So many times I read a post, and someone says, I have just made this It’s not perfect but I’m happy with it. I say it my self.
But do we really want to make something that is perfect, made to a really hight standard is my goal, If I make it perfect That means I will never improve, and part of the joy I get from working wood is improving, I have planed and sawn, time and time again, never getting it right, then one day it clicks into place.
There is no words you can say as to how you feel, what looks like a simple act of sawing or planing a pice of wood, straight, square, flat or whatever. Practice dose it make perfect, or dose it make more than good enough.
Really good post Ken! We all strive for perfection, however, as we gain more experience our definition of perfect evolves. Therefore perfection is not obtainable.
The japanese have a tradition where they deliberately incorporate a flaw into an object to avoid the possibility of perfection.
Beyond all that…I think personally the statement also stems from wanting to show a little humility.
Well said, Ken. As I progress in my hand tool skills, I am consistently struck by similarities between woodcraft and the craft I practice professionally, that of a chef. While the mediums are of course completely different, parallels abound in the ideals of craftsmanship and striving for results which come as close to perfection as possible.
The simple act of slicing a ripe tomatoes into identical, paper-thin slices by hand for a lovely caprese salad carries as much satisfaction in its own way as a perfect dovetail or a translucent full shaving of oak rolling out of my #4.
My new-found enjoyment of woodworking has re-kindled a bit of enjoyment in the simple tasks of my professional life, for which I am grateful, almost beyond telling.
What you posit about perfection and its pursuit is true not only for woodworking, but many other aspects of life as well. Again, well said.
I think shooting for perfect is a good thing but I agree that it’s often not possible, plus the fact that ‘perfect’ is a subjective term. I ask myself “Is it as good as I can make it”.
The beauty of handmade items is that no two will be exactly the same and that there are imperfections. It’s these imperfections that make the item more appealing because you can tell that somebody has agonised over making something as perfectly as they can. Some people would call it ‘charm’.
There’s a concept called called Wabi-Sabi (also Japanese but from Buddhists originally), which is all about the concept of the imperfections in a handmade piece making it perfect. I’m not sure if it’s the same as what Greg mentioned but I think it (almost) perfectly describes my attitude to craft.
"To know and not do is to not know"
Projects can contain so many joints and dimensional dependancies that they thwart perfection. Therefore, I am happy if I merely improve from project to project and enjoy my time with the craft.
Although achieving perfection is not a problem I have right now, striving for perfection will be a good motivator if/when my skills ever plateau.
-Scott Los Angeles
Every day, I pick up this or that piece of wood to work it with my tools, my hands and eyes, and what’s in my heart. I have a chance to see myself in the world through the results of my woodworking. Was I accurate enough? Were my tools sharp enough? Was my skill and technique sufficient? Were these three aspects good enough to make something beautiful and useful? And do I have the character to see perfection and imperfection,both, with equanimity. Actually when I look at what I have made, and am making, I’m really pleased. Wow, I did that! And, as Scott said, we are meant to be enjoying our time spent with our craft. “Don’t worry, be happy” like the song says.
I’m sorry to post to an old thread but I recently found a forum debate HERE and it amazed me not only how “passionate” people can become about a subject but also on the idea of perfection.
If I were to make dovetails so crisp and uniform who would know that I had put so much effort into making it so rather than simply producing something on a machine with machine tolerances? Sometimes I think people see machine made “perfect” pieces as better than hand-made.
I loved Gregs comment about the Japanese leaving an imperfection in their pieces for this reason. I’m making the joiners toolbox at the moment and hopefully, one day my son will look at it and see the flaws and remember his old man spending time on it. For me that’s perfection.
What’s that quote–“perfect is the enemy of good?” or something like that? Perfect is an ideal–if you scrutinize anything enough, you can find flaws (particularly when we criticize our own work since we built it and know every little flaw or snag that we encountered during the build). Like the OP said, I’m just aiming for a high standard–improving upon areas of weakness in prior projects…always striving to get better/more efficient…
I strive for good clean joint lines and nicely fitted dove tail joints. There is an old saying that goes, “if you work on a thing long enough trying to perfect it, it will break.” I have filled my kindling box more than once with firewood that was once a joint I tried to perfect.
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