March 23, 2011

"The Workmanship of Risk"

My current project is a table for two made out of jatoba and kwila. It's designed with urban spaces in mind, and is meant to seat two comfortably or four intimately. I chose this project to be able to practice new skills I've learned in the second semester: veneering, bent lamination and shaping legs. Below is a picture of the table top I'm working on. You can see the veneered jatoba top and the beginning of the kwila frame that will capture the jatoba. Two sides are already attached. The ends of the table will be curved.

The table was coming along splendidly, that is until the bent lamination. Bent lamination allows the woodworker to create a curve that follows the grain direction of the wood by sawing a board into thin strips and then gluing them together around a curved form. Here's a picture of my bent lamination during the glue-up.

Today begins the third time I'll attempt the curve. I don't want to get into all the details of why it hasn't come out right, but I do want to share this excerpt from David Pye's book The Nature and Art of Workmanship. I think it sums up my thoughts on the matter precisely. 

"If I must ascribe a meaning to the word craftsmanship, I shall say as a first approximation that it means simply workmanship using any kind of technique or apparatus, in which the quality of the result is not predetermined, but depends on the judgement, dexterity and care which the maker exercises as he works. The essential idea is that the quality of the result is continually at risk during the process of making; and so I shall call this kind of workmanship 'The workmanship of risk': an uncouth phrase, but at least descriptive.

It may be mentioned in passing that in workmanship the care counts for more than the judgment and dexterity; though care may well become habitual and unconscious."

So, more care in the future...


  1. Nice! I'm glad to see that you are challenging yourself and combining the techniques you're learning into one project. The veneers on the top look great and will compliment the curved ends well.

    I know how frustrating bent laminations can be, but isn't the glue-up strangely exciting?


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