Are you a #1 or a #10 on the Woodworker's Style Continuum

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Blog entry by Charles Brock posted 03-29-2010 02:57 PM 1535 reads 0 times favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I am a woodworker, teacher and publisher of woodworking instructional bundles consisting of DVD, book, full-size patterns and on-line support. Build A Maloof Inspired Rocker with Charles Brock has sold to hundreds of fine woodworkers all over the world. My newest project Build A Maloof Inspired Low-Back Dining Chair with Charles Brock will be available soon.

When teaching woodworking classes I can quickly tell if a woodworker’s style is that of an artist or an engineer or somewhere in between. Think of it as a ten point scale or continuum with 1 being the artist and 10 being the engineer. This evaluation not only helps me understand how to help students achieve success but it has helped me with my focus on projects.

The Maloof Inspired Rocker project that I teach, like most chairs or functional furniture is evaluated in the end as how well did form meet function? The woodworker’s style dictates what comes easiest and what will be the hardest to accomplish, form or function. I have had students that could sculpt beautiful lines but really struggled with the unforgiving process of creating tight structural joints. They are the artists. Being an artist is a blessing until you struggle on the engineering side of your project. Plans are seldom if scarcely used. They get in the way of what’s important. It’s all form (lines, curve, textures and colors) to the #1 artist. Their chair may look good but might not sit or rock safely. It may never go together.

On the other end of the woodworking continuum lives the engineer. The engineer typically has all the tools perfectly sharpened ready to follow explicit instructions using plans with precise measurements. Joinery is tight and functional and the chair will rock and support the sitter but the sculpting shows a failure to take risks to form their own curves and explore lines that would make the chair flow.

It’s important that you know where you are on the continuum. If you are a 4 you are more of an artist but very close to being well-balanced. An 8 would describe a woodworker whose strong suit was following directions but short on taking artistic risks.

If you know where you would fall on the continuum you will know your strengths from which you can work from and the areas of risk on which you should work the most. The purpose is to grow at whatever you do.

I would like to think of myself as a 5 (being very well balanced) when in reality I am surely a 4 working harder at the engineering side meaning I don’t like to measure or deal with identifying a radius as long as I am happy with the results. Sculpting is my preference but to teach and publish I must identify, quantify and communicate information in an organized, precise way like an engineer.

Think about it!

-- Charles Brock

12 comments so far

View Don Butler's profile

Don Butler

1092 posts in 3365 days

#1 posted 03-29-2010 04:34 PM

I guess I’m a #1 – #3.
Very right brain dominated and wanting to be artist when I grow up.
Wood is my medium of the day.

-- No trees were damaged in posting this message, but thousands of electrons were seriously inconvenienced.

View OutPutter's profile


1199 posts in 3960 days

#2 posted 03-29-2010 04:45 PM

Judging by my lack of ability to construct tight joints, I must be to the 1 side of the scale. On the other hand, I really enjoy my Incra tools that get the most out of precision. I don’t usually have plans with measurements, just a hand drawn sketch, not a Sketchup drawing. I don’t use a lot of curves in my projects but I do like a rounded over edge. I’m an accountant by trade. I have a hard time deciding where I fall on the scale too. So, what number am I? I don’t know.

-- Jim

View Jimthecarver's profile


1124 posts in 3755 days

#3 posted 03-29-2010 05:05 PM

1 or 2 is where I feel I sit on the scale, but who really knows?

-- Can't never could do anything, to try is to advance.

View Kindlingmaker's profile


2656 posts in 3496 days

#4 posted 03-29-2010 05:08 PM

An interesting concept. It will give some food for thought today…

-- Never board, always knotty, lots of growth rings

View Charles Brock's profile

Charles Brock

50 posts in 2977 days

#5 posted 03-29-2010 05:22 PM

It’s one of those things that is interesting to ponder. I don’t think this is a static number, I believe we all fluctuate depending on the woodworking activity, the demands of the project, work-arounds and such. The ideal is to work as a 5 on the scale which is a great balance if the goal is to create with both form and function as the goal.

