The Woodworker cover image for February 2014Although I'm the proud possessor of a Level 2 Bench Joinery NVQ certificate (er, I'm pretty sure I still know where it is), I didn't achieve this qualification until fairly late on in my (ongoing) professional career. Like a lot of us, most of my life has been spent learning the hard way - something my earlier customers would likely confirm - and paying for those lessons learned in extra toil and missing money.

Although I'm a keen advocate of the theoretical learning that can be found in books and magazines, not having the grounding of the real basics can sometimes be a handicap. If you’ve learnt the fundemental basics right at the start (and have adhered to them) you automatically have the facility of doing the ‘right thing’ almost without thinking. This is a very useful attribute for the woodworker, and marks him or her out as a pro.  

Not all of us though have been fortunate enough to have come through on this route, and we are the ones who often have to make more of a conscious effort to do everything correctly. It's all too easy to slip into casual ways when it comes to marking out or general preparation, and if one isn't careful, a slow descent into mediocrity could realistically be on the cards.

Although there's always more than one way to carry out many a woodworking procedure, the textbook approved way has much to recommend it. Why is that? I hear you ask. It's mainly because these are the ways that generations of skilful and enthusiastic carpenters and joiners have all found to give the best results. When you think that we as a species have been cutting up bits of wood since the first stone age flint axe head was made, it’s no surprise that the tried and trusted methods can be counted on the come up with the goods.

It’s only new tools and materials that give occasion for a bit of experimentation, but again, there are sufficient basic principles in place to guide us along the familiar – and safe – pathways.