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What makes a 'damn good woodworker'?

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Forum topic by Tony_S posted 01-23-2015 11:47 AM 2930 views 1 time favorited 95 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Tony_S

605 posts in 2543 days


01-23-2015 11:47 AM

All business aspects aside (that’s a different world all together).
What makes, in your opinion, a ‘quality woodworker’? From complete rookie….to 40 year pro. Can someone become that person in 5 years? 10 years?

What skills does a complete rookie need to possess to become that 40 year pro….the guy that’s a pleasure to work with…the guy that’s amazing to watch.
When the product is finished…all you want to do is say wow…and put your hands on it….hump it….bow to him/her.

Is it a gift…or something you can just ‘learn’? Something in between?

-- It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. Aristotle


95 replies so far

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Bob Kassmeyer

184 posts in 2386 days


#1 posted 01-23-2015 12:03 PM

I have given this much thought in the last couple of years. I think most anyone can become good at the mechanics of woodworking. On some things I think I do a passable job but on others no matter how much I practice it just does not seem to come. After some time most people can do a good work on most projects. But to be the guy that everyone wants to watch or emulate is a gift. You can learn the skills but the artistry comes from within. Just my opinion.
Bob

-- Bob Kassmeyer, Nebraska

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joey502

487 posts in 978 days


#2 posted 01-23-2015 12:44 PM

Something in between. Original design is tough to teach/ learn and maybe most will never be great or even good at this aspect. The ability to turn a plan into a very nice piece can be developed. I think the most important things the rookie can have is the drive to get better and the courage to admit they have room for improvement.

I feel like there are more areas in which I can improve than areas I feel good about.

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TheWoodenOyster

1275 posts in 1395 days


#3 posted 01-23-2015 01:02 PM

I think the design part is mostly a gift. And I think good designs are what make us say wow. Technical woodworkers can copy stuff by the droves, but coming up with a design that makes people say wow is a different story altogether. Esherick and Maloof and Nakashima had something special in them.

The other side of it is the technical part. I think repetition is the key here. When you can build a piece of furniture without saying “Ah crap, I should have done this first”, I think you are getting closer to becoming a good woodworking. This involves multiple repitions of lots of different styles, construction elements, joinery, etc. This part takes time, I would say at least 10 years.

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

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TheGreatJon

295 posts in 694 days


#4 posted 01-23-2015 02:29 PM

I’m a newbie, and I’ve had plenty of oops moments. At this point I feel comfortable looking at someone else’s design and coming up with my own way to make it or even alter/improve it. However, I do not think I will ever be one who will be coming up with the ideas from scratch. The creative talents I have definitely do not reside in the aesthetic category.

-- This is not the signature line you are looking for.

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Earlextech

1159 posts in 2151 days


#5 posted 01-23-2015 02:37 PM

Patience.

-- Sam Hamory - The project is never finished until its "Finished"!

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NoThanks

798 posts in 989 days


#6 posted 01-23-2015 03:11 PM

TIME

You have to be smart,
You have to be passionate.
You have to be able to visualize it in your head before you start,
You need experience using tools, which you gain as you go.
You need experience building different types of projects.
There are many many different types of woodworking. A damn good woodworker is someone that is well rounded and able to work with many mediums.
I don’t believe you have to be gifted, but for some people it just comes naturally. (Talent)
One of the biggest thing though, in my opinion is making mistakes, You don’t just pick up tools and become great. You have to tackle many different jobs and make mistakes, and learn from them.

-- Because I'm gone, that's why!

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JayT

4772 posts in 1672 days


#7 posted 01-23-2015 03:19 PM

The technical part of woodworking can be learned through patience and practice. How long that takes depends on the person. People that are able to really focus and pay attention to details will gain skills much faster. People who are flexible in their thinking are able to more quickly apply skills across a variety of different applications. The ability to visualize a project and process before starting makes the whole thing more efficient with fewer mistakes. Those all combine to create the differences between an apprentice or journeyman, a craftsman and a master craftsman.

Design is different story. Some people just have an eye for design and creativity. I tend to think it is an inherent ability, that if fostered and developed, can produce the people who change the craft and take it to an art form.

