Showing off your skills is a source of great satisfaction. It’s even better when you show off one set of skills to a group with a different set, and they appreciate both.
I had a great opportunity last week to show off some of my woodworking. One of my reenacting groups had a small event at a local restored Civil War fort on Friday with a busload of school students coming in for the day. My buddies and I suited up and took our gear to present what’s called a “Living History” for the kids: explaining the history, showing them our stuff, answering their questions, making lots of loud gunpowder-based noises, that sort of thing.
Because we were setting up a small encampment at the log cabin we restored (see “Cabin Fever”), I took along some of the items I made from my Civil War woodworking book. All of the guys have seen the stuff in the book, of course – Lord knows I’ve shoved the photos in their faces often enough – but this was the first time most of them had a chance to see any of them up close.
Several of the guys are quite handy with tools, but none are regular woodworkers, so it wasn’t my woodworking skills they were directly appraising when they got to see the items. Instead, it was their historical accuracy. When you consider how fastidious a lot of reenactors are (many are called “stitch counters” for the way they examine the details of minutiae like uniform buttonholes), you can imagine how pleased I was to get thumbs-up all around. I knew they’d like the stuff I took; truth be told, that’s exactly why I took it. Some honest ego-boosting is a Good Thing from time to time even if you go fishing for it, and I got that last Friday in spades.
More importantly, though, I got a lot of confirmation that the historical aspects of the projects – looked at very closely by what accounts for real connoisseurs – were right on track. And believe me, they’d have told me if it wasn’t. Getting an appraisal for my work from those with knowledge of that type, combined with the frank honesty for which living historians are known, is a valuable key to keeping my work as good as I can get it.
Admiration for my skills and work – the whole point of showing off – is just icing on the cake.
Till next time,