My learning curve as a woodworker is perhaps a bit unusual. I’m self-taught, more or less. Almost 30 years ago, I started my business with very little actual skill or knowledge, but lots of determination and chutzpah. And I learned a lot. I learned from reading, and I learned from looking at other work and trying to understand it. But most of all, I learned from making mistakes. Lots and lots of them. And I tried like crazy to learn from them. Along the way, I got some real boosts from other woodworkers I came into contact with. And I started to get pretty good.
Interestingly enough, the better I get, the more I realize how much more there is to learn. I’m a generalist as a woodworker. I haven’t done the same thing over and over, perfecting every motion, and learning every last insight. But each new design I create has forced me to learn more and more of what some of the specialists know.
There are plenty of resources available for this learning, but I have found it much easier to make use of these resources and actually learn something now that I have a solid foundation as a woodworker. Techniques and tools may be new, but the foundation makes it easier to both understand and get the feel of what is needed.
This, of course, brings up two things. 1) My new book, The Foundations of Better Woodworking, was written with this very much in mind. Learning the foundational material not only helps you with the basic stuff, but it allows you to place everything else into the necessary and proper context. And 2) I’ve got a new round of classes posted to my web site. I’ve been teaching with this basic philosophy for years now, and different aspects of it show up in all of my classes.