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A woodworker knows how an ugly block of wood can be transformed into an exquisite turned bowl. To someone unfamiliar with the process, though, it must seem like magic.

That can be said of a lot of art forms other than woodworking, but the end result is the same: Just as with anything done by David Copperfield or Harry Blackstone, if you don’t know how woodworking is done, it might as well be smoke and mirrors.

I recently edited several woodworking articles written, alas, by nonwoodworkers. They’d done their homework on their subjects, and cited all the right sources as their references in penning their articles, but they got stuff wrong. A lot of stuff wrong. I looked over their references and saw that the information was all there, but because they weren’t woodworkers they just didn’t get it even though it was right in front of them. Fortunately, I knew what was wrong and it was easy for me to point them in the right direction for their rewrites, but without the guidance from someone who “knew the trick,” so to speak, I’m doubtful they’d be able to grasp it.

Arthur C. Clarke understood this when he coined his third law: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Woodworking isn’t magic, but I’ll be the first to admit that a lot of woodworkers – all sufficiently more advanced than I – regularly turn out results that are nothing short of magical.

But to those not skilled in the processes or even with minimal experience, the little daily things you and I take for granted as normal skills and activities for our woodshop pursuits must seem incomprehensible. I never really thought about it, but what we do sometimes does carry a magical bit of mystery with it.

And when you think about it, that’s kind of cool.

Till next time,


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