Sylva Spoon

Is This Woodworking A Religion To You?

Thomas Bartlett2 Comments

If you read my last post you'll know that I recently moved house. Yesterday we had our neighbours over to meet the chickens.

How did that birch get in there?!

How did that birch get in there?!

Our neighbours, Mike and Dawn, are a retired couple and have been extremely generous in helping us with the remodel of our house. Mike has a great basement woodshop, with tables saws, bandsaws, lathes and other power tools. 

I happened to be working in my woodshop when they came over. My woodshop doesn't even have electricity at the moment. But I was happily carving away in the sunlight filtering through the door. I showed Mike some of the more common tools I use, and some of the things I make.

My workshop

My workshop

He spotted my pole lathe bed (yet to be set up in its new home) and I explained what it was and how it worked. He looked a little surprised by it all and asked me the question that is the title of this post:

"So, is this woodworking a kind of religion to you?"

I kind of laughed it off and gave some non-committal answer, but the question stuck with me. Especially since it was coming from a fellow woodworker. Is my shunning of power tools some sort of fundamentalism? Am I following a system of belief laid down centuries ago, continuing it's rituals, myths and beliefs? If so, that sure starts to sound like a religion. 

This morning, still thinking about that question, I saw an Instagram post by Jarrod Stone Dahl.  

When I first read his caption I thought the language he used supported the idea of green woodworking as a religion:

"It really helps me to align with my feelings of how important craft is to to us, humans. Craft may just be the universal language that ties us to together and to this earth."
"This shines a light on my path."

But our kind of woodworking is not a religion. It doesn't try to relate humanity to some mystical higher power. We don't have a spiritual leader. We certainly haven't fought any wars over our beliefs (although that sand/don't sand debate did get pretty heated). 

Green woodworking as it currently exists is the shared values of knowledge, belief, thoughts, customs, ideas and habits. It is a complex of network of practices, accumulated knowledge and ideas transmitted through social interaction. 

It isn't a religion. It's a culture.

As Jarrod says, it's #thenewwoodculture