Reply by Mark A. DeCou

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Mark A. DeCou

2009 posts in 4429 days

#1 posted 05-18-2006 01:56 PM

I do like your concept. I’m in a yahoo group that is made up of mostly new woodworkers, and I get frustrated at all the bad advice I see printed everyday amongst them. One guy has a an idea that goes against woodworking principles taught for centuries, and several other inexperienced guys say it sounds good to them. And they all electronically pat each other on the back, and head off to make chips and dust.

In some cases I have tried to help by giving an alternate method, or another way of thinking about the problem, or just tell them it won’t work and the reasons why not, but in many cases, I get back that they will try it anyway.

I learned in the home shop of my father growing up, as he was a woodshop teacher and master furniture builder. By the time I hit High School Wood Shop, I was ready for some very complicated furniture, but, because of the “system”, I had to patiently wait through 2 years of easy projects to wait for my junior and senior years to make furniture. That’s ok, my mom still has the nice Ash cutting board, and I dusted off my little cedar jewelry box yesterday in the shop. I use it store my business cards, and brochures out of the dust.

As with my dad growing up, and with the High School teacher, most of us students listened to the teacher explain things, none of us ever questioned him, or suggested other methods, etc., we just listened and acted upon his instruction. The results were that we learned solid woodworking skills that I make a living with today. About the only other method I could see working better for teaching skills would be an apprecticeship program.

When I decided 10 years ago to stop my easy-pay engineering career and pursue what I really was born to do, I could not find a woodworking shop that would hire me. In each case, they felt that at 32 years old, they would either be training a future competitor, or they couldn’t see that I was capable. In one interview, the shop owner asked me what side of the line do I cut on when cutting a board…My answer to him was that I would take two weeks vacation from job and work for him for free and at the end of the two weeks, he could make a decision about whether I could handle the work. He didn’t take my offer.

To end that side-trail, rabbit trail, or otherwise distraction, as I am not one to turn away from my dreams for lack of a job, I was then forced to do it on my own, a decision that even this morning I question at times.

Late last week, I received word that I was accepted to the Western Design Conference show in Cody, WY in September this year (2006). The knot in my stomach is that I am wondering if my skills are ready to be competitive at that national level. I will know that answer in September. I can hold my own in most cases, but I have never been around a group of woodworkers with such talent and reputation so far.

I don’t know whether a “signature” would help with advice seeking and giving or not. I do like this lumberjocks format, where I can easily click the name and see the photo and description of the person I am hearing from, or writing to.

I know I am rambling, it is early for me yet. Looking at your nice face in the picture while I type, you’re just an easy guy to write to, so I am writing, whether it all makes coherent sense, or not.

With that being said, I would not have known about the chair making school down in your part of the woods, had you not recommended that resource for my chair making adventure, so please continue to offer help.

Mark DeCou

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

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