Using vintage woodworking tools to produce home-made objects relates to the Japanese aesthetic of Wabi Sabi or ‘wisdom in natural simplicity’. Wabi Sabi centres on transience and imperfection, but it has other characteristics too – economy, austerity, modesty and an appreciation of the inherent integrity of natural objects and processes. Imperfect objects and the ageing of natural substances like wood are more interesting because of their imperfections. Using hand tools means that the woodworker is closely in touch with the wood he or she is working, more so, perhaps, than when using modern power tools.
Amateur carpenters learning to use woodworking tools will often find their early results to be unsatisfactory and full of imperfections. But there is great pleasure in learning the skilled use of tools through practice and looking at one’s early efforts only adds to the satisfaction and pride when you become proficient. Also, home-made items, with all their imperfections, are inherently beautiful because they have been made with love. Woodworking Tools and How to Use Them provides guidance that will help the amateur carpenter to progress from rough woodwork to smooth carpentry. But I recommend that you keep some of your early creations in the workshop and appreciate their Wabi Sabi aesthetic!
The current popularity of vintage home-styling also relates to the Wabi Sabi lifestyle. Buying vintage items may relate to economy and austerity but, for most people, it is more to do with appreciating the beauty and character that age can bring to objects such as furniture, works of art and buildings. Our two titles on woodworking are ideal for those who want to upcycle their vintage purchases but who have little practical experience of using woodworking tools and creating items out of wood.
Our book on Home Carpentry begins with a chapter on the different types of wood and what they may be used for. It emphasises the importance of taking a close interest in the wood that you are using and being able to identify and work with its imperfections. As many craftsmen know, there can be beauty in the imperfections of wood – the patterns of grain, knots and even the cracks that appear in green oak beams are beautiful because they give wood character and interest. Related to this is the sense in which Wabi Sabi is the material representation of Zen Buddhism. The idea is that being surrounded by natural, changing, imperfect objects helps us connect to our real world and escape potentially stressful distractions. There is plenty of evidence that learning and focusing on craft skills like woodwork, needlework, etc., as well as being in regular touch with nature, can help to reduce stress.
Therefore, Wabi Sabi relates to wellbeing and happiness too. Accepting and embracing imperfection reduces stress in a world where many people feel the pressure to achieve the unachievable ‘perfect’ body, job, life, etc. For more information on living a Wabi Sabi life visit http://www.wholeliving.com/133628/wabi-sabi-your-life-6-strategies-embracing-imperfection