Part 3 – Skill vs Knowledge

The final part of the scale of craftsmanship: relating skill to knowledge with regard to hand-tools and machines.

I discussed in part 2 the relation of skill with regard to hand tools.  More skill is necessary to make up for the freedom and risk of the process, while machines tend to reduce freedom and risk so the craftsman doesn’t have to develop a high skill level to be successful.

The interesting part about machines is the increased knowledge required for operation.  Building, fixing, and configuring machines is a process that requires a deep understanding of how the machine works.  It’s not necessarily developing skill of the hands as much as it is studying the operations of the machines.  I would relate it to an engineer: when the engineers design parts, they need to understand how builder builds.  The craftsman acting as an engineer; the machine is the builder.

I think everyone would agree it takes practice & skill to consistently cut a nice set of dovetails by hand.  I’m sure anyone can learn, but it does take practice.  The knowledge required for using a saw or chisel is very little.  A quick explanation on form, grip and safety, and from there it’s mostly about practice with the tools and the dovetail joint until you get it right.  Of course we all have our little tips or secrets, but they aren’t universal.  Those secrets are more valuable when discovered through practice.

This is the final part of the Scale of Craftsmanship as pictured, though Time also plays a factor in choosing the tools we use, which is probably the most talked about part of choosing the right tools.  

I will give my opinion in part 4.

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