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Thread: How Did You Get Introduced to Woodworking?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2007

    How Did You Get Introduced to Woodworking?

    Its funny when I think back about 6 or 7 years ago, not only did I not know anything about fine furniture, but I also hated the way wood looked. Now I study every piece of furniture I see just to see if I can get any useful ideas from it and I am constantly amazed at the true beauty of wood.

    The thing is, I would never have gotten involved with woodworking at all if some furniture store didn't try to rip me off a few years ago. I went in looking for some kitchen cabinets and they gave me a good price only to double it right before I gave made the purchase. Obviously, I told the lady what I thought of her sneakiness before leaving the store, never to return. After that I decided, that I would buy a couple tools and build the cabinets myself, but just put it off and went without them a little while longer.

    A few months later, my wife (girlfriend at the time) decided that she was tired of waiting for me to build her her kitchen cabinets so she took it upon herself to enroll me in a woodworking class so I could at least learn how to build them.

    So I started going to the class, which was taught by the worst WW teacher known to man kind, but still I learned two very important things from him. 1 to appreciate wood and good craftsmanship and 2 you can hand plane all the way through a 2 inch board without ever achieving flatness if you don't have a properly tuned blade.

    Anyway, it was then that I decided that I wanted to be a professional woodworker, but since my skill progression was going so slow, I was starting to lose hope until I went to the SMC and saw some of Shelly Bolster's work. The reason being, that when I saw her work the first thing that came to my mind was, "if that little old lady can build nice furniture, then so can I". Not to insult her, but that is honestly what I thought, and why I stuck with it.

    Now I am still not as good as I want to be, but I have both the desire and confidence that I need to keep going, mostly due to the online WW community though, so I thought this post was relevant. If it wasn't for WW forums, who knows what boring and unrewarding job I'd be doing right now.

    Sorry that this was so long, but if you bothered to read it all then thank you, and I'd love to hear your stories.(whether you've read it all or not)

    Btw, I never did make those kitchen cabinets.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Rochester, NY
    Thirty some odd years ago during a lunch at work, a friend asked if I thought that we could build a new garage on his property. Fortunately we had the help of another friend, an "old time carpenter" who helped us learn how little we knew. As all jobs do ... this one suffered from "feature creep". The garage was roughly 28 by 24 with roll-up doors on two sides and the usual entrance doors and windows for light.

    By the time we finished the garage, we had started a 16 x 32 addition, a remodeled Living Room, Kitchen, Laundry, Cedar Closet and Power Room (all in an 1800ish farm house). Somewhere in the midst of all that we grabbed a few books and learned to build cabinets as well as all window and door trim and numerous built in shelving units.

    Over the years there have been other "carpentry" projects, but at the same time more "cabinetry/furniture" projects began to appear on the horizon.

    Now, with retirement looming, I am trying me hand at various furniture projects - on an unrelated/related note, I also picked up a General "Maxi" lathe which is threatening to push me into the abyss.

  3. #3
    To be honest, I can't ever remember not wanting to work with wood. At school I can remember telling a careers advisor that I wanted to be a carpenter and being told "Oh no! Boys like you don't need to work with your hands". The problem is at 16 I wasn't equipped to deal with idiots like that, so I ended up working in a bank like they said I should and like my folks wanted. It then took me 24 years to get to the point where I was equipped to deal with idiots like that. In truth those years are more why I am "successful" than any woodworking ability so they were not wasted. I put successful in quotes because as far as I am concerned working wood and not being broke is successful. Working wood and being wealthy is just fantasy.

  4. #4
    My roots in woodworking began pathetically in Junior High. I took shop
    class and darn near flunked out. I planed a board so bad with a bench
    plane that the instructor had to put it back on the table saw to get the
    edges square again. That was not very encouraging. I had more of a
    penchant for metal working and became a railroad machinist like my

    Being only 19, and about to get married, I knew I had to have a house.
    I went to the bank to get a home loan but they said I did not have any
    credit, so I cut my own logs, cut my own lumber on our sawmill and built
    a "garage"until I could get enough money to build our real house. Doing
    most of the work myself, I worked until midnight most nights building a
    house for my bride. Somewhere along the way I learned that I liked building
    with wood.

