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Faking it?

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Have you ever been tasked with doing something you’ve never done before? If so, I’ll bet you did what I did: You faked it. Or, maybe not ...

It’s not possible to know everything. A lot, sure, but not everything. I’m a knowledgeable woodworker, but there’s a range to both my knowledge and skill. There are things I know a lot about, and I’m darned good at them. There are also things I know enough about that I have no real problem doing well as long as I take my time. Then, there are things I know absolutely nothing about. Not things I know but don’t do well – I’m talking about you, dovetails – but things that I’ve never even tried before.

For example, for a project book I did a few years ago I had to make a Shaker box. What’s more, for this book I had to instruct readers how they could make one. But I had never made one before, never worked with wood-bending before, and never used bending forms before. So, how did that box turn out? Take a look:

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Not bad, if I say so myself. But to make myself look like I knew what I was talking about (and instruct others!), I had to do a fast self-education about Shaker boxes. The Internet helped, of course, but the real key was corresponding with someone far more knowledgeable on the subject. For that, I couldn’t do better than talking to John Wilson, the undisputed master of Shaker boxes.

Armed with my research and John’s wonderful advice, I made my first-ever Shaker box while photographing each step for my book. The project came out fine, my instructions in the book were solid, and I learned how to do something I’d never done before.

In the end, although I felt throughout the entire process like I was faking it, in retrospect I really wasn’t. Essentially, I was teaching others to do something new by learning something new myself. And that’s not faking it, but acquiring – and sharing – knowledge in the best possible way.

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