This morning over coffee, my friend Anita asked me how do I know how to make all the things I do.

I confess,  had to sit back and think about this. There is no quick and easy answer. It’s bit like a language, working with tools and materials. One must learn how tools are used, what kinds of tools there are, and why one, only one, works the best in a certain application. This takes a long time to learn, this variety of tools we have at our disposal.

When I think about materials, I could make a list a mile long. there are different kinds of metals, ranging from precious to mundane, each with its very own way of working and forming. I have worked steel, iron, brass, lead, silver, gold, copper, bronze. Metals can be cast, hammered, welded, forged, brazed, filed, milled sawed, engraved, just for starters. Each operation requires an intimate knowledge of the material and the special tools required.

Wood has grain direction, which must be considered with every cut you make. This is an added constraint. Wood absorbs moisture, shrinks and swells with the seasons. That must be accounted for when using wood in your projects. Wood is such a beautiful medium, yet this beauty must be coaxed out of the rough. This means an arsenal of finishing tools and materials must be employed to bring this beauty out.

The language of tools and materials may seem too hard to learn. Indeed, it is complex, with its many words, conjuctions and syntaxes. But it can be learned slowly over time, and with small effort, rewarding results can occur. This is something that builds over time, with experience and effort. One is not born with the knowledge of materials; it is learned. Desire is the grease that eases the turning of the wheel.

So, Anita, does that answer your question?

Regards,

Tom

One Response to “A different language”

  1. Wendell Says:

    Mr. Curran, as I read your words of “The Language of Tools and Materials” it was as if the waters became crystal clear to me. I am currently learning this language myself, and I could not agree more with your explanation. I have tried to convey on many occassions how wood can speak to you and how the tools tell you what they want to/can do.

    Thank You for providing me the explanation to describe what I feel down deep but so far cannot express to folks who do not understand.


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