Respecting Work: The Wisdom of “The Essential Craftsman”


There’s a story about a young man who hopes someday to be an airline pilot. Having to pursue his dream “from the ground up,” he finds himself servicing the lavatories for small jets on a private ramp. Employed by a penny-pinching manager, there’s an unresolved repair ticket on the waste pump hose. Due to this malfunction, about once a week the young man gets sprayed with a combination of “blue-juice” and human waste. One evening he comes home after work, stinking of disinfectant and poo. His bride suggests that maybe he should look for a new job. “What!” he exclaims, incredulously, “and get out of aviation?”

Unlike a driven young man in the focused pursuit of aviation dreams, for many young people, it takes longer for their gyroscopes to stabilize. I remember telling schoolteachers that I planned to be a ditch digger when I graduated. Not the version of ditch-digging that involves operating heavy equipment – no, I meant digging a hole with a shovel. My intent was mainly to deflect any questions on my plans – the future was scary.

What these smart remarks revealed was not only ignorance about the technical know-how required to be successful in excavation work, but common youthful ignorance about the larger context of what it takes to learn and become proficient in any craft or occupation.

After falling off a ladder (about 40 years after high school) I had to become more serious about careful preparation in my do-it-yourself projects. YouTube offered, for no cost other than my time, a lot of content on how to perform certain tasks. As I searched for more I began to recognize the qualitative differences not only in video production but also which channels were effective in explaining objectives and in orienting novices. There was one channel, however, that my searches kept returning to that offered something even more, “The Essential Craftsman” (EC). I can’t describe that “something more” better than the site does in its “about” tab:

The purpose of the channel is to showcase the knowledge that is gained through experience and encourage respect for the craftsmen, their tools, and history.

Since I have become a regular viewer of the EC YouTube channel and a listener to the podcasts, I have come to appreciate and better understand so much more of my immediate physical world (i.e., my house) — and not just or even primarily in the details of technical know-how. I don’t know if the trades necessarily lend themselves better to something more common (or organic) in the human experience but I sense that the lessons and perspectives on the EC channel – as the outcome of the experience of work, apply more broadly to improvement and growth in life generally.

The channel does not confine itself to technical issues – especially the podcasts get into things like back pain, the “learning curve,” and the changes brought on by IT. These podcasts often feature not only the host (Scott) but also his son (Nate) the producer. Nate brings a generational perspective from an unusually open and introspective young man.

In a task to write a piece about work for Ricochet, I could not think of a better subject than to introduce The Essential Craftsman to those not already familiar. If you find yourself with spare time while hiding from the virus, you could do a lot worse than exploring this channel. Also, if you’re going to spend any of that time on a ladder, you may want to watch  How Not to Fall Off a Ladder.

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  1. TC Chef Coolidge
    TC Chef

    Brilliant! This is right in my comfort zone. Thanks.

    • #1
  2. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster

    Brian Wyneken: you may want to watch – How Not to Fall Off a Ladder 

    Not standing on the top two steps is good advice.

    • #2
  3. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge
    Fake John/Jane Galt

    videos do not work for me.  keep getting “An error occurred. Please try again later. (Playback ID: VKx744wUJYCaUpev)”

    • #3
  4. Brian Wyneken Member
    Brian Wyneken

    Fake John/Jane Galt (View Comment):

    videos do not work for me. keep getting “An error occurred. Please try again later. (Playback ID: VKx744wUJYCaUpev)”

    Thanks. They were working yesterday and then the post disappeared from the site about 8 hours after posting. Max reposted it around midnight CST. I’ll try to repair this evening.

    • #4
  5. PHCheese Inactive

    Thanks Brian. I think this is something I’ll enjoy. I am getting to old to fall off ladders. Don’t bounce like I used to.

    • #5
  6. Brian Wyneken Member
    Brian Wyneken

    PHCheese (View Comment):

    Thanks Brian. I think this is something I’ll enjoy. I am getting to old to fall off ladders. Don’t bounce like I used to.

    If you fall, try not to land on the ladder itself – that really hurts. Also take your finger off the chainsaw trigger. That’s probably a better technique than the one I tried.

    • #6
  7. TBA Coolidge

    This is the first, or possibly not the first in an ongoing Non-Sanctioned Ricochet Series Unofficially Titled: So This Is Stuff I Like To Do On The Internet, And Seeing As How You Have A Lot Of Extra Time On Your Hands You Might Want To Try It Too. 

    Please consider making a post of your own.

    This Comment is Now Inoperative. 

    • #7
  8. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown

    At this point, many of us have no excuse not to go check this YouTube channel. Looks like great stuff.

    This post is part of our Group Writing Series under the March 2020 Group Writing Theme: “Working.” There are plenty of open days, so get busy and work it! Stop by and sign up now.
    Interested in Group Writing topics that came before? See the handy compendium of monthly themes. Check out links in the Group Writing Group. You can also join the group to get a notification when a new monthly theme is posted.

    • #8
  9. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator

    I started out with one on how to use your Stanley tape measure. Looks good. I’ll try some others, too.  Thx.

    • #9
  10. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist

    Excellent! I’ll be sharing this with friends and family. Thanks.

    • #10
  11. tigerlily Member

    Looks like good stuff. Thanks for pointing it out Brian!

    • #11
  12. Brian Wyneken Member
    Brian Wyneken

    tigerlily (View Comment):

    Looks like good stuff. Thanks for pointing it out Brian!

    We just received the “stay at home” executive order here in MN. If you read it closely there are exceptions for just about anything you would want to continue doing, but the “emanations” and “penumbras” (i.e. the “spirit”) suggests that I stay in and binge on YouTube. Who am I to argue with the Governor?

    • #12
  13. CuriousKevmo Member

    Big fan.  Learned how to use many tools, not the least of which the chainsaw from this man.

    • #13
  14. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster

    I’ve only watched two, the Stanley tape one and one about how to cut rafters, the first of which I already knew how to use and the second of which I already knew how to do.  I thought it curious though, that he ran a beam under the tops of his rafters.  Usually you just lean the rafters against the ridge pole.  I suppose it does reduce outward pressure on the walls.

    • #14
  15. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator

    The one about using a line string was pretty good. I do most of what he showed, but I also learned a thing or three.  

    • #15