LumberJocks Interviews #5: Sandra

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Blog entry by Cricket posted 07-15-2014 05:16 PM 4341 reads 0 times favorited 26 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 4: bigogre Part 5 of LumberJocks Interviews series Part 6: BigRedKnothead »

”WOW! I simply don’t have the words to express how inspiring Sandra’s story is for me. I am so pleased she agreed to share it with us. Thank you, Sandra!”

What is your inspiration story?

Who did you watch, what was their hobby, and how did you get involved?

When I was in the 9th grade, we were the first group of girls in that district to be ‘allowed’ to take shop. It was a huge deal, with permission slips signed, and a class separate from the boys. In the woodworking section, I turned a lamp on the lathe, and while I don’t remember much, I remember how pleased I was with the whole process. My electrical must have been poor however, because the lamp eventually shorted out and nearly caught fire.

Fast forward 30 years to me being a wife, mother and homeowner. I learned that I liked fixing things, and gradually started buying tools. I had nobody to teach me, so I read voraciously and asked a lot of questions. Each project meant a new tool and a new skill.

One day I decided I was going to make an Adirondack chair. I bought the plans and learned as I went. I cut the pieces out with a jigsaw, learned how to use a palm router and sweat buckets learning to use my table saw. Based on the lumber I wasted and the tools I bought, I would say it was an obscenely expensive chair.

Power or hand tools? Why?

Both. The book on my bedside table says it all. It’s Hand Tool Essentials: Refine your power tool projects with hand tool techniques. When I first started woodworking, I genuinely thought that hand planes were for ‘purist’, types who grew all their own root vegetables in the back forty. And then I bought a nicely restored Stanley #5 from LJ Don W. Using that plane taught me what ‘sharp’ is and I have since bought several more planes and refurbished them. My Stanley Sweetheart chisels were the platform for me learning how to sharpen, and I love using them as well. Having said that, I don’t think I’d be willing to give up my power tools, especially my Rikon 10-325 bandsaw and my Ridgid planer.

Also, in maintaining my power tools, I’ve learned quite a bit about mechanics and electrical that I never would have otherwise.

What advice would you give to someone just getting started in woodworking?

Pick a project and get started. A class would be nice, but not available to many of us. You’ll make a lot of mistakes, but as long as you’re being safe, it’s all a learning experience.

Speaking of safety, even if a person says he or she knows what they’re doing, find out for yourself and read the instructions. Just because the person showing you hasn’t lost any digits, doesn’t mean they are working safely.

If you could build one thing, what would it be? What is your dream woodworking project?

I’ve been dreaming about building a shed for years. I’ve gone over plans, read books, watched videos but have not done it yet. It’s a question of doubting my ability and not wanting to get in over my head. Since joining LJ and completing some projects, I’ve gained the confidence and I’m getting ready to start a 12×16 shed in September.

How did you come up with your nickname?

My original nickname is Momcanfixit.

My two children come to me when something needs to be fixed with complete confidence that I’ll be able to do it. Also, when I first joined LJ, I had this idea of being completely incognito. That quickly went out the window. What you see is what you get with me, so I gave up the secrecy thing and changed my screen name to my real name, Sandra.

I also have been nicknamed 74. I have met many first responders and service men and women on Lumberjocks and have gotten to know a few of them on the forums, in particular on the Stumpynubs thread. One night, I told the story of my drill corporal calling me 1974, and proclaiming that to be a dark, dark year. That was the year women were first sworn in as police officers in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. That’s what I was called during my six months of training way back when. One of my LJ buddies (Randy, I think) shortened it to 74 and it stuck.

What inspires you regarding woodworking?

The first time I ran a rough board through my Ridgid planer, I was horribly nervous. I didn’t have outfeed rollers at the time, so I put the board in and then walked to the other end of it to support it. After a few passes, the board came through with the grain visible and I was awestruck. To see a rough board be smoothed down to show the beautiful grain is still one of my greatest pleasures in woodworking. The smell of fresh sawdust is a close second.

What are the greatest challenges that you have met in your woodworking journey? And, how did you deal with such challenges?

My greatest challenge is what helped me to develop a passion for woodworking. In April 2011, I was admitted to the hospital with chest pains and buzzing in my feet. The chest pains subsided, but the buzzing progressed up my legs. I have been left with painful neuropathy and other neurological symptoms. When the same symptoms began in my hands, I realized that getting into woodworking ‘someday’ might not ever happen.

Woodworking has proven to be far better at pain management for me than any medication. I have also been told that I’m not very good company when I’m in pain, so my workshop is sometimes my refuge. After 3 years and no firm diagnosis, life goes on. Happily, my symptoms haven’t worsened lately, and woodworking is a large part of my new normal.

What is the greatest reward that you have received from woodworking?

I take great pleasure sitting back and looking at a completed project. Yes, I see the mistakes, but I still get the thrill of “wow, I actually made that!” I’ve always enjoyed making things. I’ve made quilts and knit socks and tried a variety of handicrafts over the years, but was never this passionate until I transferred that interest to woodworking.

The unexpected reward has been the online friends I’ve made on this site. We share a love of woodworking and there’s a level of acceptance and respect that reminds me that there are good people in this world. They have been there to lift me up during difficult times, and make me laugh so hard that I’ve shot coffee through my nose on the keyboard.

What is your favorite creation you’ve made in your woodworking?

My workbench, without a doubt. I had considered buying one, but thankfully I listened to the advice of my LJ buddies and decided to build. I chose the ‘Not so big workbench’, designed by Ed Pirnik of Fine Woodworking. I learned about mortises and tenons, box joints, drawer fronts, splined miter joints and many other things during the build. I worked on the bench over several months in the evenings. Twice, while my husband was away, I looked up from my work to see the sun coming up. I have never been involved in anything that makes time fly by so quickly.

