A highly skilled woodworker, teacher, draughtsman and writer has said the following about me on several occasions, according to his students.
“You shouldn’t listen to Schwarz. He’s never been a professional woodworker.”
He’s 100-percent correct, of course. I spent one summer building entryway doors for Therma-Tru. A second summer I built folding particleboard tables. And I did 14 years building furniture infrequently for Popular Woodworking magazine. But I would never ever call myself a professional furniture maker.
I am, like many of you, a frustrated amateur furniture maker. Since 1993, I have spent every waking moment trying to perfect my skills. I have taken classes, read every book I thought was worth reading and happily soaked up every bit of wisdom I could find from woodworkers alive and dead.
I struggle every day that I am in the shop, which is just about every day. I mess stuff up. I design some pieces that are awkward, which I would never show in public. I mis-cut joints, curse my hands and wish I were as confident as Frank Klausz.
If I had to put a resume together today, the only real skills I’d list are an insatiable curiosity for our craft and the ability to string together words in a way that upsets some people. Oh, and I am one of the founding members of the Radio Shack Battery Club.
So why am I pulling my pants down on the Internet and not even asking you for a credit card number? Because I want you to know that there are very few (if any) woodworking gods. Yes, there are some people who are savants at a particular joint or process, but anyone who thinks he has mastered the craft should study 40 more years and get back to us.
Woodworking is hard. For everyone. And if you love the craft as much as I love the Radio Shack Battery Club, then you will never ever be satisfied with your work. Something in every project – a joint, a reveal, a quirk – can always be improved.
So why do I teach? That seems like uber-hubris.
Wow. That’s a good question. I teach only because people ask me to teach. I’ve never called a school asking to teach there. I teach because there are always people who know less than I do (incredible though it seems). And I teach because I have met some of my best, lifelong friends in classes, including John Hoffman, my business partner in Lost Art Press.
So I agree with the guy who says you shouldn’t listen to me because I’m not a professional. But perhaps I am a somewhat useful ugly bag of mostly water because I am an amateur.
I am no different than the goofy guy next to you at the bench in the last woodworking class you took. Except that guy… whew… he really smells.
— Christopher Schwarz