I have endured many blessings in life, including that somehow I managed to avoid getting the curiosity beaten out of me at an early age while navigating government indoctrination camps. I am the son of an iconoclast, and thus managed to look at the world with a somewhat skewed vision including the perception of formal education with no small dose of skepticism. I was a mediocre student through much of my secondary schooling, essentially tuning out formal academics and doing only what I needed to move on while focusing on those things which interested me. There was so much fascinating stuff beyond the drivel being pushed in the classroom. Why were we reading a somnolistic civics textbook when there were The Federalist Papers (and even better, The Anti-Federalist Papers) to read? And history? A fascinating subject that takes great effort to be made unpalatable, but institutional “learning” gulags are up to that task.
As I get older I only get more out of step with the popular culture all around me. I love learning, and I delight in passing along what I have learned. No telling how many times my wife has been spared – with great self control on my part – from being regaled with an exhaustive recounting of astounding things gleaned from the U.S. Patent Office data base. This idiosyncrasy makes me distinctly at odds with our bread and circuses culture where I encounter far too many people wanting to know everything but cannot be bothered with learning anything.
Which brings me to Andre Jacob Roubo. In working our way through the volumes, we began to get a glimpse of him as a person. At the recent “Evening With Roubo” dinner that Chris Schwarz unselfishly (or was is selfishly?) organized at Woodworking in America in Cincinnati I delighted in St. Roy’s retelling of Roubo’s biography, but even a spirited story well-delivered can never be complete. Thanks to Roubo himself, there is much more.
Roubo’s lessons and reflections, laundered through Michelle’s literal translation, my massaging of the words to cause them to make sense to a contemporary artisan, and Philippe’s final polishing, make me reflect on my own ignorance, clumsiness, and sloth.
At the close of the final volume, Roubo gives us a remarkable peek into his soul, and I like what we can see. Beginning next week with selected excerpts I will let him tell you — in his own words –- what makes him tick.
— Don Williams