How did you find LumberJocks and what is it that keeps you coming back?

A few years ago, someone showed me a picture of what I thought was an endGAME cutting board. I had never heard of such a thing, but decided to look it up. I landed on LumberJocks and gaped at all the projects. Then I started reading some of the threads. I lurked for several months before joining and posting some questions. I was amazed at the patience some of the LJs had, and the great information they gave me. Without their help, I never would have completed the projects I’ve done so far.

What keeps me coming back is the sense of community and the support I’ve found here. Rex, one of my LJ buddies who recently passed away was going through the awful effects of cancer, but still found ways to laugh about it and poke fun at the situation. He was a Brit and his dry sense of humour (yes, we spell it with a u) would always crack me up. I miss Rex, even though I never met the man in person.

My friends on the Stumpy thread share some of their ups and downs and it’s been a privilege getting to know them. We come from different parts of the world with different backgrounds, but there’s a common bond that keeps me coming back. I look forward to meeting some of them next spring.


-- Community Manager

26 comments so far

View hotncold's profile


784 posts in 1745 days

#1 posted 07-15-2014 05:41 PM

What a great story! It’s people who make this site what it is and this is an example of the best!

-- Dennie - Tennessee

View firefighterontheside's profile (online now)


19433 posts in 2057 days

#2 posted 07-15-2014 05:43 PM

Very cool 74. Thanks for sharing your story. Woodstick!

-- Bill M. "People change, walnut doesn't" by Gene.

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

11064 posts in 3629 days

#3 posted 07-15-2014 05:47 PM

That’s just beautiful, 74. You have truly became an excellent craftswoman. Your creations are always so well done and a pleasure to view.
I’m honored to be a friend. And, grateful to LJs for the opportunity to meet you.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View Gary's profile


9386 posts in 3633 days

#4 posted 07-15-2014 05:59 PM

Wonderful story, Sandra. But, dang….did you have to give credit to Randy. His head will swell for sure now.
We are all glad you joined You add much to the site and the thread(s) It will be great meeting you and hubby in person

-- Gary, DeKalb Texas only 4 miles from the mill

View eddie's profile


8565 posts in 2814 days

#5 posted 07-15-2014 06:07 PM

74 turned out that the drill corporal was wrong it was a great day for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. also a great year when you became a woodworker , thanks for your service as a police woman and for sharing your journey in this craft .

-- Jesus Is Alright with me

View DocSavage45's profile


8722 posts in 3043 days

#6 posted 07-15-2014 06:16 PM


Great Journey! When I see a woman posting I think of you and your courage, and I suggest they check you out. ( Being scared and forging ahead) I suggest they check you out.

Your woodworking has come a “long way….” Looks like you are becoming a hybrid Woodworker? LOL!

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

30058 posts in 2539 days

#7 posted 07-15-2014 06:44 PM

You inspire me to be a better person, besides just a woodworker. Excellent interview.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View HamS's profile


1829 posts in 2590 days

#8 posted 07-15-2014 07:16 PM

Aren’t we all hybrids one way or another. Great interview, great person and a great friend.

-- Haming it up in the 'bash.

View lightcs1776's profile


4234 posts in 1855 days

#9 posted 07-15-2014 07:23 PM


-- Chris ** If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace. — Tom Paine **

View BTimmons's profile


2303 posts in 2686 days

#10 posted 07-15-2014 07:55 PM

Good story, Sandra. I’m digging these more frequent interviews, by the way.

-- Brian Timmons -

View JL7's profile


8690 posts in 3166 days

#11 posted 07-15-2014 08:00 PM

Hey 74 – what a great story and great journey you are on. I am honored to have your friendship, and as always, can’t wait see where this journey leads you…....carry on!

ps… the yellow chair…..I don’t admit this often, but when I was a young lad, my Dad helped me build a nightstand and it was painted yellow….it lit up the room to say the least.

Thanks Cricket for a great interview choice.

-- Jeff .... Minnesota, USA

View oldnovice's profile


7329 posts in 3568 days

#12 posted 07-15-2014 08:00 PM

Great interview Sandra, keep up the good work and inspiring others along the way!

-- "I never met a board I didn't like!"

View DIYaholic's profile (online now)


19708 posts in 2876 days

#13 posted 07-15-2014 08:00 PM


Glad you accepted the offer to be “interviewed”!!! This gives everyone at LJs the chance to get to know the great person we, on the Stumpy Thread, have already come to know & love!!!

A wonderful story of adversity, courage and character!!! You are a shining example to us all.

I’m so looking forward to meeting you (& yours), in person at WoodStick2015. I guess meeting the other “Nubbers” is high on the list also!!!

Here’s to REX!!!

Carry on 74....

-- Randy-- I may not be good...but I am slow! If good things come to those who wait.... Why is procrastination a bad thing?

View Don Broussard's profile

Don Broussard

3692 posts in 2452 days

#14 posted 07-15-2014 08:43 PM

You go, girl! Great interview and an inspirational story. I look forward to meeting you and Mr. 74 next year at Woodstick15. Re: the Adirondack chair—yes, it might have been expensive, but it’s just tuition money you invested in yourself. Look how far you’ve come from that project now. Thanks for agreeing to the interview, Sandra.

-- People say I hammer like lightning. It's not that I'm fast -- it's that I never hit the same place twice!

View AnonymousRequest's profile


861 posts in 1749 days

#15 posted 07-15-2014 09:22 PM

You certainly will have no problem building a shed, looking at the pics of your work. I understand the pain and nerve issues. Reading what you wrote helped me a bit today. Thanks

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