Just Do It

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10 thoughts on “Just Do It

  1. Excellent post, I have a custom cabinet shop and with the down turn in the economy I’ve had alot of time to learn and refine my use of hand tools. It really goes off like a light bulb when your using a well tuned plane or scraper.Thanks for your time and effort it is certainly appreciated.

  2. Valid point, Bob, but I place the emphasis a little differently. Answer this question. How did people learn to be hand tool woodworkers in your favorite period? Apprenticeship, wasn’t it? I think that was a great way to learn-watching skilled artisans at close hand while learning the skills progressively through practice and feedback.

    What is the closest I can come to this? My personal opinion is that video or in person is the way to go. There is so much more information in seeing something done than reading a description of it. You pick out one person at a time to “apprentice” to in order to avoid being bewildered by too much information. That is why your tea table podcast series worked for me. Or, you take one of the many great weeklong introductory classes. That too is like an apprenticeship.

    And yes, then you go home and practice, practice, practice. Kind of like learning the guitar, isn’t it? How are you doing without an instructor? 🙂

    • I agree with Andy, and I too would recommend your tea-table series to anyone. It shows how much can be accomplished with just a few tools and techniques, following every step of the project in detail from design to finish. It is not only informative demonstrating the techniques, but also inspiring making me want to go out and cut up some wood.

      there’s definitely a lot of value in videos to those who don’t have a good mentor on hand.

    • I definitely get your point, and I agree with you actually. I think you might be misunderstanding me a little. I’m not against books or videos. In fact, I’m vehemently for them. I mean I do produce my own podcast after all :). In no way am I advocating just winging it without any kind of instruction at all (written, video or otherwise). I think videos are a great way to learn and see things in action. In many ways, I think video is a much better teacher than books (I still love my books though), and probably the next best thing to taking a class with a live instructor.

      However, while videos can teach one’s brain how to do these things, and permit one to regurgitate back the steps on a blog or message board, nothing but taking up one’s tools and trying the concepts in the video out for oneself will teach the hands. Apprentices in my favorite period, as you say, didn’t learn just by watching, they learned by doing; by imitating the journeymen and master. That’s the whole point of an apprenticeship, for the student to learn by doing, under the watchful eye of the master. Classes work in the same way. Students imitate the techniques of the instructor. It’s 80-90% hands on learning.

      Videos to me are no better a teacher than a lecture if the student doesn’t try for themselves. For videos to work as well as an apprenticeship or class, we need to try the techniques and concepts we learn from them in our own shops. Otherwise, they are no more than reality show entertainment.

      So my point is to certainly watch the videos (and read the books, blogs, magazines and any other educational material you can get your hands on). But to get the most out of these materials, we need to get out in the shop and train the hands at least as much as the brain. The doing is the most important part of the learning process.

      As for my guitar playing, I’ve done the books, videos and some live instruction. My playing isn’t as sorry as it is because my instruction is lacking. It’s because of a lack of doing on my part. If i spent as much time playing my guitars as I do in my shop, I’d be playing with Clapton & BB. But then the podcast might be the Logan Blues Club instead of the Logan Cabinet Shoppe :).

      • You are absolutely right Bob. Watching videos will just make you good at … watching videos. To get good at working with wood you have to … work with wood.

        We all agree that “The doing is the most important part of the learning process”, but I think the part you didn’t mention is that to someone like me, good instructional videos help provide the confidence and inspiration that triggers the belief that I CAN just go out and “do it”.

        The project I’m currently working on is a quantum leap up from anything I’ve tried before. The poorly fitting tenons and the drawer that isn’t quite square will all be a testament to my inexperience, but the successful completion of the project will be in no small part due to what I’ve learned from podcasts by online gurus like you. I couldn’t have even started the project without them – your videos are valuable tools on my toolshelf and I have a hard time separating them from “just doing it”.

  3. Bob, My friend Dean addresses some of this very subject in the next Pop Wood. I myself will soon be demonstrating that dovetails can be successfully cut with a hacksaw, sharpened screwdriver, a screw for a marking gauge, a pencil and a 2 x 4 mallet at an upcoming woodworking show. I suppose I should do pins first and tails first. People are starting to plan for WIA, I hope you are feeding your piggy bank.

    • I got an email from Dean earlier this afternoon. I am anxiously awaiting his article (have been since I found out he was writing one actually). Your demo sounds like a real hoot. I wish I was more local to you guys. And no worries for WIA. The pig has been eating, and I’ll be there. And this time for the entire thing :). I’ve been looking forward to it since 2009, since I wasn’t able to make last year’s.

  4. Well put, Bob. Heading out to the shop to just do it, and start a small project might even be taking it too far. What I mean is even a small, simple box would take a little time and planning. I think that a person can have a lot of fun with a 4 ft piece of pine from the50 cent bin, orjust some cut offs that are probably laying around. You can start by planing flat and square. Then a little measure, mark, and cut. Cut it into 6 or 8 inch pieces that could be used for dovetail practice. Learn from your tool, learn what tools you might be most interested in acquiring next. Before too long, you will want to join some of those dovetailed practice corners into a sweet pencil box, then of course it is just a matter of time before you are completing that Bombay secretary , to sit right beside Tommy Mac’s in a museum.

  5. Bob

    I am one of the online apprentices. I have watched yours (and others) videos on a variety of subjects. My travel and Honey-Do lists do not permit me the time I would like to use “doing” but have started and spent s lot of time bringing my chisels/planes/saws up to the point of actually working! I got my “brain training” watch you but the time spent with stones and files has been the real training.

    I am also apprenticed to Shannon and am trying the same (albeit slow) approach in learning techniques. You and Shannon are the best teachers around. It is up to me to apply what you guys have taught.

    Keep up the good work!


  6. Great post. Reminds me of some advice from a former swim coach. “Reading about swimming will only take you so far. You eventually have to get in the water and start practicing.”

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