Hazard A Guess – Evolve Your Skills

by | Nov 20, 2017 | 13 comments

If you’ve seen anything from us then you’ll know it’s not exactly text book stuff.

Our approach comes from a heap of passed down knowledge finely blended with many hours of doing at the bench.

Then there’s the dash of weirdness that my mind adds in.

I like to understand stuff. How it works.
I’m obsessive like that.

But it’s a simpleton’s way of thinking.

I don’t pore over books or know fancy words.

develop your hand tools
People see hand tools and often think – ‘history’.

For some that makes hand tools irrelevant. Outdated.

To others history becomes the focus.
It’s a drive to replicate and understand how things were done, when they had to be done that way.

My understanding of history doesn’t come from books. So I don’t claim to be a bloody scholar or present you with historic fact here.

I’d say history books can be limiting. Giving you a very tight perspective of subjects that were certainly vastly more varied than the information that made it on to paper.
What I do claim though, is to get the job done.

Ask three or four woodworkers today how they sharpen, or tart up a rough board.
The techniques would probably differ. And it’d be a fair assumption to say a good 80% of techniques in use today wouldn’t be covered.
Probably more like 90%.

So I don’t like to focus on ‘the’ way that things were done.
As though in search of the ultimate and singular answer

working by hand

I find history far more revealing when you ask the question ‘why’. Rather than insisting on learning ‘how’.

‘How’ always varies.
Maybe it varies a little. Maybe a lot.

But there is always more than one way to skin a cat (as they say).

Considering ‘why’ opens up the box to those endless things that have been forgotten.

Yes… it’s pure speculation.

And you’ll never be rewarded with the certainty that you’ve got it right.

Though I recon you’ll understand your craft all the better for opening up your mind.

Anyway, tomorrow there’ll be a rant (video) for everyone. A few of my thoughts on scruffy old dovetails…

Related Posts

About Richard Maguire

About Richard Maguire

As a professional hand tool woodworker, Richard found hand tools to be the far more efficient solution for a one man workshop. Richard runs 'The English Woodworker' as an online resource and video education for those looking for a fuss free approach to building fine furniture by hand. Learn More About Richard & The English Woodworker.


  1. Andrew LeRoy

    Great post Richard.

    I agree that too much research can quickly cause the “paralysis by analysis” syndrome so one never gets things done. Like searching for that perfect tool that would make the job much better if we had it but our search for it causes us to never get the job done.

    But if one can find the balance which for me is about 80-90% doing and 10-20% learning it can be very beneficial. The balance may be different for other people and we each need to find out what it is for us.

  2. John Thomas

    Good points. I just want to get the job done. I have never had any training, just read books. That is why videos such as yours are big help. I love the approach to doing this as a business not as something that is perfection as a goal.

  3. Dale K.

    Thanks Richard. You and I think along the same lines. I’ve always wanted to know the why since i was very young. (one of those kids that constantly asked why?) Enjoy your blog and videos.

  4. Paul D

    Being able to be reflective about how you or others achieve tasks will often find a new and sometimes easier way of completing the desired outcome

  5. Nick the stickmaker

    Look- Guess – Attempt. Have a go at anything use your senses – the odd cut – the bruised thumb the ruined piece – so what, its rarely repeated, so you get then in the end, with a smile.

    Stick maker Nick 🙂

  6. Les parlane

    Good one Richard !
    Learn by doing and or watching other tradesmen …the best way by far.

  7. Pat

    I really like when you video your rants/opinions. I think there’s a few on YouTube and I’ve watched them a dozen times by now. Thanks for doing all this for us! 🙂 (from Canada)

  8. john sayles

    “I don’t pour over books …”

    In this instance, you want “pore”

    • Richard Maguire

      Thanks John! Edit made…

  9. WoodChip Studio

    Hi Richard,

    Thanks for the great article. I think you have captured the true spirit of woodworking. It’s not all in the textbooks.

  10. Joe Treloar

    It is the “whys” that are most important to consider, and to me, the most interesting. Think about all the all the jobs that can be done with a specialized plane for the job or an old chisel and equally well, depending on the craftsman.
    Please keep ranting!

  11. Dave Ring

    I don’t pour over books either but I sometimes spill.

    • Richard Maguire

      Thanks Dave, edit made!


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to Updates:

Related Posts:

Simple Work Holding For Ploughing Grooves [Without a Tail Vice]

Sometimes the biggest challenge of a project can just be getting the wood to stay put while we try to work on it. I suppose it's why it's so easy for us to get lost in the hunt for a perfect workbench design. And drawn in towards all kinds of vice bling and fancy work...

Hand Tools Make Machines Cheap

As you know, to become fast with hand tools you have to understand that perfection isn’t a thing. You need to learn where the inaccuracy can be hidden, and deliberately place it there. A good example of this, were those table legs in the hall table build. Getting them...

The Perfect Hand Tool Workshop

Sadly I ain't one of those that can say he’s been in a generations old workshop all of his working life. There aren't tools still hung on the wall that my grandad put up, or boxes full of secrets who's keys were lost lifetimes ago. Instead I seem to move workshop like...

We Teach Online

Practical Hand Tool Education

Watch immediately on PC, tablet or mobile

Browse All Projects