I began woodworking just over 5 years ago, with a sofa table made of Red Oak salvaged from a long forgotten pigsty that had been sitting outside for several years and in that time I’ve managed to tackle any number of different projects, some more successfully than others, each one an incredible learning experience. Often frustrating, always rewarding. I’ve explored the Occident and Orient traditions, gone back and forth on whether to use only power tools or only hand tools; in both cases I ended up using both and continue to do so, i.e. A place for everything and everything in its place. I’ve bought tools, sold tools, discovered some small part of the pantheon of craftspeople, artists, designers, with more always around the corner. Our detached, 1925 two-car garage has slowly evolved into a 1-car garage, the other half being transformed into an ad-hoc workshop, not to mention the sharpening station that has magically appeared in the basement and with any luck a small photo studio for project shots in the near future as well. I’ve tested my mettle with the self-imposed trial of building a Roubo-style workbench with inadequate tools and even less know-how and I have continued to feed my hunger for a sizable collection of project wood to have on hand at all times.
The point being, there are so many aspects to woodworking, to any craft or art or vocation, that it’s quite easy to get caught up in the rush to go down every path at once, making a little progress here, a little progress there, but never coalescing around one particular area of focus. I think in the beginning, especially for the self-taught craftsman, this is inevitable and not entirely negative. But at some point, in order to progress to the next level, I believe a person has to find one thing they can devote their time and energy to. To quote Minamoto Musashi, “To know 10,000 things, master one”.
After much thought, several abrasions, and many poorly fitted joints, it occurred to me that relying on the history and culture of woodworking in this country, this place, was perhaps the best place to begin if I were to achieve a sense of consistent accomplishment and not feel as though I’d spread myself too thin. Specifically I have settled on the heritage of Shaker furniture design and construction. Within that tradition lies everything I need to move forward. A reliance on hand tools and skills, a design aesthetic based on function determining form, the intent to remove all superfluous ornament, and an emphasis on quality and durability. Simple, thoughtful design. I’m certainly not the first person to be enamored with this tradition nor will I be the last. But getting back to the basics, relying on the work and know-how of those who have gone before me…what better way to honor the past and continue the culture of woodworking and design right here, in this place, at this time.