Have an hour to kill? I can think of few better ways to do so than watching Michel Chalufour and John Karol’s documentary, Ben’s Mill: Making a Sled, a documentary that shows the jack-of-all-trades Ben Thresher at work in his eponymous water-powered mill. While Ben’s work on a water tub and lumber sled would not be characterized as fine woodworking, he works with a grace and efficiency that is the hallmark of a craftsman.
There is a trite saying in woodworking (and no doubt many other crafts) that goes something like this: “The measure of a true craftsman is how well they hide their mistakes.” While there is some truth in that, I believe that mastery is better measured in efficiency and economy. When, through practice and innate talent, all unneeded motion and thought is stripped away, what energy is expended serves only to further the goal at hand. Throughout this movie, Ben’s sense of purpose and economy are unmistakable, making the builds look far easier than they actually are.
While I could go on at great lengths about Ben’s Mill, your time is much better spent watching this movie than reading about it. If you don’t have the time now, bookmark it for later viewing. I think you’ll enjoy it (even if you’ve seen it before).