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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Stand Behind Your Craftsmanship

In the April 2013 issue of Popular Woodworking is a guest piece by Peter Franks titled A Woodworking Disorder.  Peter coined a new phrase with concomitant acronym:  Compulsive Mistake Identification (CMI).  The malady is when we show a piece to a new audience and immediately start pointing out the mistakes made during construction.

The article struck enough of a chord with me to post this blog entry.  Quite simply, Peter is right.  Woodworkers are loathe to accept kudos.  The source of disparaging our own work may come from humility, or maybe inoculating yourself against ridicule from friends, or family.

The original purpose behind the Pragmatic Woodworker blog was to share my ups and downs in woodworking.  Let's face it, most of the focus of the blog entries are on mistakes (I know nobody reads enough of the blog entries to catch the trends, so just believe me and keep reading).  Pragmatic Woodworker is indeed a digital monument to CMI.

The digital monument will stay intact, but I propose here and now that all woodworkers swear off CMI in favor of a more positive lexicon.  We all suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune in life, so why expose ourselves unnecessarily?

Instead of pointing out the loose joint, stray gouge mark, or whatever obstacle you overcame, discuss what you learned building the piece.  See what I did there?  You didn't 'mess up' (negative), you 'overcame an obstacle' (positive).  Concentrate on the positive aspects of your ham-fisted ill built wooden cartoon caricature of an heirloom when presenting the piece.  Save the self recrimination for the shop where it will make you a better artisan.

This is not supposed to be a superficial self help feel-good Dr. Phil article.  It is really about the reception of your work.  Your audience's appreciation is a reflection of your appreciation and pride in the project.  Stop for a second and reread the last sentence.  Think about how the spirit of a gift can be sabotaged with one remark about a blemish, or mistake:  "Grandpa Jack only gave us this blanket chest because of all the mistakes he made.  I bet the real one he makes...".  Ok, so that was an example of pettiness, but the goal is to really drive the point home.  Pride is infectious, enjoy it, use it wisely.

The artistry of our work is in the flaws.  How the whole comes together despite the inherit reflection of humanity is what craftsmanship is all about.

Stand with me folks.  Let's avoid CMI in favor of positive presentation.  You will help build your own esteem in the process!  Ok, I just made that last part up, because I am certainly not an expert in practicing what I'm preaching in this post.  However, I hope to be soon.


  1. Steve Ramsey from Woodworking for Mere Mortals wrote a guest article in WOOD magazine about tips for beginning woodworkers and one of the tips was "All woodworkers make mistakes". After reading that part of the article I caught myself pointing out flaws too. I have been making a concerted effort to stop pointing them out and just enjoy the finished product.

    Donald LeBlanc

    1. Welcome to the no CMI club, Don.

      I don't subscribe to Wood magazine. They turned me off by always sending marketing envelopes that look like Publisher's Clearinghouse affairs. Maybe I'll pick up a newsstand issue and give it a fair shake.