The Woodworker cover image for May 2015Welcome

Don’t believe a word I say! When it comes to being asked for our opinions, there can’t be many of us who come over all shy and reticent. For the majority of woodworkers, when presented with this very invitation, you can almost hear the mental rolling-up of sleeves as they prepare a lengthy diatribe. And if it’s on a topic which they actually know something about – instead of one on which only a vague understanding exists – well, no
one’s getting away early today, that’s all I can say.

Patience counts
As the years have gone by, I’ve found I can readily work up a healthy opinion on most
things, but those passing years have also instructed me on the wisdom of waiting for the right time, place and audience before letting rip (sadly not everyone has learnt this skill). Mind you, there are times when one can take it for granted that things can, and will, be said; I’m thinking of the average workshop environment here.

Thin veneer of politeness
The other day I was making my customary visit to the lads who share a large workshop next door to my veneer supplier. Whilst admiring much of what I saw (and holding back a bit here and there), when it came to what my good pal Tim was making I found that my opinion had preceded me and had left my lips before I was almost aware of it.
Now let me just say this: the job (a substantial bookcase faced in rosewood) had been specifically commissioned, and the client’s wishes were fairly precise. We all know that a fair number of clients are frequently out of touch with things like taste and understanding, so I didn’t hold back with my ‘useful’ comments on colours and grain for interiors. All might still have been well had not another furniture maker joined in, and before we knew it Tim had left the building.

Wrack and ruin
At first bemused, I was soon wracked with guilt and apologised as soon as possible for my harsh critique (although I still stand by it!), immediately feeling better when it became clear that it was the intervention of the third party that had tipped the balance. Tim and I have a long history of ‘commenting’ on each other’s work.

No easy answers
So what can be done for us opinionated types? Instead of freely discoursing at all times, I guess a modicum of restraint could be shown, at least until we understand each specific situation a little better and get a feel for how receptive the subject may be feeling today. If anything, it gives us a chance to exercise and develop a new skill, the skill of subtle criticism, or, as someone with thoughts more malign might see it, damning with faint praise. At the end of the day though, it’s only an opinion. The most important thing is to stick to one’s own beliefs, to please oneself with one’s own work, and to keep the customer satisfied! And if someone else claims not to like it, well, that’s just their bad luck.