the Carpentry Way: Volunteering                                                          


As readers here may know, I bought a new jointer recently. This jointer came with a detailed instruction manual and parts book:

Even though I'm well aware of how to operate a jointer, I made a point of reading through every page of the manual. It goes with my other habit of staring at the machine for extended periods, not quite getting sometimes that it's mine.

Technical manuals are something I'm a bit familiar with, especially in recent years through my efforts to publish the TAJCD essay volumes and leading various carpentry projects on the online study group by way of technical writing and illustration. So, looking through Martin's manual, I thought to myself that while the machines themselves enable one to 'experience perfection', as the company's marketing materials put it and my own experience confirms, the manual didn't quite convey the same perfection in English. Now, compared to an awful lot of machinery manuals out there, which if, say, were translated from Japanese or Chinese in a cursory manner, can be well-nigh indecipherable, the Martin manual was pretty good. However I could tell that it was not produced by a native speaker of English, as there were numerous grammatical, spelling, and word-choice problems present. Not that some native speakers of English don't have their own challenges with language fluency, as this gem of a sign so clearly points out:

That really is too funny! You know, it's really not possible to make up stuff like that. OMG!

Anyway, I wrote Martin company headquarters in Germany a letter and brought this matter of the slightly wonky English in the manual to their attention and offered to edit the manual for free if they would send me an MS Word document that I could edit. Several days went past - almost a week I guess and I  was thinking it was maybe unlikely that they would respond at all. They don't know me from a hole in the ground, and probably no one else has mentioned such a problem. Heck, most machine buyers probably don't even read the manual or wouldn't care about such things.

Well, this morning I was surprised to receive the following e-mail from Martin's managing director Uwe Schiemann:

"Dear Mr. Hall, First of all, thank you very much for your kind, encouraging mail about the T 54. I have surfed the internet und found your slideshow. It makes me feel happy to believe that some of those beautiful objects were made with the help of MARTIN machinery. We really appreciate your critical comment about the English version of our owners manual and your generous offer to review the document. You can use the following link for downloading the file onto your computer. -----------------------
 Please use right click to save the file to your hard disk. We have been using the services of a professional translation agency for quite some time. Obviously we have to review the results more critically. Once more again, thank you very much for your support. With best regards Otto Martin Maschinenbau GmbH & Co. KG

Uwe Schiemann
(Managing Director)

So, that was pretty cool I thought. While he many not have realized that I haven't used my new jointer to make a whole heck of a lot -yet - it was nice to know he had looked me up and found this site. And so today I've spent a good few hours working on editing their T54 manual into a slightly cleaner, more readable English version. Probably I'll have it done in a few more hours. It's kind of funny to think about what sort of things one can fall into sometimes, and I will say that I appreciate any company that takes the time to actually respond to people and is responsive in such a way that demonstrates they care about the small details. I tend to think that the way in which the small details are handled is largely the way the big picture stuff is handled too, and that definitely seems true with Martin Woodworking Machines.

Just thought I'd share that with y'all. Thanks for coming by. I should have the next installment in my review of Des King's book on shōji out in the next day or two.