Ten Essential Skills of Craftsmen

There are certain skills that every craftsperson will learn in time. Some are lucky enough to learn them from a mentor, others learn from life experiences.  Regardless of how these skills are learned, they will help an artisan in the workshop and in life. Here is a list of ten essential skills.

  1. Create Well: Do everything to the best of your ability. Even if you are unsatisfied with something you have created or done, as long as you have done the best you possibly can at that moment in time you have no reason to be ashamed.
  2. Prepare: Have a general understand of what you are trying to accomplish.  Do not be too rigid in your plans for things will come up that were not intended.
  3. Be Precise: When it comes to execution of your plans know exactly what is needed. You know the old adage, “measure twice, cut once”.
  4. Know Your Tools: Know how to use the tools you have available.  If you need a special tool for a project, see if you can find a way to complete the project with what you have.  You may develop a new technique or better way of doing a task. If this does not work, then consider a new tool.
  5. Stop Controlling: Even the best laid plans will have glitches. Be flexible and comfortable with changes.  That piece of stone may not want to be the bust you have planned.  Instead of being rigid, allow yourself to see the possibilities in all materials you use.  That bust may turn out to be a beautiful lion instead.
  6. Learn Patience: Not everything will go as quickly as you think it should.  Be patient and do not force anything.  When a blacksmith is working, he lets the steel get hot enough before striking. If he strikes before the iron is hot, the metal will not yield. It is the same with all things in life.
  7. Accept Criticism: Criticism is not to be taken personally. It should be used to improve your craft or at least make an item to the specification of your buyer.
  8. Practice Good Choices: Learn to make judgements based on wisdom and experience.  If you know that balsa wood is too soft even though it is classified a hardwood, you would not use it to create a piece of furniture. Make choices that reflect your knowledge and grow your knowledge every day.
  9. Become a Master: Every day in your workshop should be a day spent mastering your craft. Work to become the best in your craft that you can be.
  10. Find Your Place: Craftsmen typically work alone in a shop.  Even though their work keeps them separated from others most days, every craftsman needs a place to learn new skills and see what others in their field are doing.  Find a local gathering place or take a skills holiday to spend time with others who value your craft as much as you do.

This list is adapted from  Applying the Ethos of the Craftsman to Our Everyday Lives | The Art of Manliness.

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Catherine Cullen

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