by Jay Van Arsdale (adapted from The Wooden Post, vol. 5, December 2016)
What is learned by observing craftsmen more skilled than yourself comes with certain surprises. First is how easy, comfortable and relaxed they seem to be while working. From personal experience of 40 years, this comfort and ease are hard fought challenges to be won. Learning to get out of your own way is not always easy or obvious. Figuring out the intricate steps of procedures and techniques are usually seen as “in the way of getting done” – sharpening a chisel/plane blade when way past due.
It was said by the kanna masters at our event that planing is 80% physics and 20% skill. We tend to think it’s all personal skill.
Watching, observing silently, is traditionally the starting point for learning.
Other portals of developing skillfulness include abundant patience, learning to enjoy spending time with yourself, learning to articulate process and the importance of the preparatory stages, paying acute attention to these minute details, e.g. the minute details to make a few microns thin shaving.
All the while keeping it simple and understanding more of what you are trying to accomplish with your tools and effort.
The experience of this type of ‘’learning’’ is rarely available in books with word descriptions or speculations. Learning to become an expert craftsperson has many verbal footnotes, but the driving nutrition is non-verbal work. To our educated ears, this sounds farfetched, but, in essence, this is the seminal fact to becoming a craftsman. Even if you are ‘self-taught’, ideas stolen from more completely trained craftspeople affords this missing link in how we learn to learn, perform more effectively, and let our magnificent tools become our teachers and guides.
We at Kezurou-kai USA hold this process dear to our hearts, knowing seeing is believing, when it comes to more enlightened command of our persons and tools. Book learning can fill in some facts and historical curiosities, but nothing beats a day at the work bench watching and working with master craftsmen who enjoy sharing these nonverbal ingredients at their command. Our goal is creating these special opportunities to learn in this type of experience so rare these days, with those of you who want to know the real treasures embedded in this historic work.