By Doug Hanna
Recently, the guy who does web marketing for our company, John Corbett, suggested that I write a blog post about the role of pride in producing top-level craftsmen. Having worked at S + H maybe 20 years ago for a year or two, John recalled that every carpenter that he knew at S + H aspired to be the best, and had definite opinions on what constituted quality work. The carpenter’s trade requires vision, patience, and total focus. Any lapses in attention are punished immediately as the work must be torn back and corrected. Intense pride in the result helps to keep the master carpenter’s head in the game.
One of the great things about doing carpentry is that, at the end of the day, you can stop and look at something, that thing that you built, which could possibly be there long after you are gone. It is a physical legacy. Just as we see and respect the work of 18th and 19th-century carpenters when we are renovating, carpenters (and hopefully not robots) may see our work, many years from now, and say “Those guys really liked what they were doing, and they did it well.“
A number of years ago, one of our best carpenters built an ornate walnut library for a Victorian home on Brattle St. The house was sold soon thereafter, and we got the new contract to do another renovation. One of the first things to get demolished was that walnut library. The same carpenter who built it, took it apart because he knew where all the hidden fasteners were and the best way to dismantle the components. It was not easy for him to so soon dismantle work that he had built to last for centuries.
My partner Alex Slive and I were on our way to becoming pretty decent carpenters, but as our business grew, our skills and our bandwidth could not keep up. We soon found out that there was an amazing pool of talent out there, and as we hired more qualified people, we got kicked into the office, our budding carpentry skills frozen in time. One thing I do remember from back when Alex and I were banging nails is that doing something twice just doesn’t feel good or right.
As John Corbett reminded me, not only was the quality of the work done by our guys impressive but so was their commitment to the trade itself. The master carpenter owns it all, both the quality of the finished result and the integrity of the process that produced it. In other words, pride.