Personally, I’m very good with the flexible thinking and OK on visualization, able to see projects in my head, combine elements and apply them in a variety of ways. I need to continue to work on the patience and practice part to really be able to make higher quality work. Game changing creative design, however, is beyond me. I’ve had people compliment my creativity before, but the reality is that those instances relate back to the first—it wasn’t true creativity, it was the ability to combine elements of others’ unique designs that gave the illusion of creativity.

-- "Good judgement is the result of experience. A lot of experience is the result of poor judgement."

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lndfilwiz

90 posts in 1061 days


#8 posted 01-23-2015 03:42 PM

Measure 3 times, cut once!

-- Smile, it makes people wander what you are up to.

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ShaneA

6471 posts in 2059 days


#9 posted 01-23-2015 03:48 PM

Woodworking is a type of artistry at the highest level. I think you have it in you, just like any composer or painter. They can still improve, evolve, and hone their craft. But, it will not be in the cards for all people to make it to the higher levels. You may be a good technician or good designer, but having both is a gift, not that one can’t always improve in any aspect.

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DrDirt

4167 posts in 3203 days


#10 posted 01-23-2015 03:54 PM

Passion and Patience.

-- 'Political correctness is fascism pretending to be manners' ~George Carlin

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Garbanzolasvegas

356 posts in 688 days


#11 posted 01-23-2015 04:15 PM

Patients.

-- If you don't Play, you can't win

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HillbillyShooter

5811 posts in 1753 days


#12 posted 01-23-2015 04:19 PM

Perseverance, along with patience, determination and a natural ability to understand and imagine perspective.

-- John C. -- "Firearms are second only to the Constitution in importance; they are the peoples' liberty's teeth." George Washington

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longgone

5688 posts in 2769 days


#13 posted 01-23-2015 04:29 PM

Creativeness and skill in woodworking, or any other field is an ongoing lifetime journey and a never ending learning process…

Like the old saying goes “it’s not the destination… it’s the journey” However, I also feel that each destination reached is great because it means a new journey is now beginning…and this new journey will be even more exciting and fun because of things we have learned and experienced during my last journey.

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Waldo88

188 posts in 757 days


#14 posted 01-23-2015 04:53 PM


I think the design part is mostly a gift. And I think good designs are what make us say wow. Technical woodworkers can copy stuff by the droves, but coming up with a design that makes people say wow is a different story altogether. Esherick and Maloof and Nakashima had something special in them.

Agree that design is what sets apart the best pieces.

However I do tend to disagree that it is a gift. Sure some people have much more aptitude for it, but everyone has some ability. What is lacking though is practice and design skill development.

There is very little true originality. This is true in all creative endeavors. Other ideas are blended, tweaked, and modified, in the end creating something original. And it is always an iterative process of refinement.

An architect refines their eye for design by visiting and looking at pictures of 10’s of 1000’s of buildings (and other sources of inspiration) and critiquing those designs. Refines their skill by practicing over and over putting the ideas in their head into a usable design. They throw away countless dead end designs in pursuit of the best one. All creative design shares these traits, including woodworking.

Great designers aren’t just born with it. It takes a lot of work to become a great designer. Design is a skill.

Personally, I m very good with the flexible thinking and OK on visualization, able to see projects in my head, combine elements and apply them in a variety of ways. I need to continue to work on the patience and practice part to really be able to make higher quality work. Game changing creative design, however, is beyond me. I ve had people compliment my creativity before, but the reality is that those instances relate back to the first—it wasn t true creativity, it was the ability to combine elements of others unique designs that gave the illusion of creativity.

Game changing creative design is almost always the result of lots of iterations of an idea, each generation adding to the originality. Often that evolution isn’t seen.

Say for example you come up with a fairly original cabinet design that borrows elements from several others. Build that cabinet 10 times, each time tweaking it and adding more ideas to it/subtacting others, by the 10th iteration it appears far more creative and original; if someone only knew the 10th iteration, your ability as a designer would appear far greater than if they only knew the 1st iteration.

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NoThanks

798 posts in 989 days


#15 posted 01-23-2015 04:54 PM

Do everything the opposite as I do….

-- Because I'm gone, that's why!

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