Lets get… tech-ni-cal…tech-ni-cal…
I wanna get technical…
I get technical questions from time to time from folks who I esteem to be a lot more knowledgeable than myself in the woodworking field. Being an artist seems to put an eccentric bent to everything I do, so I have a hard time dispensing technical advice because so much of what I do is experimental and spontaneous, rather than technically correct.
When people ask me technical questions, or I’m around technically advanced woodworkers, I feel like Job did when the Creator finally spoke after all the intense dialogue between Job and his not so supportive friends. Job heard The Voice and clapped his hand over his mouth, after talking for thirty plus chapters. I feel like clapping my trap and tiptoeing out the back door when I’m challenged by the advanced methods and forums that are beyond me at present, for lack of knowledge or time to learn, or ones I have mastered but don’t feel qualified to pass on.
One of the things that I enjoy is dialoque between knowledgeable woodworkers that is beyond my level. I reach up and grasp a snippet of skill here, a thread of knowledge there, and whatever else I can glean from the discourse, and am made better for it. I find it hard to believe that sometimes it is I who am dialoging the technical, and someone else is on the receiving end, getting help and advice from my experience and knowledge.
If you happen to ask me something technical and it doesn’t seem to come out in an articulate form, its because I’m nervous about it, or my artistic, spontaneous self can’t get the ducks in a row as well as others.
I was well into selling artwork before I called myself an artist, waiting for that mysterious or magical day when I could proudly proclaim the fact based on predetermined, world recognized criteria. To me an artist was a professional, qualified to give technical advice, and everyone else was a wannabe like me. My new wife pushed me into the declaration with the facts. I was painting and selling art, supplementing my income doing something I love, better at it than some, an less able than others. Why not call yourself an artist. She had lots of tole painting under her belt and commissions for pet and child portraits, even a mural on a big rig, but just the fact that she loved and produced art for whatever reason, was enough to call herself an artist.
I certainly am proud to call myself a woodworker but not a professional woodworker qualified to dispense technical advice, even though I have done work at that level, specialized wooden coffins on metal frames that carry ancient maps preserved by our federal government, and custom made wooden carts to carry our antique national literary treasures, reference and history books stored in a vault where a particular gas is pumped into the sealed vault at night to neutralize the self destructive pages. As far as I know, the acid in the antique paper causes the damage. I had no plans to follow, no technical forum to search for answers, just size reuirements and one instruction. These wooden items had to be glass smooth so as not to tear any of the treasures. I was also involved with moving these books during a renovation. We had to wear white gloves. It was intimidating handling such a project.
Where I’m going with this piece is in the direction of the little people. Folks who may be intimidated by some of the heavy information they see, or a woodworking project that they have undertaken that seems out of reach. Or, they may be afraid to call themselves a woodworker because of preconceived entrance criteria to this wonderful world of working in wood.
Do challenge yourself. Learn from others, publications, videos, courses. Keep learning. Don’t let the technical get you down. Its only a part of the lifestyle. If you dont have all the answers it doesn’t mean you’re not qualified to help someone else in your own way.
You dont have to have all the tools, or the perfect shop, or know all the species of wood out there to be a woodworker, or be technically correct in your project construction. Enjoy the lifestyle and if you want to advance technically, go for it.
Dont be afraid to share what you know even if you think you might be technically wrong. I’ve been intimidated about sharing my experiences because I dont know all the species of wood out there, dont have the perfect shop, rarely use plans, and am flying blind some of the time. But, I really enjoy creating in wood.
-- Phil Brown, Ontario