[This quote was from a woodworking discussion forum Jan 26, 2000]
“What makes a “Master woodworker”? Well….. I guess I feel sort of singled out here, and seen this post before and just didn’t bother out of seemingly sounding like wanting to blow a horn of sort, or sound like I have an attitude, but here’s my take:
There are carpenters, cabinetmakers, crafts persons, furniture makers, boat builders, hobbyists, and many other categories of woodworking. I know allot of carpenters who can’t build a cabinet, and cabinet makers who can’t frame a house, or furniture makers who can’t layout a set of stairs. Boat builders who build great boats, but never hung a french door from scratch. Carpenters who hang doors, but never made one, or attempted a mortice. I’m sure there are many who can do several woodworking tasks, but never had the opportunity, therefore not having acquired skill levels. Crafts persons who make beautiful boxes, but have no earthly idea how to cut a cabriole leg. It doesn’t mean they can’t, just means they never did.
We can argue all day and all week on who’s better than who, or who knows more, or what skill level etc., but when I’m called upon for custom work? Be it a home from ground up, high end cabinetry, Architectural millwork, custom door entries, or Queen Ann chair custom fitted for the clients butt alone…… I know I can not only accept the work, but enjoy the challenge and personal reward, knowing that “I can do it along side of the best”. Now it doesn’t mean that my work is equal to Lonnies, but the work I do is considered superior and high end by clients, and repeat customers, be it in building, cabinetry, or certain furniture. I say certain because not many are experienced enough to make claims of building everything from a Philadelphia highboy, Chippendale copy to a Mahogany racing sloop, circular staircase to a Georgian Colonial and expect it to be built by the same individual in every style imaginable in one lifetime. I am however one of those who can build from a picture and not need a set of plans, be it a home or furniture simply through experience, mechanics, knowledge of wood, properties, and design. Its one thing to work for someone and do what your told (right or wrong) and another to create and be responsible for it. The success is the repeat business and reputation.
We can talk titles all day long, but its really just a word. Abused by some, but I like to think that the results of my work through the years has afforded me the knowledge and experience to be part of that group. A word that best describes my skill level for the consumer in selecting a competent woodworker that is just not stuck in one specialization, and won’t “dabble” in an area on their dollar, he has no experience in. A woodworker who can do their project, and not require another to undo, or continue because I haven’t got the ability.
Unfortunately, however this may be explained, it can never be done humbly and is a phrase that will always come under attack, and scrutiny. There are no tests, exams, or Bars of peers to pass in front of, just simply pride, knowledge, experience and confidence in your work, ability, and accomplishments in the “art of woodworking”. Woodworking is truly an art, from the design to its utility either in originality or copying some turn of the century work. All woodworkers are artists in their own right because of the creativity involved, and some prefer to specialize because of the reward and satisfaction. For myself? I enjoy simply accomplishing the complete product from its rawest state to the end by my own hands. There is no greater satisfaction to me than to come to a treed lot, and leave a completed home that I crafted from the foundation, including the leaded custom entry, to the wall to wall entertainment unit complete with shop turnings, special moldings and raised paneled walls, right down to a period hall clock with Sullivan works. I can’t begin to count the projects I took out of pure satisfaction as opposed to monetary gains, and still do to this day. I still learn after all these years, because there simply is so much to learn in this art and every day seems to present a new adventure and its one I chose for my own enrichment and satisfaction.
There are many Master Woodworkers out in this world, and some don’t even know it. They earn a living and sustain self employment , survive the pack and one day he reaches a point of comfort knowing who [he] is and what level [he is at] and certainly doesn’t need any title, but has it simply because its deserving. “
C. John Herbert – 1/26/2000