”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.
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