Tacit knowledge is a bodily knowledge, and it cannot be taught; but put
the right tools in the right hands and you may see an awakening.
For engaged makers, connection is everything! The Unplugged course was designed as an Immersion experience for the maker wanting to live with the tactile joy of woodworking with traditional hand tools. Through a variety of course lengths (from two days to two weeks) makers can connect their own creativity to solid materials, apply their attention to detail to specialized processes, and combine their own woodworking knowledge to non-electric tools. Importantly, the course supports an individuals to actively create the environment where they chose to dwell.
Unplugged is essentially a school on the go with kits and tool chests full of age-old tools, sharpened to gleaming, tucked tidily into a truck and trailer. First taught at Ox-Bow in Saugatuck, Michigan in 2008 as a two-week summer course, the course now lives as a week-long, annual experience at Yestermorrow Design-Build School in Warren, Vermont. Since its inception, the class has focused on connecting makers (artists, sculptors, furniture builders, architects, designers, and carpenters) to ways of working that are often new to them, but old to the world. They learn how to choose, sharpen, and use time-honored tools, including the axe, adze, froe, bruz, mallet, drawknife, spokeshave, plane, glut, chisel, spring-pole, and bow lathe. They carve, turn, shave, mortise/tenon, bore, rive, and hew to create a project of their own designs. All of the tools are provided, but we always take a field trip to find affordable and usable hand tools that will allow makers to begin to build (or further outfit) their own unplugged shop. Demonstrations are intense for the first half of the workshop, and then we focus on completing projects for the second half. There is also an evening screening of a film or two that will inspire everyone to make the unplugged way their own.
Even though the tools are old, the content is intentionally anti-nostalgic-- we focus on unplugged methods as they apply to current needs and social situations. Because we work with the innate character of wood, the methods are founded on principles of workmanship that are constant for any time, any domain. Through the use of well-designed hand tools and intricate mechanical (non-electric) machines, students are able to create progressive, cutting edge work using traditional methods that are centuries old.