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Thread: Knowledge, Skill, Effort, and Equipment: 4 Ways of Getting the Same Results?

  1. #1
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    Knowledge, Skill, Effort, and Equipment: 4 Ways of Getting the Same Results?

    This is a bit of a philosophical musing that I wanted to throw out there and get some input on.

    I have a ton of hobbies and passions, and I like to compare different approaches.

    In fact, I'd say I'm not really a "woodworker" per say, rather, I just like making things out of wood, and learning the traditional skills that go with the craft. But, I couldn't just be a woodworker. Periodically, I also need to find time for pursuing all manner of other interests such as Martial Arts, Computer Programming / Electronics, Metal Working, Leather Craft, Bushcraft and Primitive Skills, and various aspects of Military History and Living History, as well as more academic interests.

    As such, I'm really good now at being an amateur, and have a sort of methodology or approach that I tend to take towards any skill. And I see other amateurs and professionals alike, with similar, or very different approaches.

    It seems there are four basic ways to achieve any goal, and the prominence of these vary somewhat depending on the nature of the beast in question. But basically, something like this:

    1. Knowledge
    Knowledge is about "what you know in your head." Knowledge of this sort can be thought of as "book learning" and may be replaced by good instruction, but it's essentially not being ignorant of how to do X and the facets surrounding it. It does not require experience, but some knowledge does come only from experience. Knowledge is knowing what to do, but does not necessarily mean you can do it.

    2. Skill
    Skill is distinct from knowledge in that you don't merely know something, but you have the ability to perform it. In fact, you may not know what you are doing, or how you are doing it, but you can do it. It is something ingrained and automatic, whether that be muscle memory, intuition, or similar. It's often easy to "know" something, but far more difficult to apply it. It can be thought of as "habit." This sort of thing is extremely important in physical arts and the mechanics thereof. Examples would be, for instance, free-hand sharpening. In arts where one doesn't really have time to think and is under pressure, such as in Martial Arts, this is the single most important factor for success: you must program your body and mind to perceive, and respond intuitively and automatically and with good form, positioning, and body mechanics.

    3. Effort
    Plain and simple, effort is putting in the time and work to do something. One of the great things I've realized with woodworking is that, perhaps more than many other crafts, patience and effort go a really long way. Lately, I've been taking on somewhat more ambitious projects, and also watching very skilled craftsmen making very intricate furniture far outside of what I would have considered to be my "ability." But in watching them, I realized that it is more a matter of simply putting in the work: that I have all of the basic skills, and that I could in fact do work of the same caliber if I just put in the time. It would take me much, much longer as I lack some knowledge and equipment, but I can make up for that with effort, skill, and research (including asking a bunch of questions to super helpful communities like this one! ).

    4. Equipment / Tooling
    Equipment can reduce either the skill or time and effort required for a task, and occasionally can even reduce the knowledge required to perform a task by abstracting it completely. Equipment is surprisingly unnecessary, and necessary all at the same time. Our stone-age ancestors, through knowledge, skill, and an enormous amount of effort alone, produced truly amazing stone work across the globe, from early American civilizations, to the Egyptians, Greeks, Chinese, and many other cultures -- often utilizing absolutely huge stones that would be difficult to move even with today's technology and equipment, and cut and fit with surprising precision. Native peoples were able to travel and survive in the wilderness with next to no equipment, enjoying quite casually what would be a life or death situation for a modern outdoor enthusiast.
    However, needless to say, in the modern day, because of a variety of constraints (environmental, social, or time wise), many completely primitive methods are not only inefficient, but nearly impossible and impractical due to a lack of space, freedom, or social acceptance and modern standards; others are doable, but require a level of time and devotion that the modern hobbiest cannot often dedicate. And some things are obviously not doable to modern standards without more modern and refined tooling: I can make an incredible bow and arrow with just stone tools, but perhaps not a cabinet that would be allowed to adorn the kitchen or living room

    Different arts, and different people within the same art or craft, place a different emphasis on each of these four aspects.

    For instance, I quite enjoy bushcraft and outdoorsy pursuits for the skill and knowledge I gain. But some people prefer to abstract all knowledge and skill out of the process, and just rely completely on modern equipment, often not even touching much of anything which is not some synthetic plastic material on their hurried march through the woods. I much prefer to improvise a hammock, start a fire with primitive methods, and enjoy carving and crafting around camp, or foraging and identifying plants and animals on the trail -- a slower, less goal oriented approach, but one in which the journey is more important than the destination.

