Not right now, not without the right tools, but I reckon I could figure it out given time. And plenty of wood. I’d want to practice for a few years maybe.
Woodwork is gorgeous. I wish I had the time patience and money to get into it properly. I hope that I will slowly find a way to dig into it. I’ve recently acquired a saw, and have started building ramshackle structures in the garden. This is a good hundred steps down from a decent dovetail, but given time and tools, the world is my enormous wooden oyster.
Even just googling it, and watching a few animations, fills me with pleasure. There’s something profoundly beautiful about things being carefully structured to interlock. The angles are pristine. The way tails and pins foil each other intimately. Deft planning and patient work. Doing something right, making a seamless fit. It’s a lovely process. I often fantasise about it, though I appear to fail to take the time to learn.
Is it the outlay? The time and expense of getting the right tools to start off? Or is it just fear that I’ll be rubbish. I’ll lack the patience, accuracy and steady hand to pull off something genuinely correct. A lifetime of practicing the vague and abstract hasn’t left me with the right toolset to actually make physical objects fit together. My field tends to be words and ideas. My strengths lie in the inaccurate and immediate.
I fear woodworking, where precision and planning count for more than instinct and wordplay.
But maybe I’m just trapped in a certain perspective. I’ve done my practice in the word mines, and in truth, I can see just as many flaws and weaknesses as strengths. The better you get, the better you can see how far you are from perfection. Halfway up the mountain, you still can’t see the peak.
And there’s pleasure in the scaling of new mountains. Learning patience, and accuracy, and new tools.
I’ll never make a perfect oak cabinet, just like I’ll never write a literary classic, but that shouldn’t stop me from joining planks and words at my own pace, at my own level.
I can’t make a dovetail joint, but I can learn. Which means I can.
The world works like this. Possibilities seem closed, but there’s always a way to start. You can’t leap to the end, but you can learn just about anything. It’s just a matter of finding a path in front of you and walking it.
Even now, with little skill, I can look at lumps of wood and see potential. I can imagine connections and intersections and make plans and dreams.
Carpentry lends itself to metaphor, but you don’t have to push it there. It is simple and complicated and beautiful. It is all around us, often hidden, but always present.
Making things. Joining things together. Its what we do. It’s how we improve the world.
We should learn to do it better.
Illustration by Henry