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Skill and talent

As a veteran woodworker, I’m convinced that this is true: using tools requires skill, which can be developed. But talent is something you’re born with.

Skill is part understanding and knowledge, which can be taught by reading books, watching videos and attending demonstrations. But there is another component that cannot be taught. For lack of a better word, I will call it "feel."

You learn how the tool feels when it's cutting right. You know how it feels when you are taking too big a bite. You can feel the grain starting to tear right through the handle of the tool and you understand how to correct for it. The only way to acquire this feel is to work with the tools. How much time it takes to develop the necessary feel can vary wildly from person to person.

Skill should never be confused with talent. Skill is measurable and definable; talent is not. Skill can be acquired; talent is inherent. A talented individual can produce a beautiful object with apparent ease, regardless of skill level. An increase in skill level may allow the talented individual to accomplish this more easily or in a more refined manner, but the talent will come through regardless.

Some people have loads of talent, while the rest of us make do with what we have.


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