworking than in the previous 10 years in practicing on my own.

-- Bob

View Dark_Lightning's profile

Dark_Lightning

2634 posts in 2573 days


#6 posted 06-03-2015 02:40 AM

As a design engineer (software, tools, machines), I always looked to reduce and/or eliminate my mistakes. I was so bugged by my lack of perfection that I actually researched the “theory” of errors. The one thing that I read about writing software, in particular, helped me. It turns out that the difference between newbies and seasoned writers of software is that the seasoned people make less mistakes. NOT ZERO. Having taught high school physics and math for a few years, I can tell you that the teacher who doesn’t learn from his students is a fool…in spite of the fact that I have a degree in mathematical physics, and in that sense know WAY than they do about it. Humility and ignorance, indeed.

-- Random Orbital Nailer

View stefang's profile

stefang

15512 posts in 2799 days


#7 posted 06-03-2015 04:13 PM

Good subject Gary. While I certainly would not call myself a woodworking teacher, I have taught my grandkids a few skills, primarily scroll sawing, but some joinery too. They always catch me making mistakes. I don’t mind and it has become a family joke, so if nothing else, my work brings a little humor to the table.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Ocelot's profile

Ocelot

1470 posts in 2103 days


#8 posted 06-03-2015 05:02 PM



The one thing that I read about writing software, in particular, helped me. It turns out that the difference between newbies and seasoned writers of software is that the seasoned people make less mistakes. NOT ZERO. ...

- Dark_Lightning

When I used to teach programming, I reminded the students that probabilities don’t add and subtract, but instead must be multiplied. If you are 90% sure a particular part will work but there are 10 parts of your program like that, then the probability of the whole thing working is 0.9 raised to the 10th power, which is about 1/3. If there are 100 parts that you are 90% sure will work, the probability of the whole thing working is about one chance in 37 thousand. So, for very complex things, you need a very high confidence that each part works – which you get by 1) never leaving any question unchecked and 2) testing the parts rather than waiting to test the entire assembly. If you are unsure of something, look it up and/or test it.

How that applies to woodworking? If you aren’t sure you remember the right dimension, go check your plan. If you can’t remember if you aligned your saw, check it. Measure again after you cut. If it’s not right, figure out why. If you think your 3-year-old might have turned the handwheel on the outfeed of your jointer, check it. ;-) (He always turns that handwheel. If I ever get my jointer straight again, I’m going to remove that handwheel!).

-Paul

View Dark_Lightning's profile

Dark_Lightning

2634 posts in 2573 days


#9 posted 06-04-2015 01:18 AM

I mostly programmed in FORTRAN, pretty much only number-crunching, which was pretty straightforward. But mistakes creep in, just the same.

My favorite probability joke-

There was a mathematician who had discovered that the probability that a bomb was carried onto an airliner was one in a million. So, every time he flew, he took a bomb with him. The probability of another bomb being present on that same aircraft is left as an exercise for the student…

Another part of my “career”, later in life, I designed tools with some pretty tight tolerances- slip fit, press fit, transitional fit, that kind of thing. I designed a part one time that was machined by EDM. At one end, we needed to hold +/- .0003” tolerances, at the other, +/- .005”. As a physicist (BSc), I understood the mathematics behind dimensioning and tolerancing better than the PhD EEs working with me, as they always wanted +/- nothing on the parts. The machine shop foreman looked at me like I was from the moon when I told him that the tolerances were looser as we reached the other end, since all the engineers before me wanted +/- nothing and spent days matching the remaining parts. Crazy stuff.

-- Random Orbital Nailer

View Ocelot's profile

Ocelot

1470 posts in 2103 days


#10 posted 06-04-2015 02:10 PM

Dark_lightning,

That’s a funny joke, but you probably just got yourself on some government list.

