If I was ever able to take a woodworking course I’d have to do it with David Charlesworth. That may seem like a bit of a shock given my rather simple and fast paced approach seen in my videos but the truth is I’m a perfectionist at heart.
After my apprenticeship the leash was released and I was finally able to go off and find my own way in my work, by this point the perfectionist in me was desperate to take over. Believe it or not I started out at this time with a rather fancy approach to design, I guess you’d call them ‘designer maker’ pieces which used exotic timbers and a sculptural feel over function. The problem with being a perfectionist is you’re never happy with your results and I had embarked on a never ending search for something which didn’t exist. This was a very short lived experience for me but the struggle of it made sure that I can still remember it very vividly; it was making me ill.
Since I could find no satisfaction in getting wrapped up in the tiniest of gaps and misalignments which were not visible to the naked eye, I started to consider other approaches. When I stumbled upon Medieval furniture and studied it further I found my cure. These pieces had an attraction for me which was much more than just their age; they had visible tool marks and the components were never the same size. When I began to build in this way there was no longer any struggle, my work was now perfect to my own eye. This Medieval furniture gave me an escape from the perfectionist and made me realise that I’d had everything I was looking for all along in what I’d learnt in my apprenticeship.
For me, the perfectionist was like an alcoholic and once you’ve weaned your way off the drink you have to stay well clear so the need doesn’t come back. I now feel like I’ve reached that stage where I can sit and enjoy a glass of wine at Christmas so I think I’m ready to once again take a look at the finer side of woodworking, just now and then.
David has always strived for the very best in his woodwork and not only achieves it but manages to create methods and techniques around it – I know that he could teach me well. I always look forward to seeing him whenever we attend the same show and it was interesting this year to see that he bought an axe!
I have many of Mr. Charlesworth’s DVDs. I find his approach to working wood relaxing – almost meditative – and extremely informative. I also honed my grandfather’s carpenters’ axe after watching you use it your videos, and I find it very liberating and rhythmic for sizing lumber. They seem like opposite approaches to woodworking, but both put me closer to the wood. Well done!
Ian Elley says
I agree, I don’t know how they cope in Japan where I believe it is there philosophy to strive for perfection at all times ! I still feel I have that weight round my neck as nothing is ever good enough, recently I’ve been looking toward green woodworking for the same kind of release, but Im not there yet !
David Charlesworth says
I came across this by accident and am deeply touched. Thank you. You would be welcome here at any time, and I think your benches are wonderful.
Barry Lowis says
that’s really nice & kind!
Nice David, way to go. 😉
Dan O' says
The E-Mail will not be answered but could you at least give me an e-mail address so I can follow up on my quest.
Graham Haydon says
Very similar to my feelings Richard and this is one of the reasons why humble wooden planes have become and enjoyable addition to my tool kit. We are currently working with a client that took a course with David. He showed me a mitered secret dovetail that he made on the course which was of course perfect…….
Andyryalls Ryalls says
That’s very interesting. I used to say to the cabinet maker who taught me your a perfectionist , he wood just look at me and say , it either fits or it doesn’t. So now I look at my work as if it’s a light bulb, it’s on or off. 🙂
Richard Olson says
I agree. I’ve watched some take hours to make one small dovetailed corner on a box. It was perfect….it only took about six pieces of wood and two hours and to my way of thinking was not wood working. It was mental torture for the person making the joint and he was not a happy man.
For me woodworking is a hobby and if it’s not fun I don’t do it.
Jim Linn says
I’ve been on three of David’s courses and can testify that perfection is down to the right technique rather than fussing. The secret mitre dovetail is possible at the end of 5 days which began having never cut a dovetail by hand before. As each technique is meticulously revealed and practiced there is so many “aha!” moments it’s like an ABBA concert! What David has done is to perfect technique, which leads to a perfect result. How I wish I had the time to go back, or even take the 3 month course.
I’m all for perfection, but for my self I had to find the balance, of what is exemptible and what is not.
I do try and Improve on anything I make.
Great Post Richard. 😉
HaHa acceptable I meant to say. I need an edit button Richard 🙂
Tico Vogt says
This Shaker maxim has been my chief inspiration:
“Do your work as though you had a thousand years to live and as if you were to die tomorrow.”
Matthew Platt says
I had never pictured David as a peddlar of addictive substances, but if perfection is your poison then I can see how a course with him would be like swimming in really good absinthe.
Building your tool chest just totally flies in the face of one’s obsessive compulsive tendencies. I just finished your tool chest and it’s the best therapy I’ve ever had. The perfectionist in me screamed all the way to it’s grave. What freedom! Thanks for the project, it’s definitely a keeper.