When a Craftsman of to-day sets to work to make a chair, the knowledge which he takes so much for granted is the stored-up inheritance of generations of craftsmen who had preceded him. He is profiting by their discoveries, their failures, and adding whatever of its own particular worth in new processes the present age has to offer.
Only in our own age the ratio of skilled craftsmen is diminishing, and with so much that is good and civilized in process of being destroyed, one wonders how much will survive.
— The Woodworker, February 1943
Today, my 3 year old daughter made me a very proud woodworking dad. She looked me in the eye and said, “Daddy, someday, when I’m a big girl, I am going to make chairs. I am going to go to the shop with you and make chairs with you.” Made my day! I’ve been on cloud nine ever since, dreaming of my little girl and I working together in the shop, creating something beautiful. This comment wasn’t exactly out of the blue either. She has been obsessed over the last week with asking if Grandpa, my dad, had made any of the chairs in his house. She has been told how her Grandpa, a contractor, built his house, and she apparently assumed he had to have built the chairs also. I love it! I am absolutely thrilled that my daughter is growing up with people around her that build things with their own hands. There is something special about that in this day and age.
The conversation with my daughter has had me thinking all day about one of the reasons I create things out of wood. I want to learn as much as I can about designing and building beautiful furniture so that I can pass that knowledge on. We live in a time when everything has to be instant. We crave immediate gratification in every area of life. But when working with hand tools, it forces you to slow down a bit; to take stock of what you are doing and fully connect with the process, the material, and your creativity. It’s a lesson I dearly hope to pass on to my daughter, whether she becomes a woodworker or not.
The quote at the beginning of this post caught my attention on the Lost Art Press blog. All woodworkers owe a debt of gratitude to Christopher Shwarz and Lost Art Press. Their goal of “trying to restore the balance between hand and machine work by unearthing the lost art of hand skills and explaining how they can be integrated with the machinery in the modern shop to help produce furniture that is crisp, well-proportioned, stout and quickly made,” is tremendous. If our current generations lost the ability to create furniture without the assistance of machines, I feel we would lose a very large part of what makes us who we are. I’m not saying power tools have no place in making custom furniture, but if the only pieces we have left were from an assembly line with CNC’d parts, there would be no human connection to the chairs we sit in.
My daughter expressing even a small amount of interest in learning about what I do solidified in my head what I owe to the generations coming behind me. Maybe by posting thoughts like this here on my blog, someone else will be inspired to learn more about working with wood. I would find that incredibly humbling and honoring. For that reason, I will continue to learn, continue to dream, continue to create, and continue to share. I owe that to my daughter.