    Slowly I began buying woodworking tools as I needed them. First a radial
    arm saw, and then some routers, drills and the like. As I gained more
    tools, my skills got better and I began to build more complicated wooden

    It was not until my grandfather began to pass down his woodworking
    tools, that I got into model making. It was really by chance. He built
    wooden toys, by patterns and by the thousands. I wanted the creativity of
    building something more unique, more detailed than children toys.

    As I began to bring home his tools one by one, I found with each one I
    could expand the complexities, and get more detailed. When I began to
    use his band saw and scroll saw with skill, I built my first wooden model. A
    dual tired timberjack skidder.

    By my recent standards, it was not much, simple really. I sold it to a friend
    for twenty five dollars. It was then that I realized I could make money with
    these models.

    Since then, I have worked on hundreds of hundreds
    of models. The earliest ones were simple models, but people in the
    community began to ask for them. Mostly heavy equipment operators that
    spent most of their lives in these machines. Bucket loaders, screens,
    skidders, graders and trucks were built at a rather fast pace. Too fast for
    much detail at first, but I was also learning.

    Slowly my skills developed until what they are today. Each model I
    complete is more detailed then the first, each showing more pride and skill.

    Of course I do more than models. I have done an array of projects, but
    my main love is building highly detailed wooden models. As my heart is in that,
    I doubt that main focus will ever change. I also enjoy building unique wooden

    As for my house, well I never did build the "real house". The garage
    became too nice to turn back into a garage, so I still live in it, slowly
    making the home more respectable with each home improvement project.
    Like my woodworking ability, it has progressed slowly.
    I have no intention of traveling from birth to the grave in a manicured and well preserved body; but rather I will skid in sideways, totally beat up, completely worn out, utterly exhausted and jump off my tractor and loudly yell, "Wow, this is what it took to feed a nation!"

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Toronto, Ontario, CANADA
    I grew up in a remote isolated town (Hearst Ontario) in the 1940s. There and then almost every family had to do their own carpentry and “cabinet making”. Certainly everyone in my family participated. When we moved to much more built up Southern Ontario when I was 13, I was surprised to learn that this was not the norm.

    In Hearst, we lived part of the year in an apartment over our hardware store and my bedroom was at the farthest end of the living quarters right next to the workshop. Often, in the early morning, I would be slip into the workshop even before breakfast and “help” my dad or mum on some project.

    So, in my memory, I have always done wooodworking, just as I have always breathed, walked, talked, and eaten.
    Last edited by Frank Pellow; 09-12-2007 at 01:15 AM.
    Cheers, Frank

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    ABQ NM
    My first real training in woodworking was in high school when I took a carpentry class. I didn't really know the difference between carpentry and woodworking -- I thought they were the same -- but we designed and tried to build little scale house models with 2 x 2 material we ripped down from 2 x 4s. I never did finish the class, due to some issues I had with one of the other kids in the class. (He was a bully preventing me and my shop partner from getting our stuff done, but the teacher and principal wouldn't intervene, since he was on the football team, and we were just a couple of longhairs. We both simply bailed on the class about 6 weeks before the end of the semester.) Despite learning virtually nothing about carpentry, I did learn the basic operation of the main power tools, and in the course of a semester, the teacher realized I was paying attention, so he tended to let me use tools unsupervised more than many of the other kids. That was enough to get me bitten by the bug, and I took the "real" woodworking class for the next couple of semesters.

    Then for my last year of high school, I changed schools to one that had no woodshop, but by then I'd started going to my granddad's to use his shop. He had a tablesaw and bandsaw, and the usual assortment of hand-held power tools. I built a few things in the first few years after high school, but they were all related to my guitar gear in one way or another. After my granddad died, I inherited all of his tools, but they ended up in storage due to my lack of a place to set them up.

    When I moved to California 16 years ago, I couldn't bring the tablesaw and bandsaw with me due to lack of space, but I left them with a good family friend as a "long-term loan". About that same time, he started building custom homes and cabins for a living, and he's gotten a lot of use out of Granddad's tools.

