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What Makes A Craftsman A Master?

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Forum topic by cabinetman posted 03-15-2007 03:09 PM 6181 views 0 times favorited 45 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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cabinetman

144 posts in 2888 days


03-15-2007 03:09 PM

Other than the traditional “Masters Guild” type of acceptance, and training this is directed towards general terminology. There are many craftsmen that will never be considered a master. Does that title come with the exposure level of a good craftsman’s work? This question and others are to try and pinpoint the “master” level of woodworking.

As in many sports, few will exceed to some extreme perfection that makes one wonder whether some people are born with exceptional excellence in one thing or another. Do you think that this excellence is just a natural affinity, or is it from the dedication of practice and refining ones own abilities. So, part of the question may be that with some people, could dedicating the indulgence in the sport with practice, practice, practice, and training, possibly evolve to a performer with extreme expertise?

As for woodworking, I’ve seen examples of members on the forum that exhibit “master” level craftsmanship. What would the distinction be in differentiating an absolute marvel of woodwork, and being considered a master.

There has been a few posts about woodworkers that became an influence in our life. As for the ones on TV, unfortunately there are only less than a half dozen that I know about. In actuality, they all present a work ethic and demonstrate abilities that an experienced woodworker would have. Is the fact that what they do may be just ahead of the less experienced woodworker, giving them the popularity and idol personna?

Now we have to ask if the good craftsman had the training and experience in the many levels of woodworking, could he/she demonstrate that level of expertise? In other words, do you think the techniques and abilities of the “masters” including craftsman such as James Krenov, the Stickley’s, Chippendale, and Heppelwhite, for just a few, can be learned and performed with enough dedication. And did the terminology of “master” get imposed because of popularity and marketing of good innovative woodwork?


45 replies so far

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MsDebbieP

18615 posts in 2905 days


#1 posted 03-15-2007 03:46 PM

As I’ve done before, I’m going to equate this to the world of photography. I believe that you can teach an individual the skills and give him/her the tools but a master has something inside that takes their abilities to a new level.
I wrote an article once on the “it” factor—what is “it” that takes a photograph into another level, the “wow” factor, if you will. Some people just have “it”; they can see “it” and create “it” without being able to put into words what “it” is. “It” just feels right; “it” just is.
The master is in the zone when they are creating and that is not in the focused concentration mode. It is a unity with the medium, with the Universe.

And so my answer to your question is: yes, a person could “demonstrate” the level of expertise but that does not, in my opinion, make them a “Master”, in the zen-like form of the word.

((I think I’ve used that word “Master” several times in the past few weeks… I will now be more aware of its use, when I use it, if I use it, why I use it))
Thank you for the thought-provoking question!!

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (https://www.facebook.com/DebbiePribeleENJOConsultant)

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BassBully

259 posts in 2842 days


#2 posted 03-15-2007 03:59 PM

That’s a good question. I think a master is someone that shows both skill and artistry in their work but that’s not all. It would also be the person that people in a group would point you to for work or advice because that person’s reputation would proceed them. Finally, it would be someone that had a broad knowledge of woodworking techniques and they’re actually proficient in most of those techniques: different kinds of joinery, staining, construction, styles, etc.

I also know I’m not a Master Craftsman.

-- There are three types of people in the world, those who can count and those who can't!

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MsDebbieP

18615 posts in 2905 days


#3 posted 03-15-2007 04:29 PM

although this isn’t really part of my vision of being a “Master”, your words of their reputation caught my attention. I think that a true “Master” is a person of honour, humility, respect…
Yah.. much greater than their skill and knowledge level.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (https://www.facebook.com/DebbiePribeleENJOConsultant)

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Ethan Sincox

765 posts in 2919 days


#4 posted 03-15-2007 04:58 PM

I believe the origins of “Master Craftsman” comes from Europe, and that was the title you received upon joining a guild after working your way up from apprentice through journeyman.

To become a guild member (and earn the title of “Master”) you had to present the guild with a sum of money and your Master Craftsman project to be juried by the current guild members. If your work was accepted, then you became a guild member and could use the title of Master Craftsman.

I think we’ve diluted that origin quite a bit, CM.

I belong to a local woodworking “guild”, and believe it or not, I would have LOVED to try and earn my membership by starting as an apprentice and working up through journeyman… I think people are too PC to actually make someone work for a title and earn the right to be called something.

I think there is a bit of confusion as to the difference between “inalienable rights” and “privileges”

-- Ethan, http://thekiltedwoodworker.com

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MsDebbieP

18615 posts in 2905 days


#5 posted 03-15-2007 05:04 PM

Ethan, I’m with you on that.. Being an Early Childhood Educator I cringe as I watch how we are “training” our children to think that they are the centre of the world and that everything is and will be modified to fit their needs. They do not learn how to compromise, how to problem-solve, how to “make do”, how to work for something, how to earn respect. We just give it all to them because they are children and deserve it all.
My daughter, teaching high school, sees the outcome of this where they feel they have the right to do whatever they please and the world needs to adapt to accommodate this.

A “Master” works hard to master his/her craft, to create the vision, to fine tune the skills and the artistry. Just as having the skill does not make one a “Master”, neither does being born with the talent, with the “it” factor.

Oh what a thought provoking subject. Thank you cabinetman.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (https://www.facebook.com/DebbiePribeleENJOConsultant)

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BassBully

259 posts in 2842 days


#6 posted 03-15-2007 05:43 PM

Ethan, you make a good point. There are no rights of passage any more. There isn’t anything to challenge us or give us hope to aspire to something (especially for children). There’s a book that deals with this area that was written by a Christian author. I apologize for not remembering the title or author’s name but I had a friend of mine who read the book and implemented his own right of passage for his 12 year old son.

