The Slightly Confused Woodworker

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I started playing the piano and guitar when I was fourteen years old, and from my early twenties into my early thirties I was a part-time,semi professional musician.I played in different bands, mainly rock and blues, in different bars and clubs two or three weekends a month,I studied music in college, and I gave lessons on the side. This, along with my day job, kept me busy. I’ve come to find that being a musician is a lot like being a woodworker.It takes dedication, theory, practice, and creativity. And,like woodworking,you need tools.
Over my ten years as a working musician I acquired a fair amount of equipment. Generally, when I was playing often, I would trade instruments and equipment in for newer or different models when I found the need. But, around six years ago, I started my new job, and found that I just didn’t have the time or desire to play in a group anymore. There were a lot of factors, but it came down to work, starting a family, and I honestly just didn’t have the energy being at bars til 5 am anymore. This left me with several high quality instruments and amplifiers that I have no need for, so a few weeks ago I decided to start selling things off. Just last week I found myself at Sam Ash with one of my amplifiers. Knowing what I know about music gear, I knew that I could sell it to the store and with the money I could pay for my new router plane, the wood and material for my latest project, and have a little left over to take the fam out to lunch. It occured to me while at the music store that, at 39, I was one of the older people there, and even more of a shock, I was not excited to be there in the least.
Fifteen years ago I would have tried out many of the guitars, talked shop with a couple of the salesmen, and basically hung out as long as possible. Last week, I couldn’t wait to get out of there. See, while woodworking and music have a lot of similarities, they have one big difference: most woodworkers are not young. Over the past year I’ve taken a few woodworking classes and attended a few shows. I found that much of the time I was one of the younger people there. If I had to guess I would say that the average age was between 49-60. I’m in my late 30s, which unfortunately isn’t young, either. I started woodworking at when I was around 36, which I thought was a late start. But as a hobbyist I’m finding that I may even be starting a little early. I think there are two major reasons why most hobbyist woodworkers don’t get started until a little later in life:

1. Woodworking can be an expensive hobby, and it’s probably a little easier for someone in his or her 50’s to afford the equipment needed. Now I’m sure that’s not always the case, but it’s probably pretty accurate. When I first got married and got a mortgage I couldn’t afford anything. It was a pretty big adjustment period. Luckily things stabilized for us fairly quickly, but it could have just as easily been the other way around.
2. Woodworking is a solitary hobby. This didn’t dawn on me until I attended a hand tool show last October. Ask somebody you know who isn’t a woodworker to attend a tool show and most of the time you will get “no” for an answer, pretty quickly. But even more of a reason is that as I’ve gotten older, I spend much less time with my friends than I used to.

Moving to the suburbs has something to do with it, but getting older is the main reason. I find that after a fifty+ hour work week, the only thing that matters to me is spending time with my wife and little girl, and maybe getting a little time in the shop. When I do get some free time, I want to spend it woodworking, not goofing off with my friends(no offense) Sometimes my little girl will join me and it’s about the most enjoyable time I spend all week. Other times I’m alone and that’s fine with me as well. That’s just the nature of woodworking; that’s part of the reason I like the relative quiet of using hand tools when the project calls for it. I don’t even have a radio in my shop, I don’t want one; I don’t want to be disturbed. That to me is the real comfort of woodworking: it’s just you, a few sharp tools, and some wood to shape.

So next week I may find myself back at Sam Ash. I have a custom Fender Jazz bass in mint condition. I know what I can sell it for, and I know what I can get with the money. Lie Nielsen makes a bench plane, a #7, and I have a lot of glue ups in my future…


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July 2012
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