    In Martial Arts, I'm also less concerned with the goal than the process. Some people narrowly limit their practice to the very narrow confines of what works in a competitive, sportive context. I prefer to take a much wider approach, and while I appreciate what one can learn from sports, I recognize that there's much more to it than that, and that a sports based approach is not the right answer for everything. Therefore, I intentionally unspecialize, and practice some things in such a way that is not the most optimal for the ring, but may be of vital importance in other contexts. This sort of point, when it comes to skills and habit, is very often missed in the modern world.

    I tend to prefer to rely on acquiring skills and knowledge over equipment, and make up for my lack of experience with lots of effort and time. I'm always doing things "the hard way." In some cases, that way is actually quicker and easier than the generally accepted wisdom; other times, it's harder only until you gain proficient skill. And in some cases, it is, indeed, difficult and time consuming no matter how good you are, though this is not the case nearly as often as people generally think.

    Lately, though, as I have far less free time than I did in the past, I've had to confront one truth about all of my work: I am really, really, really slow at any and everything I do. I met a traditional Japanese joiner (sashimono) who impressed upon me the importance of working both to a high standard, and in a timely and efficient manner -- the latter being very important for a professional. People who can work in this way, producing incredible work with only hand tools and traditional methods, but do so in a timely and efficient manner, really, really impress me. I may be able to do the same work, but it would take me a year to do what he could likely do in just a month or even less.

    Lately in building my workbench, which I estimated I could do within 3-4 weeks, I have again come to appreciate just how incredibly slow I am. It's taking more like 3-4 months. Even most of you here could have, I'm sure, done the work to both a higher standard, and in far less time!

    But, this thread isn't about me lamenting my "slowness" at everything I do. That's just an example, and something I was wondering about (am I too unspecialized? Do I lack the skill required and organization required to be quicker, or the equipment, or perhaps both, and how much can one make up for the other? etc.) What I really mean to talk about is just the different aspects that go into learning and practicing a craft, and the different approaches that people take.

    Did I miss anything besides these four points? And what do you emphasize the most? How do you work with your own limitations (be they time, skill, or space/money/equipment)?
    Last edited by Luke Dupont; 12-20-2021 at 9:11 PM.

  2. #2
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    Good content Luke. When you get to watch or get personal instructions that helps. Things like knowing when sharp is sharp or how to position yourself for sawing etc. make a great deal of difference when learning.
    Jim

  3. #3
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    We can gain knowledge from watching a video. Sawing,planing or tennis.
    To have understanding we must do it. The more we do something the better we get over time. Without thought when itís just action is bliss.
    Good Luck
    Aj

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Luke Dupont View Post

    Did I miss anything besides these four points?
    Yes. Community.

    You need to work with others, to see how they work, to show your work to others, to look at their work, to understand their attitudes, and to view fine work with others who are sensitive and knowledgeable.

    On line communities, weekend workshops, and such are helpful, but no substitute for the real thing.

  5. #5
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    Good comment Warren. Community is invaluable, but hard to find in today's society. Luke, talent also helps. Related to skill, but sometimes it is a gift. Talent combined with focus produces amazing things.

  6. #6
    I can't say I think the OPs taxonomy makes sense, but I love the effort!

    As for the OP's question, "Do I lack the skill required and organization required to be quicker, or the equipment, or perhaps both"

    The answer is always 'yes', because we can always improve.


    And the other question: "and how much can one make up for the other?"

    I think it very much depends on the individual. You'll have to explore your own characteristics to find out for yourself, and I, for one, wouldn't mind being kept up to date on your progress. Maybe a blog?

  7. #7
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    Have also found that it not so much who MADE a tool....it is more about the person's skill in how to use a tool.

    My Dad was a Mechanic. Where some today will need a computer to tell you what is wrong with your car or truck.....he simply asked to go along for a short drive...about a mile or so long....when they would return to his house, he'd was able to tell that person what was wrong with it, and KNOW how to fix it.
    A Planer? I'm the Planer, and this is what I use

  8. #8
    This reflects less on mechanics and more on how overly complicated/sensor driven vehicles have become.

  9. #9
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    You wouldn't get the effeciency and reliability without the computer controls.

    Packaging aside, it's just as easy to work on modern vehicles than antiques, maybe even more so. I do not miss points, tappets, or synching carbs.
    ~mike

    life in a mud hut

  10. #10
    I think is a reflection of one's personality and desire.

    I'm just the opposite - I would rather do a few things and do them well and be a jack of all trades.

    That said, ww'ing is to multifaceted, even withing the confines of a project, there a various aspects one might excel at, or prefer, or struggle with.

    For me, I love the designing part, but I suck at engineering. I consider myself competent at joinery, I struggle with finishing.

