The Carpenter and the Woodsman

At one time in a nearby county, there lived a woodsman. This woodsman had studied everything he could about different trees and the wood they produced. He was not very outgoing and popular, so he was not well known by a large majority of the local population; however, those who did know him recognized him as an expert of his crafts. I say “crafts” because he was able to do almost anything related to wood: he would cut down a tree and have it fall with phenomenal precision; he could build houses and tables and chairs with expertise; he carved figures and plaques and keepsakes that were treasured for their detail; he even knew the best way to treat the wood to have a specific effect on its surroundings. It was even said that he could build a campfire that gave just the right amount of heat and light while lasting twice as long as anyone else—though, in all honesty, that is a very subjective claim that may be based more in fantasy than in fact. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that he knew how to use his choice of material exceptionally well.

One day, it happened that a new carpenter move to the nearby town and decided to set up shop. Now, the woodsman tried very hard to not let his knowledge of wood ever lead him to be competitive with other craftsmen. Therefore, he held absolutely no animosity, jealousy, or disrespect toward others of a similar trade. On the contrary, one of the first things he did was take a trip to welcome the carpenter to the area. In this respect, it is necessary to point out one of the woodsman’s major shortcomings: he was extremely naïve. His good heart led him to often trust people without reason or to be generous without reservation, and this resulted in numerous instances of his being taken advantage of by customers. In all truth, if it were not for the income he made from those who truly respected his expertise in the craft, he would have been in serious trouble. Fortunately, his needs were very basic and few.

When the woodsman first arrived, the carpenter was discussing in order with a customer, so he took a few minutes to look around. Within the first few minutes, he knew he was meeting someone who had studied his craft well. The different samples of wood as well as the available pieces of furniture showed that he had learned many great techniques. However, as he listened to the conversation between the carpenter and the customer, he realized a fundamental difference from his own approach.

Carpenter: “Where will you want to put the cabinet?”

Customer: “In the kitchen. It will be for all of my dishes.”

Carpenter: “The most popular arrangement would be a cabinet with three sections—one for storing dishes that are used on special occasions, one for displaying your best items, and one for what you use every day.”

Customer: “Okay, that sounds good.”

Carpenter: “I recommend that you go with one of these three types of wood. The most common stain is a medium, but it would certainly be possible to do something a little lighter or darker. Do you know how tall you want it to be?”

Customer: “I like these two types of wood with this color stain. I would prefer to not have to stand on a chair to put anything on top, so probably not too high.”

Carpenter: “Very well. Here are my prices and crafting times.”

At this point, the woodsman recognized a significant difference in his and the Carpenters approach. He himself would almost never make pieces for customers without going to their house to see exactly where it would go and how they would use it. He felt deeply about the pieces he made, and he wanted to be sure they exactly fit the need. Because of this, almost no two pieces were ever the same. It also meant that there were times he could not give the customer exactly what was requested for the sake of his own integrity. The carpenter, on the other hand, seemed focused on giving the people exactly what they wanted for what they could afford, and his prices matched their choices.

Carpenter: “Good afternoon. How may I help you today?”

Woodsman: “Good afternoon to you. I came by to introduce myself. I am the woodsman.”

Carpenter: “Ahh, I have heard of you. I have seen the work that you do, and it is certainly high quality. I hope you are not afraid of some friendly competition.”

Woodsman: “No, no, not at all. I wanted to see if there was any assistance that I could provide in your starting your new business.”

Carpenter: “Well, thank you, but I am doing fine. I have actually set up two shops in other towns, which are now being run by my family, so I am very familiar with the process.”

Woodsman: “Yes, you do seem extremely knowledgeable and skilled. I believe that people will be very pleased with your products.”

Carpenter: “You are very gracious. I trust that there will be more than enough work for both of us to make a living.”

Woodsman: “Yes, I am sure that we will both have customers looking for exactly what we each have to offer. Please do not hesitate to contact me if there is anything I can do to assist you in serving the town. Have a very good day.”

Carpenter: “And you as well.”

The woodsman left the shop and headed home, thinking over everything he had heard and seen. He realized that the carpenter would certainly be providing a service to the town that was different than that which he himself offered. He knew that he would lose some business through this, but he also knew that many of his customers relied on his expertise to provide what they needed instead of what they wanted. Most significantly, he hoped that the two of them could serve the town together in their own ways . . . but he knew he had to be prepared for the potential conflicts that may eventually arise.