The art of tact
A wise philosopher once said, ďIf you canít say something nice, donít say nothing at all.Ē It doesnít matter that Iím quoting†Thumper in ďBambi.Ē Itís still true.
I have two friends with whom I regularly share woodworking stories and experiences. One is an extremely good craftsman, and his work is top-notch. The other dabbles in his tiny shop occasionally, and his work isÖ well, not so top-notch. In fact, itís awful.
My first friend recently made a dresser, with influences borrowed from Mission and Arts & Crafts styles. The piece was beautifully designed, tastefully proportioned, featured perfect dovetails on the drawers, and was topped with a finish so excellent I was envious. But his fantastic work was ruined by his choice of wood Ė a different wood species for every drawer front and piece of trim. In all, maybe 15 or 16 different colors of wood. The thing looked like the aftermath of an explosion at Sherwin Williams.
My other friendís endeavors are less ambitious Ė things like serving trays, small turnings and lidded boxes. His work is terrible; thereís just no other word for it. And yet heís having the time of his life working in his shop, and couldnít be prouder of things that sometimes look like heís hacked them out of a board with a screwdriver.
So, what do you do when each proudly shows off his work for you? For my first friend, itís easier. His work and his skills are so exemplary that thereís plenty to praise. I wasnít kidding when I said I envied his finishing techniques, and his hand-cut dovetails are drool-inducing. You just donít mention the grab bag of mismatched colors in his wood selection.
My other friendís work is so bad that itís difficult to look at, much less praise with anything stronger than ďnice tray,Ē or words to that effect. In his case itís best to opt for encouragement, noting any improvements in workmanship he may have made since his previous project, and offer carefully worded advice when you can. But the key for him is that he is having so darned much fun. That, in and of itself, is highly praiseworthy. Naturally, thatís the route I take.
I think Thumper would approve.
Till next time,