I have an acute case of opinions, and I have a platform. Therefore I am going to inflict them on you. Lets get ready to ramble…
During my life I have learned a lot of different stuff – building and installing computers and programming in VBA as well as masonry, plumbing, carpentry etc. Jack of all trades and all that. That is nothing exceptional, most homeowners here have at least the basic of some of those skills. But some of the skills that I have tried or intend to try my hand on – like knife-making, leather work or wood carving – require not only a lot of finicky skill, but also a lot of knowledge.
My approach to acquiring said knowledge was, is, and will remain, maybe somewhat illogical from an outsider’s point of view, but I found out that it works the best for me. I hasten to add though, that I am only using it when there are not real stakes regarding safety and/or urgency to be had in the matter – if there are, I pay for experts and craftsmen to do the job quickly and properly the first time.
That approach is this – I start with some rudimentary knowledge and dive right into it, start big, fail on so many levels and end up with a result that has so many flaws that it is pitiful at best (like my first knife, that I regrettably lost). Then I think about what went wrong, read some more information, try again, start again big, fail a bit less and get something that I need not be ashamed of, although it is of course still very short of being a masterpiece, even an “apprenticepiece” – like my second knife:
All those failures do not stop me of course from ramping up the ambitions for the next project(s), where I learn from my previous mistakes and boldly introduce completely new ones. Like in the knife I have made for my father’s fiftieth birthday and a knife I made for myself:
And so on and so forth. Only after each failure, will I really seriously start to research and read some serious theory on the things that I just tried to do and see what the actual craftsmen have to say. And through this process, where I first try, fail and then read, I eventually get to something half-decent, like Ciri’s dagger, which nevertheless is still somewhere in the middle of my learning curve (and probably everything ever will be).
One reason for this approach is fairly mundane – books are expensive, our local library is crap and internet with a lot of information freely available was not a thing for first half of my life. But I hold onto it even now – for example I will start reading on leather work only after I actually start to do some work in it, not before (I have actually done some small leather work – the two last sheaths shown, but nevermind). The same plan goes for engraving metal, or inlaying etc. Why do I persist in this manner of doing things, where I inevitably reinvent the wheel multiple times over? Could I not save myself a lot of trouble and time learning the theory first? After all, that is how a lot (not all) of our school system works – a huuuge chunk of theory upfront and then maybe some medium to big-ish chunk of praxis.
Well, even discarding the fact that reinventing the wheel for yourself is tremendous fun, and having fun is the whole purpose of a hobby, I think following chunks of praxis with theory and not vice versa has a practical advantage as well, at least for me.
I have read first three books out of my new purchases, those on the left in the picture. Most of the info in them was not new to me since I already tried like 90% of the techniques shown and I knew all the theory. So I only got about 10% worth of new knowledge, which does not seem like much – just a few tricks, really. But if I started with only these books without having any clue whatsoever about how thinks work in praxis, I would get a lot less out of them on first reading, most of the content would go over my head and I would forget it straightaway. And when later on trying to put the things into praxis, I would have to get back to them and re-read them, maybe multiple times, whilst trying the things and failing at them anyway. Whereas having a lot of failures and intuitive understanding as well as theoretical knowledge of the matter already has allowed me to read them fairly quickly and absorb the little info that I did not yet have much more permanently (I think) because it connects smoothly with my past experience and knowledge.
There is of course one trapping to this “try first” approach, and a big one, that should be avoided – developing bad work habits that have to be un-learned. The distance between trying something and learning the accompanying theory should not be too big either way, because it is detrimental to learning both ways.