    About 6 or 7 years ago, I started acquiring tools for use out here in Cali. Started with a $100 Skil benchtop tablesaw and a comparable Delta CMS, but didn't really use them to make anything other than shelves. The house I was living in at the time didn't really have room to set up a shop. When LOML and I moved in together and bought our current house, all of a sudden I had a 2-car garage with tons of built-in storage, so I immediately commandeered it for a shop. About three years ago, after a couple scary incidents with the cheap tablesaw and my limited experience, I decided it was time to buy a better saw. About the same time, I discovered woodworking forums, online tool catalogs, and a couple local sources for hardwoods. It's been a rapid downhill slide ever since then.

    Every time I see the friend I "loaned" my granddad's tools to, he asks if I'm ready to take the saws away from him (even though now I have better ones here in California). If and when this friend gets where he can't use the tools, I'll take them back. The TS is a Yates American M-1701 combination machine (saw, jointer, and disk sander). It's not a great machine, but it's fairly rare, so I don't intend to let it get too far out of the family.

    Wait, I just realized you asked how I got started, not my whole woodworking history. Oh well, too late, I typed it already.
    When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson
    When the weird get going, they start their own forum. - Vaughn McMillan

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Alpharetta GA ( Metro Atlanta)
    My Dad !!!

    When my dad was in high school he flunked Latin, so he had to take something. That turned out to be woodshop.

    When I was about 7 Dad built me a farm with a barn, silo and sections of white fence with grass painted at the base of each post.

    Later in life my dad built toys and sold they at the Southern Highlands crafts guild each year. I help build the toys on his Delta/Rockwell contractor saw, a bandsaw and a great old 12" disk sander.

    So I learned to appreciate wood, fiber and natural materials. I Love WOOD !!!

    My dad told me before he died a couple of years ago, one his scariest moments was when I was 13 and called him at his office to ask if I could use the tablesaw. He said OK.

    I have always had a shop of some kind. In the 1970's I fixed worked on my car all the time.

    About 5 years ago, I got really disgusted about my tools and not really having a workbench, so I started working in my basement to create a shop.

    Well, it has come a long way with many twists and turns.

    I have built shop stuff for the last 4 years and have almost completed my 1st real piece of furniture. I have been in the computer programming business for the pas 35 years. With woodworking, I actually get to complete something.

    My shop is getting in really great shape and I plan to start building more furniture, boxes and small mission style clocks over the next few years. Hopefully when I get to 65 ( 6 years from now ) I will have a business for retirement.

    As all of y'all know I enjoy documenting my efforts by posting pictures in web albums. You can check them out here.
    Last edited by Bartee Lamar; 09-08-2007 at 02:17 PM.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    allen, this is a good thread and i`ll get back to it in a`ll take a bit to one-finger out a reply
    [SIZE="1"] associated with several importers and manufacturers.[/SIZE]

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Tokyo Japan
    I think I might have related this story already, but one of my first real "memories" as a child was one Saturday morning, in our "New" house, in Prince George BC, my Dad did not like that he could not see the TV from the dining room, to watch Hockey Night in Canada, so he went down to the lumber yard, got some nice clear 2x6s and a 2x10, and then he took out his Skill saw, and cut a great big hole in the wall between the living room and the dining room He used the 2x6s to frame in around the top and sides of the hole, and the 2x10 for the bottom, kind of a counter.

    I was SHOCKED and AMAZED to say the least!

    Then there was my Grandfather, Grampa Loyst, he was a good electrical contractor, but his hobby was woodworking. He made some VERY nice pieces that are all still floating around the family.

    The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.
    William Arthur Ward

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    okay....i guess i was about 7-8 and my father undertook remodling our house, the exterior, while we where living there, doing all the work i was a gopher...i remember him making quick toys out of off-cuts for my brothers-n-sisters, and i remember getting in big trouble for swiping lumber to build a playhouse down by the creek...bicycle jumping ramps, forts, building "stuff" instead of buying it was the choice if any of us wanted "stuff". and it wasn`t just wood, modifying a schwinn lemoncrate to be a chopper with extended forks, banana seat and homemade twisted metal sissybar are all from the same era....
    skip to moving from the burbs to the country when i was 12......we had no money, if something broke we fixed it, if we needed something we built it..
    first construction job at 14, carrying was easier than bucking hay in august and smelled better than shoveling out stalls, plus it paid better.....i guess i`ve been building "stuff" most of my`s never occured to me that something can`t be just work harder...
    [SIZE="1"] associated with several importers and manufacturers.[/SIZE]

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