Be Your Own Apprentice

Daiju visited the master Baso in China.
Baso asked: "What do you seek?"
"Enlightenment," replied Daiju.
"You have your own treasure house. Why do you search outside?" Baso asked
Daiju inquired: "Where is my treasure house?"
Baso answered: "What you are asking is your treasure house."
Daiju was enlightened! 
Ever after he urged his friends: "Open your own treasure house and use those treasures."

 from Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, complied by Paul Reps and Nyogen Senzaki, 1957

"What maker did you study with? What was his name?" This was a question I often get when I attend guitar festivals as a vendor.

"Myself," was my reply.

"Really? How?"

"I read a few books on guitar making, pulled out some old tools I inherited, bought some wood and went at it," I replied.

"Wow! Really? How did you know how work the wood into a guitar? I don't think I could make anything like this unless someone taught me how."

That statement always makes me a little sad, because I strongly believe that if there is something that you want to do or make, you need to go ahead and do it without worrying about the outcome.

You can be your own apprentice, you can be your own teacher.

Several young people have asked me if they could apprentice with me, or take a class from me. I don't have the time at this point in my career to teach, I need to make guitars and market them. I always give these young people several options for learning - read some books, buy some wood and tools, or find a guitar making course in Spain!

The replies I get after telling them those options range from "I can't afford to go to Spain!" "But, if I teach myself, it will take too long and waste my time!"

Then I tell them that you have to want to make a guitar more than anything else.

It is the same thing about general woodworking. If there is something that you want to make, you need to go out and make it.

Pick out something that really excites you, something you really want to make, find out what tools are needed, read a book or watch a video on how to sharpen them, buy the wood and go to work. It's that simple. If you really feel that you need to take a class on how to make that thing, then by all means do it, it is a step closer to understanding what treasures you possess.

What is really hard about woodworking is taking that first step to do it. Change and the unknown are scary, once you know what the change is about, the rest is easy.

I had to start somewhere, I had to take that first step.

One thing to remember is, that as a teacher, don't be too hard on yourself when you make a mistake or something goes wrong. It is a part of the journey.


  1. Well said. You may find that some things are easier to accomplish than you had imagined, and when you experience failure, the lessons seem to stick better.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts