It is always a pleasure to visit and talk with a craftsman. Last week I made a brief visit to a local woodworker to look into replacing a broken quarterstaff. During the time spent standing chatting outside his small rural workshop his enthusiasm and knowledge of the staff and the longbow was easy to perceive. Within a few minutes we had discussed the merits of timber and grain and I left having purchased an ash stave.
On my way back to my hovel I realised how my view of purchasing had changed over the years. Ten years ago I would have been making a trip to a specialist martial arts supplier in a big city and probably would have paid too much for a neatly turned (and probably an imported) staff. Its light and elegant form would have spun quickly and easily through the air but in reality it would have been of little use in terms of its strength & durability. In the times I would have needed it for walking support in poor weather it would also have over flexed and possibly been more of a hinderance than a support.
The stave now sitting in my studio is a robust item and is very much in a raw form. I will need to shape & finish it myself to suit my own needs, what it lacks in refinement it certainly makes up for in substance & potential. I have little doubt that as it takes its final form it will be an item which should last many years, take the knocks from sparring with my good friend on our twilight meetings and also travel many miles with me. I also take comfort from making my purchase locally and to a fellow enthusiast. Perhaps if more people bought locally we might find people making a living within their communities, developing skills and getting more enjoyment out of their labours rather than looking for that middle management role within the big company to lift them off the shop floor.