Unto Others

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I spent this afternoon installing five hinges made by blacksmith Peter Ross on two tool chests. And though I’ve installed a lot of them, I involuntarily marveled at their beauty and utility. They are that gorgeous.

In fact, one the best parts of my life is getting to work with other artisans, whether it’s a woodworker writing a book for Lost Art Press, a blacksmith making a chest lock, a foundry worker pouring a casting or a bookbinder making a deluxe edition.

While this statement seems obvious – who wouldn’t want to work with these awesome people? – I don’t think it is. It’s a damn challenge to work with others. Every piece of blacksmith-made hardware is different and requires extraordinary individual attention. Every woodworker who writes a book is different and requires individual attention. And so forth.

In fact, my work would be a lot easier (and profitable) if I simply wrote books, published them and ignored the work of other people.

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But my life would be much less rich. And I would be a lesser person for it.

That’s why I have great respect for publishers such as Marc Spagnuolo and Joshua Klein, who have reached out beyond their insular worlds (we all have insular worlds – we’re woodworkers) to bring the ideas of other people to the forefront.

Marc, as you might know, has been filming the work of people such as Anne Briggs and Darrell Peart for The Wood Whisperer Guild. Joshua has enlisted an entire host of writers and builders to create new knowledge through Mortise & Tenon magazine.

Both of these guys could easily do their own thing, ignore the rest of the world and live handsomely. They both have magnetic personalities that would allow them to be the epicenter of their own universes.

But they haven’t. And my hat is off to them.

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Your work will be better if you listen to a variety of voices. Don’t just listen to me. Learn what you can from all the other people out there. And pay special attention to the people who are also willing to listen to others.

Learning this craft from 100 teachers (instead of just one) is more challenging for you, the student. At some point you will need to say: “Wait, this particular bit of gospel is total BS to me.” But you will be a more resilient, informed and balanced woodworker as a result.

You will see the overall patterns in our craft, not just methods of a single teacher. And maybe, when it comes time for you to teach others, your mind will be open, and you will glady promote the work of others, even if it challenges the work you do every day at the bench.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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19 Responses to Unto Others

  1. trainman0978 says:

    This is why I will buy every book you write, and almost every book you publish…. ( I’m too afraid to build a Windsor chair thus far ).

    You are good, but forever humble. Thank you sir.

  2. erikhinkston says:

    Amen! There is great wisdom in a chorus of voices, I’ve enjoyed hearing from many wonderful teachers. A number of them LAP contributors, it is a fantastic time in history. We are all rich discovering the knowledge available at out fingertips.

  3. Nathan Large says:

    Thank you for your example. You are extremely knowledgeable on things regarding woodworking and I enjoy that, but I like you more and more as a person as I get to know you through these blog posts.

  4. Jonathan Schneider says:

    The chests are beautiful!!!

  5. rons54 says:

    As I begin my journey as a woodworker I will always be grateful that I discovered your work early on, the respect for people that you display in all of your work is inspiring and refreshing.

  6. Joe Newman says:

    As a hobbyist I particularly enjoyed this article. Each of us has different interests, skills, strengths (and weaknesses), as well as external limitations: space, money, time, weather. By learning from several of you pros instead of aligning with and trying to copy just one, it gives us a much broader palette to work with, taking and applying what you folks teach into the maker space we have.

  7. Beautiful work—and beautiful sentiments.

  8. Incredible and beautiful woodwork. You are definitely a craftsman. Thank for sharing! Karen 🙂

  9. Eric from Dayton says:

    Looking nice. Even clocked the screws.

  10. Todd D Reid says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts about other craftsmen who are sharing the work of other craftsmen. I would like to mention that a way to expand the people you learn from is to look in the right column of blogs such as yours and see who you follow. Then check out those people’s blogs and the people they learn from and follow. Thank you for all you do to teach others.

  11. Anthony says:

    Those are sage words, thanks for sharing them with us. I am older, but not too old to learn from others. I find truth and wisdom in your words and try to learn from a wide variety of craftsmen.

  12. Mike Kolodner says:

    Chris, your craft and attention to detail always inspires me to make something myself. I noticed that you have turned the screws on those beautiful hinges so that they are all horizontally parallel. Aesthetically speaking, I appreciate those small details as part of the art of the craft. But I am wondering how they can all be magically aligned parallel and all be snug and tight. Do you purposefully leave you pilot holes a bit short to allow for this? Or is there any trick you care to share?

    • Brent says:

      It is called clocked screws or clocking your screws. Chris has blogged about how to do it before, now that you know the term to search for I am sure you can find on Google.

    • Mike,

      I am sure there are better ways to do this, but here’s how I do it.

      1. I drill a pilot hole on a scrap piece, using the same species as the finished piece.
      2. I install the hardware (a hinge leaf in this instance) starting the screw with the slot aligned how I want it to end up. Let’s call this position 12 o’clock in this instance.
      3. When the screw is seated all the way down into the countersink, I note where the slot ends up. Let’s say it ended up at 2 o’clock.
      4. When I install these particular screws on this particular piece I’ll begin all the screws with the slots at 10 o’clock so they will end up at 12 o’clock.

      Hope this makes sense.

  13. Bill Morison says:

    Hope mine is the one with three hinges. . .

  14. Klaus N. Skrudland says:

    Thank you for sharing your thoughtful perspectives on learning the craft. This was a truly inspiring read for me.

  15. Dan Zehner says:

    This is one of many reasons I continue to follow your work and get star struck anytime we get to meet at a woodworking show. Your philosophy for loving the journey and aiming for a rich life just really resonates with me. Good on you sir!

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