My oldest son would never read instruction manuals. Of course, lots could go awry with this strategy. His native engineering talents could usually extract him from near disaster, though. I wondered aloud where such a stubborn trait originated, only to meet the stares of the entire family focused on me. Did I unwittingly train my son this way?

Yes, but not quite. I have some built-in learning disorders that make reading blocks of a small, close type challenging to read. In addition, the English used in the manuals is so poor that three pages in, you are skipping whole chapters looking for what you need.

I figure that he saw my frustration and took it to its logical conclusion: manuals stink. So we all may now should say a humble thanks for all the online videos that supplant the manuals. I have come to believe manuals are deliberately getting written to be impenetrable.

Sometimes there is nothing for it but to dig into the manual; even my son now agrees with this. But if you need to hone the skills learned in the manual, that community of fellow users, crafters and artists has now become indispensable.

Some of my favorite tool vendors, Lee-Valley, Rockler, and others, have realized this and now have entire libraries dedicated to using their products. The world of instructional videos can be a Wild West of unregulated data, so this is good. 

Many videos are wonderfully generous in offering free training on complex subjects. But some are dangerously negligent.

Those of us who operate high-powered woodworking equipment, capable of taking fingers in a single pass, need to take care. If something looks dangerous, maybe it is. So step back, Shudder, and dig into the manual.

4 Replies to “Manuals”

  1. Most manuals are written by people who already know how to do what they are writing about and miss half the steps. It’s the same with pattern instructions. They are never clear no matter who is reading them. I love the YouTube video’s for my sewing machines and appliances. Be lost without them. Who knew?

    1. I’ve taught carving, video, and television production. The best lessons came from UPS where I was given a workshop on preparing to teach. It placed the emphasis on you putting yourself in the role of the student. It was a very hard workshop for exactly the reasons you outlined.

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