I have a co-worker (mechanical engineer) who used to work as a NASA contractor (for Boeing and another company). He designed the latches on the outside of the international space station which capture the cargo ships for docking. In that kind of work, there are huge temperature differences, so you have to design based on dimensions and tolerances at a particular temperature. When docking, one side of the latch mechanism is in full sunlight and reaches a pretty high temperature, while the other side is in almost absolute darkness (only receiving light reflected from the other space vehicle). The temperature difference can be 200C, as I recall. They tested this latch in a cryogenic chamber and in an oven – but even then it was hard to duplicate the actual conditions that would occur on orbit. They could not use any lube except dry graphite, since at the cryogenic temps, any oil become pretty much a solid. He designed the entire thing out of aluminum (probably 7075).

After he left that job (before the thing was put in orbit), Boeing moved the project to Houston (from Huntsville, AL). A year or two later, they called him and begged him to come sort things out – paid him high consulting fee to come to Houston and figure out what was wrong with this thing. It turns out that some engineer had modified the plans to use steel for some of the parts that he felt needed greater strength. Whenever they tried it in the cryo chamber, it would jam. My friend explained to them that it had to be all aluminum, since all the parts needed to have to same coefficient of thermal expansion to avoid jams caused by different expansion of the parts. They didn’t like that answer, but they must have fixed it because it’s been in orbit for years and we haven’t heard any stories about those docking latches jamming.

-Paul

View JayT's profile

JayT

4783 posts in 1676 days


#11 posted 06-04-2015 02:36 PM

“The more you know, the more you realize how much you don’t know.”

One of my favorite quotes. The hard part is remembering that you once knew nothing and having patience with those that are now in that position. Never confuse ignorance with stupidity.

-- "Good judgement is the result of experience. A lot of experience is the result of poor judgement."

View Dark_Lightning's profile

Dark_Lightning

2634 posts in 2573 days


#12 posted 06-05-2015 12:11 AM



Dark_lightning,

That s a funny joke, but you probably just got yourself on some government list.

I have a co-worker (mechanical engineer) who used to work as a NASA contractor (for Boeing and another company). He designed the latches on the outside of the international space station which capture the cargo ships for docking. In that kind of work, there are huge temperature differences, so you have to design based on dimensions and tolerances at a particular temperature. When docking, one side of the latch mechanism is in full sunlight and reaches a pretty high temperature, while the other side is in almost absolute darkness (only receiving light reflected from the other space vehicle). The temperature difference can be 200C, as I recall. They tested this latch in a cryogenic chamber and in an oven – but even then it was hard to duplicate the actual conditions that would occur on orbit. They could not use any lube except dry graphite, since at the cryogenic temps, any oil become pretty much a solid. He designed the entire thing out of aluminum (probably 7075).

After he left that job (before the thing was put in orbit), Boeing moved the project to Houston (from Huntsville, AL). A year or two later, they called him and begged him to come sort things out – paid him high consulting fee to come to Houston and figure out what was wrong with this thing. It turns out that some engineer had modified the plans to use steel for some of the parts that he felt needed greater strength. Whenever they tried it in the cryo chamber, it would jam. My friend explained to them that it had to be all aluminum, since all the parts needed to have to same coefficient of thermal expansion to avoid jams caused by different expansion of the parts. They didn t like that answer, but they must have fixed it because it s been in orbit for years and we haven t heard any stories about those docking latches jamming.

-Paul

- Ocelot

Hmmm, the gov already knows who I am and that I’m not a threat. Stories like yours are interesting, because they illustrate how a new person in a design job may not necessarily know all the decisions and trade-offs that may have occurred before they took it up. Differential expansion and contraction between dissimilar metals is well understood, yet where I used to work, we had a deployable hinge made with some parts titanium, some parts aluminum. You can pretty much guess what happened at cryogenic temps…it didn’t deploy.

-- Random Orbital Nailer

View Roger's profile

Roger

19878 posts in 2268 days


#13 posted 06-05-2015 12:28 PM

Ahh yes Gary. You are a very wise man.

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed. Kentuk55@yahoo.com

View Ocelot's profile

Ocelot

1470 posts in 2103 days


#14 posted 06-08-2015 09:28 PM

Dark_lightning,

Sounds like a similar story. I really shouldn’t have told mine, since it’s not really my story, but my co-worker’s – and I likely got various details wrong.

-Paul

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