Design is a step into the unknown. It’s much different (and safer) to stick with things like learning to cut precise dovetails or learning to sharpen a blade. Most of those gateway skills fall into the category I’ll call order. They are the familiar parts of the craft that we use to build with. Design falls more into the category of chaos. By chaos I mean it’s outside the boat in deep water. A place filled with unknowns. We may associate chaos with tragedy or danger, but it’s also a place filled with opportunity and great potential. It’s in chaos where we chase after beauty, perhaps the greatest unknown.

Sharpening has always been one of those gateway skills into the ordered side of woodworking, but to our ancestors, artisan geometry was the gateway into that world of the unknown. That place where we could explore ideas in our imagination and refine them into something our hands can make real like a chair or a spoon or a cathedral. Oddly enough, artisan geometry has its own gateway. Our ancestors became familiar with artisan geometry by making their own set of layout tools using the truths of geometry to birth each tool. And amazingly as each tool came to life in their hand, the truth and mystery and beauty of geometry came alive in their minds.

We’ve put together a video series about making these tools. But It’s not only about making a great set of tools. It’s about stepping out of the boat into the unknown.


George R. Walker