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Thank goodness for synergy

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I’m not real good at a few woodworking tasks, but you know what? I do OK, and thanks to synergy that works out just fine.

I’ve mentioned before that hand-cut dovetails are a weak point for me. I’m not the best at sharpening, either. And my finishing techniques could – as could everyone’s – probably stand improvement. But I’m not terrible at any of those things, just OK.

Fortunately, woodworking is all about synergy. You’ve probably heard that word a lot and maybe used it yourself, but you may not know the exact definition. Synergy is when a result is greater than the sum of the individual parts that went into it. Take a door, for example.

While cutting hinge mortises for a frame-and-panel door recently I had to stop and sharpen my chisel, and I’m not that good at it. Inevitably I get the bevel a bit wrong or a tad off-angle to the end of the chisel. Still, I can do it OK so the chisel’s a lot sharper when I’m done, and does a lot better job cutting. Likewise, I’m not the best in the world at hinge mortising either, but I’m OK at it so I take it nice and slow and steady.

So guess what? My OK job at sharpening combined with my OK talent at hinge mortising to create mortises that were much better than OK. In fact, the finished job looks really good, the hinges open and close just right, and the door I was hinging works perfectly.

Sure, it’s great if you’re talented enough to be perfect at all the parts that go into a greater whole, and for a few jobs and professions it’s mandatory or the greater whole is a failure – brain surgery, soufflés and tightrope walking come immediately to mind. But with woodworking, you can be OK at the individual parts as long as you have the talent and knowledge to bring them all together competently. The final result, more often than not, will make you proud and please others.

And those two things are really what woodworking – like synergy – is all about.

Till next time,


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