Skills vs Skill Sets

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door casing corner bosses

Skill, what is a skill? They say that woodworkers have skills (or that woodworking is a skill), but what does that mean exactly?

I think of a skill as being the smallest part of a thing that can be taught. And as something that almost everyone can learn. And a skill set is a bundle of skills that go together to accomplish a task.

For instance: if we assume that woodworking is not a skill, but a skill set, it being made up of multiple skills, we can then start to break it down.

Sawing, Planing, Sharpening… but are those skills or just smaller skill sets?

Using a saw.. first you have to be able to choose the right saw, then you have to hold it correctly, and stand correctly, and move it correctly… we are approaching what I call skills, holding the saw correctly is a skill, positioning your feet right is a skill.

Of course in order to learn a skill first one must admit that one does not know it.. I’ve had several instances where I tried to teach someone how to use a hammer. and they would not accept that they were not holding it right, let alone swinging it wrong (IE not actually swinging it but punching with it).

Woodworking is a huge skill set when viewed this way. but there is good news! each skill is learnable and teachable, and skills transfer…. when you saw and when you handplane your stance (where your feet are) is different.. and yet the ideas that go into foot position are related, and your feet are still your feet after all. So it becomes easy to change from comfortable stance for sawing to comfortable stance for planning. And the more skills you learn… well they add up in a way that makes it easier to add new ones. And as you keep adding skills you think less and less about them until they become automatic. Then, picking up a new skill sets becomes easy.

be well


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