Epiphany at 55 mph

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My father and I were very close. But there was one point of friction in our relationship: My career.

He thought I could do better (he was probably right), and he insisted I would make a good lawyer. So in 1993, I applied to law school at Ohio State, was accepted and enrolled. But instead of attending law school, Lucy and I moved south. I took a woodworking class at the University of Kentucky, and here we are today.

My career remained a sore point, and it was the only thing my dad and I would argue about (aside from where to eat dinner or how many appetizers to order).

The thing that would relieve this pressure – oddly enough – was meeting David Savage.

I’d long admired David’s work as a designer, builder and writer. On all three counts he is fearless, and it seemed to me he would build, write or say whatever was on his mind. And he didn’t care if people liked it or not.

He invited me to an early dinner one day when I was teaching in England, and the idea frightened me out of my wits. (It also frightened my students. One commented: “You know, he took took that surname of his for a reason….”) I wouldn’t have been surprised if David had showed up wearing a cape.

Instead, during that dinner, David became an immediate father figure for me. And that’s a totally weird thing to happen to me – I don’t latch onto people quickly or easily. David then invited me to teach a class at his shop in Devon and to take a class there on veneering. I accepted.

During my weeks at Rowden Workshops, I slept in a nearby inn and would bum a ride to the shop each morning. When I couldn’t get a ride, David would pick me up, sometimes in his Morgan. With the car’s top down he’d blast through the sunken Devon roads as I silently prayed that a huge truck (lorry) wasn’t speeding our way around the upcoming corner (sometimes it was).

Somehow we got to talking about my father, who was fighting cancer at the time – a fight David had yet to commence. I laid it all out.

After a couple minutes of silence – just the wind and the roar of the engine – David said: “He’s proud of you. Don’t be silly.”

And that was that. Hearing it from David made it real, and I stopped worrying about it. Occasionally I wonder why that clicked. In some ways, David and my dad were incredibly similar. Both came from humble beginnings and went “all the way” in society. My dad was the first person in our family to go to college. He became a physician, which was a stunning leap of caste for our family of brickmakers and paper salesmen. David went to the Ruskin School at Oxford, then the Royal Academy. Both are highly opinionated and frustratingly good at everything. Snappy dressers. Artistic, with a good eye for color and design. And both had little regard for what the world thought of them.

So it made sense when David told me about his cancer diagnosis and his desire to get this book done by the end of summer (a timeline that is like evolving a camel into a thoroughbred in a few months’ time) that I immediately replied: “Of course.”

And here we are with David’s book, “The Intelligent Hand,” off to press. For obvious reasons, I’m too close to this project to offer you a valid opinion. But I don’t regret a single minute of the last six months we worked on this. Or the anxiety of not getting it done in time. The priceless drawings that went missing for awhile. Or the (I won’t bore you with them) technical difficulties.

Through this book, some of you might see the same thing in David that I saw years ago when we met. It’s not something everyone is looking for. It’s a high, almost unattainable, standard to which to aspire. It keeps you up at night, sketching. It makes you destroy any substandard work from your hands. It makes you want to wear a cape (just kidding about that last part).

The Intelligent Hand” is available for pre-publication ordering in our store. Details are here.

— Christopher Schwarz

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About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
This entry was posted in The Intelligent Hand, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Epiphany at 55 mph

  1. ericfromdayton says:

    Hope you pay him royalties on the pre-publication sales instead of waiting for final publication.
    The PDF is good, but the book should be even better. I know you hate posters, but a collage of his works would be a good one.

  2. pfollansbee says:

    good one, Chris. life is funny, isn’t it?

  3. johncashman73 says:

    I have, for me, a horrible confession. I’ve spent several hours with the pdf of David’s book, and the only text I have read so far are some picture captions. There is just so much to process in all those images. Amazing.

    Chris, If you work at it, you could still be a snappy dresser. (You cant see me, but I almost typed all of that with a straight face.)

  4. shopsweeper says:

    I only just started the book but the self-deprecating beginning was a great choice. Talking openly about your own failures is sure sign of the real kind of confidence. Not the self-promoting kind. And its encouraging to those of us who are on a first name basis with failure.

    I am so impressed with the books this season. You all are highlighting people who are making the world a better place – not just people who are marginally advancing the craft of furniture making.

    I sure wish one of the more sophisticated e-formats were graphic+text friendly. PDF is doable, but .epub or .mobi are a lot more “at home” on my preferred e-ink screen.

  5. ctdahle says:

    Glad you figured it out BEFORE you actually started law school. I had to attend law school, graduate, pass the bar and practice law for 10 years before I figured out that it’s never too late to NOT be a lawyer.

  6. mike says:

    Chris with your Asian heritage it makes sense that your dad would pressure you about your career :).

    My wife is Korean American and we joke that in Korean families you have three career choices 1) Doctor 2) Lawyer or 3) Failure.

  7. Jim Harvey says:

    Do Morgans still have a wooden frame? How appropriate.

    • David Nordrum says:

      Yes… I have two of them. A 1953 +4 (my first car) and a 2018 3-wheeler…both have wooden frames and both are amazing.

  8. jenohdit says:

    Chris, David seems like a nice guy, and who doesn’t love a Morgan, but I can quite honestly say that if I was given a choice between having a piece of furniture you made and one of his I’d take yours without a moment’s hesitation. I like to be able to walk through my house in the dark without having to fear an odd point on a chair rupturing my spleen.

  9. Alex J says:

    Chris, I have all (or darn close to all) of the books you’ve published. You continue to raise the bar with the excellent products coming out of LAP, but The Intelligent Hand is the best of the bunch so far (and that is saying something!). David’s writing style, wit and amazing body of work hit a major chord with me. Thank you. I am saddened by David’s prognosis and hope that he beats the odds.

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