E N Curtis

Woodworker. Artist. Teacher. Chucklehead.

Joinery all wrapped up

As the week carried on, I had the pleasure of getting to know the folks I was working with a bit more. Some were just getting into woodworking, or just beginning to dive into it with passion. I love working with people like this because I remember how enthralled I was not all that long ago when I began. I remember the frustration that my dovetail didn't look like the teacher's; the excitement when I made one that did; the elation when I put that first coat of shellac on my first ever project. I still feel that way each time I finish a piece—that's perhaps my favorite part of it all. I love the building and I respect the designing, but I like tasting the cake to make sure that it's good, if you catch my drift.

For the latter half of the week, we focused of the mechanized versions of the joints we had already covered in the bench room. Mortises and half-laps with routers, tenons and dados on the table saw, and, of course, finger joints in place of dovetails. The undistorted truth is that these joints, and this style of woodworking, will give you the same results with less practice than hand work will, and I believe that's why so many people rely on them. It's a "let's get it done and drink a beer over it" mentality, but it's not my mentality. There's something precious in the process, even the processes that challenge me. 

I have quite a difficult relationship with design. Some folks, as James Krenov has said, have an innate understanding of proportion and line, but struggle in the exercise of bringing that thought into reality. I am quite the opposite. Design for me is a mental exercise of mathematics and the manipulation of rules, rather than an intuitive thing. But the great ones of any art are not those who follow the rules, but those who bend and ultimately break them. Woodworking teaches one patience with self above all else, and perhaps in time and with practice I can do something noteworthy. Until then, I'll keep learning. If there is ever a woodworker who tells you they've mastered everything, don't listen to a word they say. 

Happy trails to all the friends I've made this week! Keep doing it as long until it ceases to bring you joy, and then, stop.