Friday, February 6, 2009

The most important tool

Speaking of tools - The most important tool anyone brings to any project is their brain.
Yep, that bony knob protecting 8 pounds of greasy meat is more than just a sensory organ cluster, well at least for some.
But, to sharpen that tool, you need to hone it using several different methods.
The first is all the varieties of classroom learning. Everything from sitting in a desk facing a blackboard, to reading web articles, blogs (meh) books and magazines. Not everyone learns well this way.
The second is to learn by demonstration - having someone experienced show you the way. Videos, flipping through pictures and in-person are the usual way such knowledge sneaks past our eyeballs and creates new synaptic pathways.
The third should be an outgrowth of the first two, and is the "lab" portion of the process - learn by doing. If it isn't the logical follow through of the above, you are in possession of an original thought (be very careful with it, it is lonely and in an unfamiliar place) and are charting unknown territory. OR you are a mad scientist type attempting to re-invent the wheel from first principles - because hey, you are smart and know better than everybody else anyway - right?

Notwithstanding the superannuated status of said canine and its lack of ability to absorb concepts of unfamiliar prestidigitation: I think it behooves us all, no matter what our skill level, to improve ourselves and therefore our work.

Taking a class, joining a club or guild, or just spending time with a buddy working as his helper on something is a great way to learn. Reading or even just flipping through pictures can help. I have a list of favorite magazines and books that I need to post here sometime. The method I like best is that once I have the basic concept for something clear, is to try it. Then, keep practicing it until I develop muscle memory and the skill to apply my new learning to a new project. Sadly, the new technique and project often go hand-in-hand. This should not be the case & can lead to wasted time and shoddy projects. I think Popular Woodworking Editor Christopher Schwarz has the right idea. Heck, he says it best, here. Take some time every day to refine a skill that you want to master by practicing those skills.

Old Dogs CAN learn new tricks.


YamFu said...


Quin said...

Yep, if we could recover the space wasted on the brain tissue we don't use, there would be room for a built-in MP3 Player / cellphone & a pencil sharpener. Some folk could even have a beer fridge or at least an ice dispenser.