Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Random Thoughts, Twitter Inspired

I was visiting a blog today called ahardslojdlife about the traditional use of wood and saw a video on that site showing Niklas Karlsson using a bowl adze. I remembered that Kari Hultman from the Village Carpenter blog had just bought her first bowl adze, so I tweeted to her about the site and the video. 

I also tweeted about Niklas' philosophy on traditional woodworking and how closely it parallels mine. He believes (paraphrasing here) that the aesthetic of tradtional woodworking is not about copying forms, but about using the old-fashioned work processes. 

Quoting here: "Understanding that aesthetics I have found to be a long process of patiently working with the conditions given by the traditional way to work. You have to feel familiar with the tools and materials from that coherence until you loose, in a way, the respect for them. Because there has to be a carelessness involved in order to resist the modern mans urge to make the perfect and impeccable design."

The last sentence smacked me between the ears. (You know the first thing to do to teach a mule something, don't you?) It bears repeating for all us galoots out there. "There has to be a carelessness involved in order to resist the modern mans urge to make the perfect and impeccable design."  

By the word "carelessness" I believe Niklas means that we have to get so familiar with the process of using hand tools that it becomes second nature to us. We don't have to think about it any more. We accept the fact that our pieces will not be perfect, while not using that as an excuse to be sloppy. Perfect beauty is recognizably artificial. Imperfect beauty is much more interesting. Imperfections, tool marks, a slightly "gappy" joint, a small tear out, show that the piece was made by hand by a human being, not a machine. As handworkers I believe that we leave a little piece of our soul in every piece we make.

OK, starting to ramble and get a little "woo-woo" here, so I'll leave it at that.

One more thing. Go to Niklas' YouTube site and watch the video entitled "Fetved". ROFL! I won't ruin it, but most of us would stop what we were doing. Not Niklas! That is one determined man!

Until next time, let the chips fly!


  1. I think you are "spot on" in both your analysis and in the reality of making something. All too often I see perfectly carved and finished pieces. You know, the ones that look like molded plastic. I also see pieces that may not be so perfectly carved and finished. And more times than not it's the pieces with a bit of imperfections that have that special "soul"

  2. I love that I have achieved a level of carving where I am now faster and better than I was just a few years ago. I look at my old carvings and see the improvement. The secret: Practice practice practice. 30 - 40 hours a week carving. ( aprox. Technically the "carving" part is half of that) As with Origami, I make the same patterns over and over again to get better. I also like that my carvings are not "flawless" I was never into perfection anyway, and very few people are willing to pay you for the tremendous amount of time you would have to invest. Oh! And about my last posted comment. My wife thought I was being rather rude and insensitive! I meant it as a joke. ( Burning your mistake carving) I love reading about the "messed up carvings" I hope you continue to brag about being human. Those are the blogs that are the most fun to read.

  3. No worries, Ethan. I took that comment in the humorous manner in which it was intended. Oh, and if you look under your bench and find a tarantula, just ignore him. He'll probably find his own way out. If the cats don't get him! :)