A song in Fiddler On The Roof emphasizes the role of tradition in the lives of the people portrayed there. In fact, there is some proof that traditions lasting some 6000 years existed during the lives of the indigenous peoples who inhabited the Northeastern Atlantic coastline from Maine to Labrador (7000 B.C. to 1000 B.C.). This can be seen in their tool technology and the sites they inhabited among other things.

Our lives are also marked by traditions (some historically longstanding and some established during our personal lifetimes). A brief view of the current woodworking magazines will show that there are styles and traditions that hold sway. A style like live edge tables and a tradition like the use of tables in our houses again shows this.

Each of us observes traditions of which we acquired knowledge as children. Some of these are helpful, giving our lives and activities shape and direction. They can be inhibiting in a negative way, however. I grew up with the story of a woman who routinely cut off the ends of her roast beef before putting it into the oven. When asked why, she said her mother did it. Her mother gave the same answer. The grandmother said that she did it because the oven she had was usually too small for the roast.

The same is true of tradition in woodworking. What seem normal shapes can only be usual. We need to let ourselves expand our visions and the possibilities before us. At the same time, especially at the beginning of our woodworking journey, we need to inform ourselves of the traditions and try one or two. After all, Pablo Picasso didn’t draw the horse in Guernica because he was unable to draw them more conforming to our everyday view of them.


You can find Bourgeois Furniture at Berkeley Art Works in Martinsburg, WV and Bent River Trading Company in Capon Bridge, WV. Also, looking further into the year, I shall be on the Trails and Trees Studio Tour in Berkeley County, WV in November.