Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Craftsmanship: Professionalism and Years of Experience

Sometimes, little things teach us lessons in life that we will never forget. I learned one in wood shop class in Minnesota as a kid.

I was in wood shop class as a pimply faced 13-year-old one time. I really enjoyed wood shop and wanted to make items that were very nice and useful and not like the junk most of us kids made.

It was my first ever wood shop class so I set my goals high. While other kids were making salad forks, I was making a small footrest for my dad at the time, if memory serves me well.

I needed to make a brace for the footrest so that it wouldn't be wobbly. Since the legs were at angles, it was a tough question for me, as a kid, how to make that wood properly brace without having gaps. I took the piece of wood I intended to use and asked the instructor how I should cut it. 

He looked at me and quickly grabbed the piece of wood and with a pencil in hand, he said, 

"You make a 3/8 inch cut along this line and you will see that it fits exactly where you want it," As he spoke, he drew a straight line on my piece of wood by hand. 

I was horrified! 

"You made a pencil line on my piece of wood!" I said to him, "Why did you draw on my wood? How do you know this is 3/8 of an inch without measuring?" 

He looked at me straight in the eyes and said, "Years of experience, Mr. Rogers. Years of experience." 

I went back to my workstation and used a ruler to check the line he had drawn. Sure enough... It was perfectly straight and 3/8 of an inch! I couldn't believe it and he drew it by hand!

I will never forget that moment; that one instructor, in 5 seconds, taught me a life lesson in what professionalism and craftsmanship mean just by drawing one single little line on a piece of wood by hand.

Certainly, that is how years of experience, and dedication to one's art, creates professionalism and craftsmanship.

A few years after the story above, in 1973, when other kids were making napkin holders in wood shop class, I was making stuff like this French Provincial end table. I won a Blue Ribbon (whatever that means!) at the State fair for this one when I was a sophomore in high school. This table still sits in my living room as sturdy as the day it was built (plus a few nicks and scratches). I'm expecting that this will be an antique in my son's living room someday.

1 comment:

Johnny said...

Your high school wood shop work looks better than any of the nonsense designed by the engineers at IKEA. Its certainly lasted longer.

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