The Woodworker cover image for June 2015Welcome

Don’t just stand there, sharpen something! This is a phrase I find myself using most weeks in my Level 1 Carpentry class to anyone who is just mooning around or generally giving the
impression of being a work-shy idler. Now I’m all for tea and lunch breaks, but when you’re in the workshop I think you should be doing something; dreamtime can be fitted in to just about any other moment in the day. And let’s face it, we all know that time spent in concept and design is time well spent; it’s a critical component in the creative
process after all, and far too often skimped or omitted entirely in the eagerness of the new woodworker to make a start. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve asked students
- when canvassed for my opinion on an intended project – where’s your drawing? Invariably there isn’t one, not even a back of envelope sketch, and all I can do is watch them acquire unusable timber and struggle towards an unsatisfactory finish, usually via a
downward spiral of diminishing aspirations.

I guess we all have to find out for ourselves – the hard way – just which mistakes can’t be repeated, and which will be the best way to go. Speaking to a colleague yesterday, I learned of college students who have been known to refuse the advice of time-served joiners and the like in favour of a shaky YouTube video. All that can be done in this case is to let them get on with it and to stand by for intervention when things don’t work out exactly as planned. Often the only advice that can be proffered in these situations is to learn from your mistakes and to start again. Making use of the workshop bin is the last part of a tough lesson, but I think a necessary – and sadly inevitable – one.

Just in case anyone thinks I may not practise what I preach, I’m often to be found at my workshop’s movable sharpening station when a lull in the proceedings presents itself, and it’s time very well spent as I’m sure you’ll all agree. I’m familiar with the temptation of just letting things slide, and trying to kid oneself that the bench plane is actually
much sharper than it is, but there’s no hiding place when you need a sharp edge. Much better to have one ready and waiting than to be ready and wanting. And then, when the materials arrive, it’s out with the drawings and cutting list and full speed ahead.