Grumbles from the shop #10: Louis L'Amour

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Blog entry by dennis mitchell posted 04-01-2010 06:27 AM 4997 reads 0 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 9: Happy ThanksGrumblings Day! Part 10 of Grumbles from the shop series Part 11: Buy American? »

“There is a knowledge in the muscles of a workman that goes beyond the mind, a skill that lies in the flesh and the fiber, and my hands and my heart held a love of the wood…” Louis L’Amour. Words of a great wordworker.
Trying to teach woodworking to a beginner really brings this home. No matter how smart, or talented, it just takes time to learn how to hold a chisel, or run a belt sander. This is something no hobbyist can know. He might build to a higher standard (and they often do) but a professional has to work with out thought. Intuitive woodworking….

8 comments so far

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 3330 days

#1 posted 04-01-2010 07:18 AM

dennis i certainly agree with what your saying…after time..the tools just fit..and we know how they work without trying to figure them out…and then there is the wood… me …wood was and is a living thing..and i know when i work the wood…....i can feel a connection that is just there…....well what you said are good words..and good thoughts…......grizzman

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4187 days

#2 posted 04-01-2010 11:55 AM

my favourite author!

it is like a photographer—it doesn’t matter what type of camera a photographer artist has in his/her hands – beautiful creations will take place. “It” is that something that cannot be taught, it can only be felt.

Thank you for words of wisdom Dennis.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View jockmike2's profile


10635 posts in 4273 days

#3 posted 04-01-2010 12:42 PM

You hit it on the head buddy. I realized that, trying to teach turning to Dave and Rick. I thought, “I can’t teach these guys how to hold a chisel or avoid a snag, or when to stop turning because the wood is too hot and starts cracking. Endless hours of things I’ve learned on my own through years of turning on my own, with questions to guys like you, Karson, Dick Cain, Mark DeCou, Frank, Aussie Don. Guys that have done these things for years and know the character of wood and the stresses you can and can’t put on them. I never had a private teacher, but I did have a wealth of knowledge I could turn to in a second and get a right answer. That’s how I learned to woodwork and turn. With help from you Old Farts, and I say that with the kindest and gentleness of meaning. I thank all off you from my soul, mike

-- (You just have to please the man in the Mirror) Mike from Michigan -

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 4326 days

#4 posted 04-01-2010 12:58 PM


The Love of Natures Wood. What else can anyone say.

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN.

View Mark A. DeCou's profile

Mark A. DeCou

2009 posts in 4432 days

#5 posted 04-01-2010 04:06 PM

well written. I didn’t know that Louis was a woodworker. Fun to learn that.

You wrote this just in time to stress me out completely while preparing for my casket building class I’ll teach in 2011, more currenlty with scrimshaw art class I’m leading in just three weeks. Thanks so much!

I’m working with a teen now building an electric guitar together, usually one evening a week. It takes so long for him to do what comes natural and quickly for me, both in the thought process, and in the action. He asks a simple question, and my mind races through years of practicing and mistakes in a few seconds as I make a decision about what tool to use, and how to do something he wants to try. Without that huge head-computer file of information, I can’t do it quickly.

I’ve read a lot in magazines and books, have about 20 feet of shelves full, but I can’t remember much of what I’ve read. But, I do remember most of what I’ve done, at least at this point in my life. I’m already to the point though, that I go through my computer files of photos, and I discover things I’ve built that I had forgotten about. It’s sort of scary, and fun at the same time.

This teen is a talented guy, and will make a great artisan some day if he sticks with it and endures the long hours of sitting on a stool making mistakes, and cutting his skin, and learning from it all. I can’t teach him those things, only can help guide him in principles.

For instance, he will get a great idea of what he wants to do, and then when I explain what it will take to accomplish it, he can easily talk himself out of the effort. So, principally, I tell him to do what he wants to do, and not worry about the effort, the material cost, or what he must practice on before he does it. Not to shirk back from fear or intimidation. He won’t improve by doing what he can currently do.

I can give him that guidance, but the shop-stool hours, he’ll have to put in himself over his lifetime. He’ll have to learn on his own the type of things you can’t read about in a magazine article or book.

And, I enjoy listening to him play riffs on his guitar, and hearing him talk about the wide open horizon that is his bright future. I’ve enjoyed the time together so much, that during his Spring Break he didn’t have time to come down to my shop, so I had to write him and ask if he’d forgotten about me.

I need what he has, and he wants what I can teach. If I had to do it all over again, I’d switch places with him, and start all over. But, I wouldn’t want to take that from him. I’ve enjoyed working with him, and being energized with youth and vision.

I taught him knife making a couple of years back, and I’m sure he’s sold more knives than I have since. Gotta love how God does things.

Good to hear from you again Dennis,

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

View patron's profile


13608 posts in 3368 days

#6 posted 04-01-2010 04:37 PM

one of the things i teach my students ,
you don’t really know your work ,
until your hands know it .
your mind and your heart can understand it ,
in many different ways ,
but until your hands have it ,
it is all just theory and experimenting .

another thing i do ,
is to ’ clean ’ my hands in sawdust ,
before i start to work .
this puts me in the same frame as the wood ,
and keeps me from just powering over it ,
and doing it ’ my way ’ .
( it also keeps my paw prints off of the work ,
so i don’t have to sand off the grease later ) .

thanks for the post , Dennis ,
i didn’t know that about L’Amour either .

nice .

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 3989 days

#7 posted 04-01-2010 05:25 PM

Louis could “SEE”. I have been able to teach students to “DO” but I cannot teach them to “SEE”. I also cannot teach them to “Feel”. I don’t like to teach anymore. It takes too long to remember where it all began.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View Bearpie's profile


2601 posts in 3045 days

#8 posted 04-01-2010 06:46 PM

Louis L’Amour was a man of many talents, skills and had a very great knowledge of many many different things. He has experienced all that he has written about which is why he wrote so well and with so much feeling. I really miss him and his works although I have never met him he is my friend and I knew him well and loved him too. His books are worth reading and you have to listen for the wisdom in his books. There are bits and pieces of them in every book. If you just read them you are missing a lot so you have to think as you read. There are a few of his books that I read once a year and I am amazed that each time I reread his books I find something new that I seem to have missed the previous times I read them.

Erwin Jacksonville, Fl

-- Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

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