Chisel in the Left Hand, Hammer in the Right

Updated: Feb 25


The Artisan has become such by eliminating unnecessary, superfluous movements and combining two or three basic movements into one that is swift and seamless, although complex. To one who is new or unfamiliar, these movements can appear magical.


The chisel is in its proper place and sufficiently sharp. The hammer is immediately available to grab, even subconsciously. There's no longer a need to concentrate on holding the chisel with the proper grip, placed correctly on the mark, at the proper angle. There's no thought of the hand on the hammer as the head swiftly connects to the chisel top with perfect, elegant force. All moves have become one, deeply internalized flow that allow the Artisan space to consider other things, like the next lesson for the apprentice.


Mastery begins with the most basic of tasks. The chisel in the left hand, the hammer in the right. What's the proper grip? What's the proper strike? What's sharp enough? What's the proper angle? A thousand times later and the answers become intuitive. The tools, cumbersome at first, start to dissolve away in their simultaneous simplicity and complexity and become extensions of the mind.


This is the nature of the jobsite set up and management. When one has spent a decade mastering movements and sequences of movements, what is an Artisan to do to occupy the mind? It is time to master sequencing those who are learning to master the movements as you have mastered movements. Cumbersome at first, unnatural and complicated, managing a project that requires multiple hands is no different than first picking up a chisel in the left, hammer in the right. It takes an incremental, persistent practice with both successes and failures to learn how to wield tools properly and effectively.


Here is the principle, the natural law observable in the Artisan. The Artisan organizes the work so as to make the best, highest and most efficient possible use of all available resources to accomplish the task at hand.


When rebuilding an archetypal wood window, the hammer and chisel are the carpenter and the painter working together as an inseparable team. They must be wielded, directed. They can direct themselves, but this is inefficient. They need a manager like a body needs a mind. Why? The work must be done methodically and cyclically to maximize momentum. To keep the momentum workers must be focused on the task at hand, free from the need of arranging the next task. The manager is the mind who decides where the hammer and chisel work next.


The mechanical makeover is the art of bringing the window back to its proper functionality. This is not as easy as it sounds, because often there are repairs that stand in the way of completion. What if, upon opening a window, parts of the frame are rotten? Missing? Termite eaten?


A good manager can enter a project, pick up on and solve problems before they happen. Such problems might be a rotten sill, a termite eaten jamb leg, broken parting beads or blind stops. Having predicted and solved the problems in advance, the manager then empowers the carpenter in advance with the tools and supplies necessary to accomplish the goal. Set up properly, the carpenter should be able to get through the mechanical makeover and get the frame primed in an enjoyable way and without much fuss.


When working with tools that have minds of their own, it takes intentionality and focus to make sure everyone stays on task. Helpers must not be allowed to go their own way. Helpers must stay on the task of assisting and empowering their mentors. With a proper set up, keeping everyone focused and on task is simplified.


The magic in performing tasks with people as tools isn't magic at all. It's a matter of consistent, intentional study and practice over a long period of time. After a while, what was at one time cumbersome becomes effortless and fluid. To the one who is new or uninitiated, the work engaged in by window Artisans may seem almost magical, but it's not. It is the result of thousands of hours of practice.


With the chisel in the left hand, hammer in the right

work is performed effortlessly

always a delight.


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