Monday, November 19, 2012

Operator Error

Sometime you just have to keep up with the times, so I'd like to introduce my new robotic travisher maker, The Armitron.

Actually, this is what happens when I leave the shop for a few hours and a 25 year old toolmaker finds a 30 year old toy. The funny part of pulling this thing from the attic is that every male from 30 to 45 who see it shouts, ARMITRON!!

Here is a photo of Ken St. Onge, Armitron devotee and editor from Fine Woodworking. He and I have been working on a two part turning article and he took it to heart when I suggested a day at my lathe might benefit us both as we head into producing part two. Perhaps no tool requires resilience when learning such as the lathe and teaching it gives a view into the ways that each person deals with failure, largely because there is no way to learn to turn without lots of it. 

Of course, there are plenty of other activities in chairmaking that require a healthy does of composure in the face of adversity.
I think that perhaps I’ve reached a tipping point where I’ve had my efforts go awry enough times to take it in stride, or at the very least, not be shocked and utterly demoralized when it happens.

One part of our woodworking literature that is sadly missing is dealing with the failure inherent in the learning process. Most of us are on our own, learning from books or trial and error. The glossy images of wisened woodworkers who’ve mastered the craft only go to rub in the fact that we are not likely to get anything right the first time.

Here are a few quotes that I always have kicking around in my head when run full speed into my limitations.

"An expert is a person who has made all the mistakes that can be made in a given field."
Niels Bohr

"The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas."
Linus Pauling

"I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work."
Thomas Edison

Everyone screws up sometimes. It’s a humbling process, but if you embrace your mistakes and sometimes even learn to repeat them, not only will you master the technique, but you'll forge a process and perspective for learning that will spread into the rest of the workshop, maybe even beyond. 
And of course, I'm referring to mastering the Armitron.


Andrew Jack said...

The best I can heckle with today is:
"Mastering the Armitron"?

But seriously, folks. Excellent post Pete. Failing sucks (ask me how I know) but starting somewhere is always important.

Bern said...

Great post Pete, and one which I can very strongly relate to. Very strongly....
By the way, in regards the glueless post, I was reading John Brown's, 'Welsh Stick Chair' book last night and he suggested that it may have been, or was, common practice for Welsh chair makers to construct without glue.
So there you go. And from what I can gather there are quite a few 18th century Welsh Stick Chairs still kicking around.
Thanks Pete. Keep it coming sir.

Steve Branam said...

Mistakes and failures are the reason I teach using skills-based method rather than project-based. I set out with the goal of making nothing but shavings, dust, chips, and scraps, all destined for the fireplace and compost pile. The finished result is not a physical thing, but the skill itself developed in the process.

In that respect, I embrace the mistakes, because it's better to make them and get them out of the way while learning the skill rather than while making a prized project.

Be fearless in learning so you can be confident in working.

Glen Rundell said...

Hey much for the Armitron?

Reminds me of Team America - World Police. I can hear the theme song now....


Unknown said...

For goodness sake Pete, it is about time someone (you) wrote a piece about how to properly turn chair parts. The world (of woodworking) has been in desperate need of that information. The ONLY way I was able to learn how to turn a baluster leg was by watching that 2 part video of yours about 10,000 times. I think that was like 5 years ago you did those. Now the average woodworker reader can be exposed to some common sense spindle turning skills.

Here is another feather in your cap Pete. I just got best traditional style for my continuous arm settee and turners choice award for those baluster turnings.

Thanks man. Don't stop teaching and writing!

Peter Galbert said...

Thanks for all the comments, funny how screwing up makes for such common ground!!
Caleb, congratulations on the awards, you made it happen, keep it up!

Patrick Tipton said...

Great post Pete!

Humility is the key.

Happy Thanksgiving to you, Sue and the animal crew!

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