    I'd like to hear how you all deal with critical thinking about a completed project. I am rarely ever "totally satisfied" with the one exception of the last project.

    IMG_1337.jpg

  11. #11

  12. #12
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    I 100% disagree with this statement. No offense.

    I just changed a spark plug and coil pack on my sister's 2011 Dodge journey for her, and I had to take apart the intake, remove a radiator hose to get the plastic intake out from behind the motor, and then when trying to get the spark plug socket out, a 6" extension was too long and hit the fire wall and a 3" extension was too short and was too deep in the well. It took about 2 hours. For one spark plug.

    On the other hand, my parents have a 75 Oldsmobile Delta 88 and the spark plugs are easily accessible and are simple to change. I would wager I could change all 8 spark plugs are least 3 times in the time it took me to change one on a modern car.

    I get the point that modern cars do not require as much tinkering to keep them on the road, but with all the wires, sensors, and emissions crap that gets shoved in an increasingly shrinking engine bay, they are by no means easier to work on.

    And don't even get me started on changing spark plugs in my 05 F150........
    Always put the crappy side against the wall

  13. #13
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    When Dad retired, it was from ODOT, as head of Mechanics at DIV 7. It was his job to insure every piece of equipment worked as intended to, and was repaired when needed. He also had a side gig, where the garage at home served as a shop for friends and family to get their cars, trucks and even an old Ford tractor (5N ?) fixed up....he did however hate to work on Volkswagens and Corvairs...with the VW Karmen Ghia being judged the worst to work on.

    He also served as a "Straw Boss" so I could learn to do my own repairs. As I recall, we both used the same "verbage" and skinned the same knuckles....


    Woodworking? Ind. Arts in High School (68-71) plus a couple Uncles who worked as Carpenters. At one time, the place where my "day job" was, decided we all could use some higher edjumaction at the local JVS...I chose Adult Carpentry.....and, wound up as Assistant Instructor during the course....I was also one of the few that not only showed up for each class, but made it through the entire course.

    Everything else in my woodworking is just...Practice, practice, and practice....Always trying something new....never know until I actually try a task, IF I like it.....although, there are a few things I know that are not for me...like carving.
    One of these days..I just might get good at doing corners like this..
    A Cedar Box, usual first corner.JPG
    With just hand tools....may have to practize a bit more...maybe later today, eh?
    A Planer? I'm the Planer, and this is what I use

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Warren Mickley View Post
    Yes. Community.

    You need to work with others, to see how they work, to show your work to others, to look at their work, to understand their attitudes, and to view fine work with others who are sensitive and knowledgeable.

    On line communities, weekend workshops, and such are helpful, but no substitute for the real thing.
    Community is a recent phenomena created mostly by the internet. I'm of the 1970s woodworkers who toiled away in the solitude of a basement shop reading Fine Woodworking for our knowledge. When a local club was formed, I became the one doing a majority of the demos. You do not need to work with others and absolutely don't need to show the work to others and worst, make a video of you working and begging for subscriptions to your youtube page. A whole generation of craftsman got by just fine with none of that.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jason Buresh View Post
    I 100% disagree with this statement. No offense.

    I just changed a spark plug and coil pack on my sister's 2011 Dodge journey for her, and I had to take apart the intake, remove a radiator hose to get the plastic intake out from behind the motor, and then when trying to get the spark plug socket out, a 6" extension was too long and hit the fire wall and a 3" extension was too short and was too deep in the well. It took about 2 hours. For one spark plug.

    On the other hand, my parents have a 75 Oldsmobile Delta 88 and the spark plugs are easily accessible and are simple to change. I would wager I could change all 8 spark plugs are least 3 times in the time it took me to change one on a modern car.

    I get the point that modern cars do not require as much tinkering to keep them on the road, but with all the wires, sensors, and emissions crap that gets shoved in an increasingly shrinking engine bay, they are by no means easier to work on.

    And don't even get me started on changing spark plugs in my 05 F150........
    How often did you have to "tune up" that 75 Olds? Getting to a rear mounted distributor to change and set points was no treat. And what gas mileage did it get? Half the cars of that vintage had a choke that worked about half the time and was spewing black smoke when it was stuck. Included in the poor fuel management was the need to change oil every 3,000 miles and replace an engine at 100,000 miles because the fuel would always wash the oil off the cylinders. How many 75 Olds were running around spewing blue smoke for oil blow by? You hardly ever see that now. Based on the weather changes and intense flooding and December tornado outbreaks, the emission crap as you call it will likely save the world for our descendents.

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