“I wanted to be the driver of my own life.” Metalworker/mechanic/TV host Gorges writes about the pleasures of—and lessons from—working with one’s hands.
Handwork is challenging, and, as the author writes by way of an affable if admonitory opening, sometimes it involves pain: “My hands bleed all the time,” he writes, “their skin is rough and cracked like a dirt road, and there’s a gnarly scar across my right index knuckle.” Yet, he reflects, such disfigurements are really badges of honor, pointing to the things that one learns through artisanal work that calls on the practitioner to step away from the “larger churning machine” that wants to chew us up and instead do cool stuff. This is a book full of cool stuff and the people who do it, from making swords—swordsmiths are “our last line of defense from this craft being completely lost to history”—to rebuilding vintage motorcycles and carving gargoyles for cathedrals. Gorges, who hosts a TV show of the same title as the book, also notes that doing such pursuits can take passion to levels of mania, with no such thing as time off, no social or family life, and no chance of ever winning that “never-ending struggle to find that work-life balance.” Nevertheless, like the kindred-spirit book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Gorges’ narrative serves up the lessons that one learns from hard, deliberate, artful work, including persistence, planning, gumption, stick-to-itiveness, and focus—about which he writes memorably, “some of the frame has to be blurry in order to sharpen the object you’re shooting," which goes a long way to explaining that whole work-life balance thing.
A friendly, pleasant manifesto; without the philosophical depth of Matthew Crawford’s Shop Class as Soulcraft, but still a fine read for DIYers looking to up their game—or get their hands callused in the first place.