Sharp chisels, plane blades and saws in a woodworking workshop are a given; but a sharp pencil is probably the most important tool of all. There’s no place for dull or blunt when you’re doing fine woodworking, and it all starts at the marking out stage. Consider that a blunt pencil might create a line that is a couple of millimetres wide, and then think about the knock-on impact upon accuracy as you move through subsequent processes. The tail of a surfboard could vary from the template by the time you’ve marked, cut, planed and sanded back. It all starts with a sharp pencil, and stays sharp.
Imagine then our delight when Duncan arrived at our workshop one Monday morning in October, and pulled his own desktop pencil sharpener out of his bag – the sort that teachers often had on their desks with a handle that you wind around. Duncan is a joiner who works in TV and film studios building sets, and it turns out that he’s very particular about having a sharp pencil. That told us everything that we needed to know and more about what else he was bringing along to the week, besides his own pencil sharpener: an eye for detail, a desire to do things well from the outset, and an understanding that the pencil mark is just the start and therefore it’s so very important.
We had a great week with Duncan. Because he uses his hands and works with tools on a daily basis he picked up the processes involved in making and shaping a wooden surfboard quickly, and he was great company. He told us about some of the sets that he’d built (stories that sadly we aren’t allowed to share in case they become spoilers), and we made sure that before he left on Friday having signed off his lovely 6’4” Woodburner every single pencil in the workshop and the office had been sharpened. A week later, the postman delivered a package from Duncan. He’d sent us his pencil sharpener as a gift, to sit alongside the whetstone that we use to keep all of the chisels and planes razor sharp so that the most important tools of all in the workshop can be given the same care and attention. It sure beats whittling them down with a Stanley knife.
Start sharp; stay sharp. Maybe we need to paint that on the wall here too?