Here is what he did. There are some caves in Eastern Iowa that allow public access and they are quite lengthy where some passages only allow for crawling space. My friend Steve took his son and his father to these caves and camped. Early one morning Steve’s father entered one of the cave’s caverns to await Steve’s son at the end—It is my understanding he went a long way. Shortly thereafter, Steve gave his son a map and a flash light to navigate to the destination(grandpa) by himself.

The intention was that the boy would have to go through narrow passages and rely on his faith and courage to make it through these pitch black areas. After he accomplished this task, Steve and his father held a ceremony for his son and told the boy that he could now begin entering manhood.

-- There are three types of people in the world, those who can count and those who can't!

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MsDebbieP

18615 posts in 2905 days


#7 posted 03-15-2007 05:59 PM

perhaps that is one of the great things about being an artist (of any time) ... overcoming barriers, making back-up plans to cover up and encorporate the “oops” into the finished products.. never giving up… moving forward, always learning. The goal: becoming a “Master”

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (https://www.facebook.com/DebbiePribeleENJOConsultant)

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cabinetman

144 posts in 2888 days


#8 posted 03-16-2007 02:44 AM

Agreed that the term “master” in some parts of the world is an earned certification. But in general, the quality of the craftsmanship may attribute to an individual a “masters” status, whether the craftsperson gets the notoriety or not is somewhat dependent on their exposure.

I think Debbie has hit the proverbial nail in the distinction of “it”. One can have the perseverance and talent and still never achieve the status. It may not even be the ability to be accomplished in every aspect of the craft. There may be an underlying need to create a certain “uniqueness” in finished pieces. Then again it may depend on who is asked. So, we may be back to the exposure idea.

View Obi's profile

Obi

2213 posts in 2982 days


#9 posted 03-16-2007 04:28 AM

I just went and looked at Dictionary.com for the word master and found two definitions that i thought were great at discribing a Master in this sense of the word:

a person eminently skilled in something, as an occupation, art, or science:
a worker qualified to teach apprentices and to carry on a trade independently.

I don’t think guild participation has a place in this. All that really implies is that you’re a rich butt smoocher. Brown Nose Extroadinaire.

A Master Craftsman: One who is eminently skilled in all phases of their field or art.

I was a journeyman carpenter and that meant that I had done enough carpentry for long enough to berecognised in the trade as a Master. I can teach you how to build a house. I’ve made cabinets in three states and one of my works is in the Silver Legacy Casino in Reno, Nevada. So that made me a Journeyman Carpenter/Cabinet maker.

Only recently have I considered myself a craftsman, because I can build just about anything. Once I “Master” this furniture building thing, then I might be a master.

To achiece that, I’ll have to know several ways of joinery, finish, and styles.

After making several types of tables, and several types of chairs, and enough furniture to furnish several homes, maybe then …

View Ethan Sincox's profile

Ethan Sincox

765 posts in 2919 days


#10 posted 03-16-2007 05:38 AM

Obi,

Are you refering to the guilds at they used to be? Or in the more modern sense of the term?

-- Ethan, http://thekiltedwoodworker.com

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dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 3059 days


#11 posted 03-16-2007 06:06 AM

Yes Obi in many ways Lumberjocks is my Guild. It is a group of my peers who meet bound by common interest and concerns.
I take this topic in a very personal manor. I see myself as a very proficient “journeyman”. I strive to be a “master”. As a journeyman I can pass on the skills and knowledge I have learned to fellow woodworkers. As a master I think I have to develop a new, unique set of skills. I can build kitchens all my life and know an awful lot about lazy-susans and tip-outs, but it is just a job following a preset pattern. If I some how redefine what a kitchen is by my skill and dedication to the craft I reach toward that master level.

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TonyWard

748 posts in 3073 days


#12 posted 03-16-2007 09:40 AM

Should this Forum be known as a modern form of “a Guild”?

t.w.

-- Bandsawn Box Plans available at ~ http://www.tonyward.org

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fred

256 posts in 2843 days


#13 posted 03-16-2007 07:10 PM

When you look at the DIY shows on television, sometimes the host is introduced as master this or master that. Then you watch the show and leave scratching you head thinking, what?

To paraphase an old definition…”I cannot define master woodworker, but I know it when I see it”. David Marks fits that description.

-- Fred Childs, Pasadena, CA - - - Law of the Workshop: Any tool, when dropped, will roll to the least accessible corner.

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dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 3059 days


#14 posted 03-16-2007 07:31 PM

I was reading this bit by some experts telling me I need to put 3/4 inch drywall in my house. I run into mis-information from “experts” all over the place.

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cabinetman

144 posts in 2888 days


#15 posted 03-16-2007 11:46 PM

I talked in the original post about only a handful of craftsmen on TV, and don’t get me wrong on this, as I’m not bashing David Marks. Since there are so few WW’s on TV, what they are demonstrating may be a step beyond the average woodworker, that hasn’t experienced that procedure. I haven’t seen him do anything that an experienced woodworker couldn’t do. I’m referring to a woodworker that has been exposed to a similar range of projercts. The wonderment of his abilities may be attributed to some who don’t feel like they could ever do that kind of work.

To answer that, one has to try. Hey, David had his first tries at certain procedures and we didn’t get to see the success or failures in those projects. A persons successes and failures only happen with trying. That is the learning process.

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