Tuesday, January 13, 2015

A Craftsman's Legacy

My wife turned me on to A Craftsman's Legacy on one of the PBS channels. It comes on after a couple of the cooking shows she watches on Saturday afternoons. I've only seen a couple of shows but it's definitely worth checking out, especially since it's so damn cold outside. I went to the web site and it looks like you can watch previews of the shows right from there. That's pretty cool. The show's host, Eric Gorges, is a custom bike builder and he's already done shows on saddle making, blacksmithing, woodworking, boatbuilding, gun and knife making, guitar making, as well as a couple of others. This struck me as kind of funny because, while I'm certainly not an expert at any of those things, I've managed to try my hand at many of them.

Boat building?

I made a tiny one.

And a little bigger one. And I've got a bigger one still under construction. (Read that either way you'd like. Bigger still or still under construction. With me - still under construction is probably more appropriate.)


Done a little bit of that. And if you look closely at the left side of the photo of the pond sailer, you'll see some gouges I hammered out from old files I made expressly for that project.


I made myself a door.

Saddle making?

Not hardly. But I can do a half-ass decent saddle stitch as seen on the holster and the sheath. The knife I made from scratch using my blacksmithing skills, the black powder revolver from a kit which covers the blade and gunsmithing. 

Guitar making? 

I'm no luthier, but I did make a hammered dulcimer. For a cheap home-made instrument it actually has a pretty decent sound. (I drilled the holes for the tuning pegs on the milling machine, by the way. That way I could have the spacing exactly correct and I could put them in at an angle.) I wouldn't call myself a musician but after I made it I did learn to play The Wabash Cannonball for whatever that's worth.

The point here is not to blow my own horn. If I was going to do that, I'd have to make one first. In fact, I remember seeing a black & white documentary about Illinois Jacquet and him visiting a factory where they made saxophones and thinking at the time you'd have to be quite the craftsman to make a saxophone and I wouldn't mind trying my hand at it. However, the point here is that we should all be making things. In addition to the TechShop/maker spaces I mentioned recently, there are lots and lots of other ways to learn skills and pursue your passion. I attended the Marc Adams School of Woodworking a few years ago when I found out I was going to be teaching Woodshop. I learned enough in one weekend to be able to bluff my way through when it was time to teach the wood lathe. I've been to several blacksmithing conventions as a member of ABANA and IBA. and was fortunate to have learned a few things from some of the best smiths in the world. There are schools and workshops out there for just damn near anything you want to learn. Want to learn how to drive a team of oxen? Tillers International. Blacksmithing, boatbuilding, fibers, or sustainable living? North House Folk School. I attended a class on building NASCAR stockers years ago and Surly and I attended a workshop on aluminum forming with Ron Covell. It's out there if you look for it.

Do yourself a favor this year and learn a new skill. Take a class, attend a workshop, watch a DVD, read a book, whatever it takes, and then try your hand. Put down the phone and pick up the hammer, saw, knitting needle, crochet hook, shovel or rake. Feed your mind and exercise your hands. Those opposable thumbs are there to make and hold tools. Don't let them go to waste.


Surly said...

I'd like to learn how to finish things. Or maybe learn how to relax and not stress over all the things I haven't finished. One begets the other methinks.

Shop Teacher Bob said...

I watched A Craftsman's Legacy again today and the host asked the lady blacksmith how she found the time to do all the things around her shop and farm, to which she replied: "I just tackle one job, work on it until it's finished and then move to the next". Your mother and I both got a good chuckle out of that. Unfortunately, you inherited the starter gene, not the finisher gene from me. Learning to relax might be the easiest route, by the way. I learned a lot about that in rehab. Quite possibly saved my life. No doubt it will extend it.