Observations On A Craftsman (Part One)

by | Feb 20, 2015 | 14 comments

wooden planes_1In our previous workshop time had allowed us to create a systematic approach to building workbenches. The fine tuned layout allowed the work to flow like a human driven conveyor belt; from timber entering through the door to passing over machines, and as the wood traveled physically from the front the the back of the workshop it became progressively more workbench shaped.
Richard and I are close. We live together, work together and would certainly consider each other best friends. Through this I have always had a very clear understanding of how he works and can anticipate which process will come next and when he will be in need of assistance.
Distractions are a big bug bear of working for yourself, and so knowing when to keep out of each others way is often more important than offering help. This works both ways and has been learnt from the devastation of many morning’s plans after a mere innocent line of gossip over a pot of tea.

When we moved workshop recently we anticipated a considerable settling in period. We’re long enough in the tooth to know that you can’t iron out every crease in production just by thinking things through. You have to allow some things to trip you up before you give them your full attention.
The dynamics of the workspace have changed now and through this I have observed one or two of Richard’s weird ways which I hadn’t noted before. In this smaller space the bench components no longer travel along the workshop, but remain almost stationery and appear to grow and form organically as tools are brought over in precise sequence. Richard is a very patient sort of person; generous and helpful if you need anything. But my observation of late is that he is possessive. Not selfish or greedy in the slightest, but oh so protective of his workspace.

Observation of the week: Do not move a craftsman’s tools.

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  1. David Charlesworth

    How true, how true!

    Best wishes,

  2. Chris Buckingham

    And that’s the way it is!

  3. Jeff

    “Observation of the week: Do not move a craftsman’s tools.”

    Now in those 6 little words there’s a statement/epic/story/back story/rubicon crossed/…

    Eek. Wouldn’t want to have been a fly on the wall. 😉

  4. Jim Broughton

    Hi,I am a second generation antique furniture restorer and cabinet maker (over 30 years at the bench) and my wife has been in the re-upholstery trade since leaving school (best part of 30 years). I thoroughly enjoy your posts and totally understand and even have a laugh at the similarities I see!Keep up the good work.
    Jim Broughton

  5. Arthur van der Harg

    So recognizable. But not only for craftsmen: I can stand very few people with me in the kitchen when I’m cooking. Even asking ‘Can I do anything?’ throws me off my rhythm. Let alone moving stuff To rinse or clean while I’m still working.

    • Mike O'Brien

      Oh so very true. How many times I was admonished by my Father for moving/ using a tool on his workbench,
      And as a typical kid, not putting it back in its place. And ditto for the cook’s comment in the kitchen as well. It makes me a bit bonkers when I am in my cooking rhythm with everything is all laid out and a guest says ” what can I do to help”.
      My inclination is to say just stay out of my way, which out of courtesy I do not. Whenever someone else is cooking or tasking, I simply say: If I can help just ask me, otherwise I am going to stay clear and enjoy my pint/ tea etc.

  6. Allan Solomon

    An Englishman’s work bench is his castle. It is not a matter of life and death it is much more important than that. Just discovered your website and so love the whole thing.

  7. Dan Noall


  8. Peter Zimmer

    And that very quality is what makes a craftsperson a craftsperson.

  9. William Fariss

    It’s much better you found this out now than later.

  10. Michael Dickson

    Some people say you become more patient when you get older, maybe they are thinking more before letting out anger or they don’t let situations bother them? Nevertheless stress does have an effect on people and it cannot be avoided, it is a battle in the mind!

    As BT used to say it’s good to talk; talking to each other at the appropriate time with kindness is a good thing!

  11. Doug Reamer

    You are blessed to be that self aware and reflect on daily challenges to understand them better. Too often we get so caught up in the tasks at hand that we fail to take a step back and focus on the human aspects of our lives.

  12. Big T.

    Hey: I like your taste in help


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