The Slightly Confused Woodworker

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Another interview with myself.

In order to answer a few questions that a thoughtful person asked me about myself and my woodworking hobby, I give you this post:

What is your favorite project?

So far it has to be the Arts and Crafts style bookcase I made last year. It turned out exactly how I wanted it to look, which is sometimes a feat in and of itself. Everybody who has seen it gives me a compliment.

What is your least favorite project?

Probably the TV stand I built a few years ago. It’s concept was fine and I like the design, but building it was a nightmare. I didn’t care for the finish, and the hot, humid weather caused the panels to warp uncontrollably. Of every piece of furniture I’ve made, it is the one project that I wish I could rebuild.

If you could build anything, what would you make?

I’ve always wanted to make a full bedroom set: chest of drawers, a dresser, matching end table, and a bed frame. While I think I have the skill to accomplish a project like this, I don’t have the space, or the time for that matter. At my current rate, it would take years to build and finish a large scale project like this. I don’t have that kind of patience.

If you could have free pick of any one power tool, what would it be?

If I were picking a power tool, it would probably be a Sawstop cabinet saw, though a Delta Unisaw would be a very close second. I have limited experience on both tools, but it was enough to tell me that these are both great saws. The safety feature of the Sawstop saw pushes it to the top. If it were a hand tool the choice would be a little more difficult. Would a full set of moulding planes count as one tool? If so that would be it. If not, I would probably choose a plough plane, which is a tool I’ve wanted to get but never got around to actually purchasing.

If you could improve one woodworking skill, what would it be?

I think if you talk to just about any amateur woodworker, they would all say that they need to improve at sawing, or sharpening, or accuracy. While all of those are important skills, they can easily be improved upon with practice. For me, it would be learning the correct pace to work at. Like music, and sports, woodworking has a rhythm to it, and finding that rhythm, I believe, is the key to not only doing good work, but having fun while doing it. Everybody knows that working too quickly can lead to mistakes, but so can working too slowly. Getting into a rhythm, such as preparing your stock in the most efficient sequence, or having your workspace maximized for good work, or even something as simple as assembling parts in the correct order; these things lead to better woodworking. Of course, being a good sawyer and sharpener also leads to efficiency, but if your stuff is all over the place and your workshop is a mess, being able to saw a straight line has a lot less meaning.

What do you like most about woodworking?

That’s hard to answer in a straightforward way. I think that most people have a desire to create…something…and woodworking is a very creative hobby. Yet, there is a lot more to it than that. I think that taking a raw material like wood, and assembling it into furniture, and using that piece of furniture in your home; I think the pride a woodworker feels in accomplishing that feat is something that cannot be duplicated in any other way. When I get my woodworking tools together, and I’m at my bench, it’s a pretty amazing feeling to know that so much can be accomplished with what is right in front of me. Maybe it’s the feeling that an artist has when he has a blank canvas and some paints. It makes you feel like you can do anything.

What do you dislike most about woodworking?

Time. There is never enough time, and woodworking takes time. My wife and I both work long hours, we both commute, we both work on weekends sometimes. When you are married and have a family, it’s not easy to tell them that you’re going to spend the entire weekend woodworking in the garage, especially after you’ve barely seen them all week. At the same time, when a project builds up momentum, it isn’t easy to just stop cold and start again eight days later. That is the difficulty in being an amateur, and only having a few hours to spend woodworking every month. There is no answer to it, because both answers are wrong; the equation doesn’t balance no matter which way you assemble the numbers. You can’t woodwork and spend time with your family, not really, because as much as you try to involve your family, woodworking is a solitary hobby for the most part, and it’s a hobby that takes time. That time is not easily gotten or shared. I’ve tried for going on five years to figure it out and I can’t. I will never have enough time to woodwork and also spend with my family.

Why do you write a woodworking blog?

I don’t know. Part of it is maybe because a lot of what I’ve read in the woodworking sense I don’t agree with. I don’t think that professional woodworkers can ever understand the mindset of an amateur. I’ve always gotten the sense that professional woodworkers write their articles and books like they are trying to be “one of the guys”. Whatever the case may be, it doesn’t always work for me. Another reason I write a blog is because woodworking can be a lonely hobby. Woodworking isn’t like playing baseball or basketball; it’s a solitary act. I could go to a park or a YMCA and get into a basketball or softball game pretty easily. Right there you are immediately with a group of people you have something in common with. Woodworking doesn’t work that way. A woodworker can’t just talk shop with his neighbor on a whim, at least not always. Like most people, I like to talk about my interests, and share them, and talk to other people that share them. With woodworking, the best way for me to do that was with a woodworking blog.

How are you perceived in the world of woodworking blogs?

I’m not too sure. According to the stats, about 80 to 100 people visit this blog each day. I think most of them generally like what I have to say. I also know there are some people that don’t care for what I write. What I do here is mostly insignificant in the woodworking sense. I understand and accept that because I am neither a professional woodworker nor a professional writer. I never expected anything out of this; I never expected to have followers, but I’m glad that I do. The nice thing about this medium is the simple fact that if you find something you don’t like, you can easily just ignore it, which I’ve done, and I’m sure that others have done with me. As far as professionals are concerned, my blog is little or nothing to them, and that’s the way it probably should be. As far as amateurs like myself, I think that some of them like what I have to say, and understand what I am getting at most of the time. That is a good feeling.

These are the answers to a few questions I was asked over the weekend…

P.S. Sorry about the formatting. I usually write my posts on word and paste them. It didn’t work this time and wordpress is not cooperating.