What I Know Now: Letters to My Beginning Woodworker Self

Posted on

Ask your elders.
I know you hate to ask for anything, but when it comes to woodworking it will bear you in good stead. You know that, when it comes to computers and carpentry, your grandfather has probably already done it. Call him and ask. Fortunately, there are also a lot of (and will be more) people online who are older than 30, many of whom are retired and lucky enough to be able to spend a lot of time online in woodworking forums answering questions instead of boring day-job office applications.

They are helpful, generous and kind. You should approach them earlier and often. One of them will also point you to a veritable treasure trove of saws, and a master saw restorer and seller.

Ask for scrap.
Right now, Beginning Woodworker Self, your definition of “scrap” is a shim or a 1″ piece of end grain. But “scrap” means something else to lumber yard owners and purveyors of fine hard woods, like 2′ lengths of thick mahogany and 8″x6″ chunks of black walnut. One day, your friend Peter, who already knows how to ask for scrap, will go to a local lumber company and ask if he can buy some.

The owner will tell your friend that he can take as much scrap as he can carry in his car for $100. Peter drives a VW bus, and will have the rafters of his garage filled with multi-foot lengths of cherry, mahogany, black walnut, maple, and poplar for many years to come. Ask for scrap.

Go ahead and spend the money on that table making class. In a few years, you won’t even remember what it cost.
You pass Jeff Miller’s shop window every day on your walk to the Metra train. You look at the website with the class listing every day. I know money is tight right now, that you’re making about $34,000/year before taxes, that graduate school costs half of that, and that you need to cover all of your living expenses. But that table making class will be worth it, and will introduce you to endless happy hours of woodworking and some of the most talented and generous people you’ll ever meet.

You don’t have any credit card debt, but having a few hundred dollars of it won’t kill you. Trust me: in 2010 I don’t remember what it cost, only that I made that beautiful cherry Shaker-style end table and learned enough to make more furniture afterward; that I was hooked; and that having things to do by hand after being in an office job all day will save your soul. Trust me. For all the books, videos, websites and other resources online, you’ll make the biggest leaps and bounds in woodworking when you take a class with a true expert with decades of experience who can observe and help you correct and hone YOUR mistakes and form.

Prev1 of 4Next

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *