In the past few days there has been a, lets call it lively, discussion over on Paul Sellers’ Woodworking Masterclasses forum. Generally speaking, the entire thing centered on two complaints voiced by a single member.
The first complaint was that the when and why of which joinery to employ was not being directly addressed. The second complaint was that the woodworking instruction was not directly addressing how to design a piece of furniture. While these issues are technically correct, all of the information is there in Mr. Sellers’ videos and blogs for those willing to observe, think and extrapolate for themselves.
For some reason society in general has shifted to an absolute literal way of thinking. Every step and element of a process must be spelled out in order for people to understand and perform that process. Here is an example from my workplace:
An employee was told to sweep the floor in his work area. Upon inspection of the area there were several piles of debris remaining. When questioned, the employee stated that he was only told to sweep the area, hence the piles, but no one had told him to use a dustpan and deposit the debris in a trashcan. He was quite sincere in his belief that he had faithfully followed the instruction that he was given.
The above example is just one of numerous that I could provide that demonstrates the current way that people seem to approach everyday tasks. Logical”next step” thinking, i.e. common sense, no longer seems to apply. I have no idea as to the “why” of this phenomenon, I just know that is exists. Now back to my original rant.
One aspect of Paul Sellers’ approach to woodworking is that every project can be constructed with the application of one or more three basic joints. The housing dado, dovetail and the mortise and tenon joint. While the joints themselves may vary in execution, the three joint philosophy runs throughout his projects.
Every project that Mr. Sellers has demonstrated has employed this joinery approach, from the first project to the current chair project. While it is true that he has not explicitly stated “thou shalt”, from the examples presented it is quite easy to extrapolate the when and the why. Boxes, cases, frames, tables, drawers and seating have all been addressed at this point. Throughout each project Mr. Sellers has demonstrated the construction of each joint in great detail. It seams more than reasonable that any woodworker should be able to easily understand, given the examples, what joint type is best suited for an application or, at the very least, know which joint Mr. Sellers would choose.
Now the complaint regarding design. I’ve been with Masterclasses from the beginning and I don’t remember design being promised as part of the curriculum. Woodworking, specifically hand tool woodworking, is what is presented. Design is a completely different animal and only comes into play if you want to build pieces of your own, well, design. There have been thousands upon thousands of master craftsman throughout history who never generated an original design. Instead they replicated the designs of others. However, Mr. Sellers does convey through his projects, both directly and indirectly, proportions and other basic elements. Again, with a little effort and thought there is a wealth of information to be had in what Mr. Sellers has and does present.
I know that this reads as a defense on Paul Sellers’ behalf. That’s not really my intent. He’s a grown man and doesn’t need the likes of me leaping to his defense. I’m actually just venting frustration against this type of narrow, literal thinking that seems to be plaguing society. Like a nest of baby birds waiting with their mouths open to be fed and chirping with complaint when what is handed to them doesn’t meet with their approval.
Close your mouth, open your mind, get off your ass and put a little effort into life. You will be amazed at what you can accomplish.