On Being Self-taught

maloof_1956

People just like what I do and buy it. As for schooling, my clients are my teachers. They’re the ones who bring me the design problems. Schools get too easily divorced from the real world. In many places students graduate and become teachers without ever making a living from their work. They grow stale. There’s a preciousness I see in a lot of student work that comes from having too many hours to put into it. Perfection is fine, and nothing has left my shop that I’m not proud of, but you have to produce if you are going to make a living. I’ve heard people say they have to put a piece of wood aside until the spirit hits them. That’s procrastination. Pick it up and work it – you’ll feel the spirit. No, I think it’s an advantage being self-taught.

— Sam Maloof, December 1980, Fine Woodworking

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Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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10 Responses to On Being Self-taught

  1. Reblogged this on Paleotool's Weblog and commented:
    I’ve heard people say they have to put a piece of wood aside until the spirit hits them. That’s procrastination. Pick it up and work it – you’ll feel the spirit. No, I think it’s an advantage being self-taught.

    — Sam Maloof, December 1980, Fine Woodworking

  2. I couldn’t agree more whole heartedly. Autodidact virtually my whole life.

    >

  3. Eric R says:

    Who can argue with Sam?
    His stuff was (and is) legendary.

  4. Reblogged this on The Madcap Woodwright and commented:
    One of the many reasons Maloof remains one of my hero’s, though I choose to chase a “degree” in fine woodworking.

  5. nrhiller says:

    Love this quote, though I (along with you) appreciate the value of expert guidance in many areas. What Maloof says about the dimension that comes with making [whatever one’s product happens to be] for a living is too rarely mentioned.

  6. kendewitt608 says:

    Thought he was great and also Tage Frid, that old work ethic !
    First woodworking book I bought was Tage Frid on joinery.

  7. Gary Roberts says:

    I had the joy and opportunity of meeting Sam Maloof at the original Woodcraft store during a talk he presented. The most down to earth, friendly, easy going and knowledgeable man I’ve ever met. Some years later I had a reason to send him a short letter, which he responded to with a very friendly post card. They were willing to arrange a payment plan for a piece of furniture, but, alas, even for that we didn’t have the funds! Sitting in his chairs at the Boston Museum Of Fine Arts was always a treat.

  8. clmb512 says:

    I like the part about ‘perfection’. A lot of us weekend woodworkers that aspire to the heights of masters we read about in the mags and on the web feel a need to put out that one piece that defines us as grasping the full spirit of ‘making’ something wonderful. We don’t want to release our child to the world without making it as close to the ideal as possible. Perhaps we forfiet the learning that comes with rapid production. Doing a lot in a short time rather then straining to compress years of learning into the time between stints in the shop.

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