-- Charles Brock

View jlsmith5963's profile


297 posts in 3318 days

#6 posted 03-29-2010 05:23 PM

Yes let’s think about that for just a moment:

Using a numeric scale to ‘determine’ how artistic you are? No irony there.

-- criticism: the art of analyzing and evaluating the quality of an artistic work...

View Don Butler's profile

Don Butler

1092 posts in 3365 days

#7 posted 03-29-2010 05:33 PM

I studies the work habits of Leonardo da Vinci.
Amazingly, he was both Artist, with a capital A, and a superb engineer.
One of the “tricks” he had was drawing on the right page while writing simultaneously on the left page, both hands working on the same subject. The writing was in the cursive hand of his time. He wrote descriptions of things not obvious in the drawing and specified dimensions, materials or whatever he felt was necessary to complete the project or subject.
That proves to me that he was able to use both his Right Brain mode and the Left Brain mode at the same time! Marvelous!
I guess we’d have to give him all the numbers at once!


-- No trees were damaged in posting this message, but thousands of electrons were seriously inconvenienced.

View lilredweldingrod's profile


2496 posts in 3076 days

#8 posted 03-29-2010 05:55 PM

I’m definately a 10. During the gene distribution at conception, all the artistic and musical genes went somewhere else. Maybe that explains why my projects are either for strength or function. Whether it “flows” or not are of small concern to me. I could never be an Andy. I don’t mind drooling over the art all you other guys produce. But I will look around for those lost genes.

This concept is what makes mankind so interesting, all the varity in each individual and their abilities. If we were all a 1, we might have all this beauty around us but all the buildings would be falling down around our ears. And in reverse a world with no beauty and hell for stout buildings, it would be so boring. Seems to me that we make a pretty good mixture.

And we must always think safety. Charles, that beautiful rocking chair would be a definite hazzard in a room full of long tailed cats.

View canadianchips's profile


2600 posts in 2966 days

#9 posted 03-29-2010 06:53 PM

I would call myself a Pendulum 7-3. I start my projects with 4 things in mind. What kind of product can I make for the customer ,within their budget that will be functional and Really look good. I begin blueprinting what I am going to make. I then figure out a cutting pattern to get the most of the material. Sometimes suggesting to the customer ghanging the plan by 1 inch may save them hundreds of dollars. Or extending a plan by a few feet may give them more sq. ft. for same cost of material. Once I begin building the project a swing towards artist. It is important to me that my building reputation is considered VERY GOOD.

-- "My mission in life - make everyone smile !"

View reggiek's profile


2240 posts in 3239 days

#10 posted 03-29-2010 07:14 PM

I would say that it is near impossible to quantify someone consistently. For example, someone may have a comfort level for doing specific things free hand yet follow the plans literally for other items. I tend to like to have a detailed set of plans for things I am not comfortable with….as I go and get comfortable with the project, the plans disappear and I go off on my own tangents. Sometimes this is 50/50…lots of times it is more one way then the other. A lot of that comes from years of construction where the plans are followed until a problem is encountered…then a creative work around must be made.

I can see this as an effective teaching tool though…as all teachers must work within the constraints of the student (some classes that start at the lowest common denominator spend too much time for the weaker students). Getting a starting point is always difficult. If you start too elementary, the student gets bored and will lose interest. Too advanced and your student gets quickly overwhelmed. It is so much better when you can start at your own level….much more efficient.

-- Woodworking.....My small slice of heaven!

View deeman's profile


379 posts in 3050 days

#11 posted 03-30-2010 04:46 AM

I cant make anything without a plan. I very seldom design my projects, all my stuff comes from books, magazines or other woodworkers. I wish I had more artistic ability.

-- Dennis Trenton Ohio And life is worth the living just because He lives!

View Charles Brock's profile

Charles Brock

50 posts in 2977 days

#12 posted 03-30-2010 05:14 AM

I enjoyed the comments, this is a good introspective study.

-- Charles Brock

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