Monday, November 27, 2006

Parts you don’t see

Stonemasons of the past, like those who built St Paul’s cathedral, took enormous pride in their work. After a long apprenticeship attaining the skills of their trade, a master stonemason would have given them their papers certifying they had carried out their indentureship, with an endorsement that they had gained the experience to fit them as qualified stonemasons. So the skills and knowledge of the profession were passed from one generation to the next.

Stonemasons specializing in church buildings would probably have been devout Christians with a calling to serve their God by using their hands to glorify Him. Having such a powerful motivation, it’s not surprising that they carried out their carving with enormous care, even shaping ‘secret’ gargoyles only seen by God to the best of their ability. Unless the mason did his job well he could not be satisfied when engraving his particular identification mark into the stone, just as a silversmith, with pride, embosses his registered hallmark into the silverware he has created.

Boat builders of note are not ashamed to attach their trade symbol and an identification number to any vessel leaving their yard. Their very reputation is stamped into each vessel. They have a double motivation to make sure that boats crafted by them are sound, because it’s not just their reputation that’s at stake, but they also have a responsibility to ensure the vessel will not let the crew down.

While I am building my own small sailboat, I am very conscious of doing my best to make her fit for her purpose – that’s to build her soundly, and to construct her according to the designer’s plan. For the derivation of the greatest satisfaction I press myself to achieve the highest standard of craftsmanship of which I am capable, and, like the church stonemason, I want those parts not seen by the casual observer to be of that same quality as those parts readily seen. I am not seeking my own glory in any of this, nor can I truly say I am doing it for God’s glory, but those parts of the boat hidden from view must be done well for my own satisfaction, and also for an assurance to myself that all will be well when boat and I are tested by the sea.