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  • Drew Fuller

The Expert

What does it take to really be an expert? And who decides when that level has been reached?

I know of an online course that will teach you how to be an expert in any field in three months. I also know people who have been doing the same thing for forty years and haven’t mastered fundamentals. There is a difference between comprehending a subject and knowing it. In a couple of minutes I can explain in detail how to sharpen a chisel. That does not mean you would be able to do it. That claim could only be made after the learning is turned into a skill, or only after you have successfully sharpened a chisel.

Even then, you have mastered only one of the many skills needed to build a house. There is no internet course that will give you the skills needed. Those are only gained through experience. If those skills are continually honed in their use, soon the work will praise the carpenter. By then, the carpenter will have come to the realization that woodworking will never be completely mastered. That’s why Master Woodworker is a title given out of respect by other woodworkers.

To get personal, the way I like to learn a subject is to start with education. It was more than knowing what boards went where to build a house. I wanted to know the boards. So I know the scientific difference between a hardwood and a softwood and what it takes to truly identify wood. I really got started building sets for plays in high school, so I’ve been dabbling with wood for thirty plus years now. As I sit here writing this, I’m confident to say I know more about carpentry than you do. So in carpentry, to you, I’m an expert.

That won’t be true with everybody. I have peers and a peer is going to have knowledge and skills I do not. I’ve done inlays, but not marquetry and there is a reason those woodworking trades have different names. And you may have the opinion you know another expert who is more qualified than me. This also brings the perceptive that everything cannot be mastered because there are not enough days in a lifetime. But if you’re a woodworker, we can talk and gain new applications just from that conversation. Understanding the value of this skill is partly because it’s not that common and the time it took to gain. And the value of the fact I know how to keep you dry in a storm.

Which means I can just as confidently say as I sit here writing that you know more about something than I do. For you to have gained that, you should have been chasing value, no?

At what are you an expert? Let me know.

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