When I was young, I used to love to watch my Dad and his Uncle Walter work on things. They could whip out a 6 foot folding rule, pop it open in a flash, measure and fold it back up in a second. I tried this one day and shattered the old rule. I never really could nail 2 boards together or even saw a straight line. I remember watching Uncle Walter make axe handles from hickory on a shaving horse and he sharpened everybody’s saw blades. I was always fascinated by wood projects.
During the winter of 2006 I helped my youngest son, Tyler, build his Eagle Scout project. It was a playhouse on the church playground. We had a couple of work days with the Scout Troop and my Dad. After that Tyler and I finished the project ourselves. I had picked up a circular saw, Dad gave me an old chop saw and I made a couple of sawhorses for the project. Eventually the project came to an end and Tyler presented it to the church, he received his Eagle Scout award several months later. When we finished I called Dad and told him I was bringing him the leftover lumber because I had no use for it. When I told him what I had he told me to build me a workbench for the basement.
I fashioned an ugly but sturdy 2×6 foot bench from plywood, 4×4 post and 2×4 studs. I made another table to hold the chop saw which led to a rack for yard tools. I then helped Dad build a small flat bottom fishing boat like he used to make with his uncle. I took some of the leftover pine and made me a stepstool for my first little project. My wife then demanded I make her a quilt rack. I then made my folks a set of Adirondack chairs with a table, which led to a set for my in-laws and us a set. I was proud of my amassed tool collection procured from Home Depot, Lowes and Ace hardware.
Then one day I needed a specialty item that through the internet I found at Highland Woodworking here in Atlanta. My wife and I drove the 25 mile trip one Saturday and stayed over half a day. We looked at the tools, read books in the library, and even watched Curtis Buchanan’s chair making class. (I had no idea who he was at the time) My ideas for wood working were changed forever after that day.
The majority of my wood working influence’s came from the internet. I was always fascinated by Norm Abrams and Roy Underhill’s PBS shows. My father had never really done any wood working other than handy man carpentry work. He came home from a craft show one day after watching a guy turn bowls. He picked up a cheap lathe and he and I learned how to turn bowls from You Tube videos. Much of my skills have come from You Tube videos. I found Lumber Jocks early on which introduced me to a wide world of pod casting from guys like Marc Spagnuolo, Shannon Rogers and Matt Vanderlist. I found people like Kari Hultman, Steve Ramsey, David Marks and of course, Chris Schwarz. I have made great friends like Chris Adkins and Aaron Marshall (among others) here in the Atlanta area and we started the Modern Woodworkers Association.
During the past year I have started to make the jump from crappy tools to good tools. I had already made me a big wood working bench with vises and dog holes. I replaced my cheap chop saw with a nice sliding compound miter saw. I replaced my cheap lathe with a really good one. My dust collection has gone from a small Shop Vac to a good 4 inch hose system. Recently I started purchasing Lie Nielsen hand planes. Yes I can understand the hype. I just finished reading Chris Schwarz’s book The Anarchist Tool Chest, a very good read. This has encouraged me to go down a different path.
No I am not going hand tool only but I use them on a regular basis more and more every day. I don’t sell anything or do commission. It is my hobby. Giving homemade gifts away is very satisfying. I enjoy spending time in the shop with my sons Trey and Tyler. Even my wife actually likes to sand, bonus! I hope to retire in 3 years or so and maybe get into the craft on a whole new level. I even enjoy knowing that I have several people viewing me on live webcam. My free internet time revolves around wood working. So does my reading. So do my happy thoughts. I just recently made my first hand plane from Purple Heart. First time using it was just OK. Next time, after honing the blade just a wee bit more, it was effortlessly shooting beautiful curly shavings across the shop. The lights suddenly became brighter and yes, I heard angels sing. They sound like shook, shook, shook. Or was that the sound of the plane making shavings? I don’t know but man it was beautiful.
P.S. Yes darling, only one more Lie Nielsen and I am done. I promise this time. No, really.
-- Bill from Lithia Springs, GA I love the smell of sawdust in the morning.