”These interviews have come to mean so much to me. Each one is another piece of the puzzle that makes this community so amazing. I hope you enjoy BigRedKnothead’s story as much as I did…”
1. What is your inspiration story? Who did you watch, what was their hobby, and how did you get involved?
Early on woodworking was an escape for me. My home life was pretty crummy throughout my formative years. To avoid the domestic chaos I found places where I felt safe. Come high school, my favorite place to get away was either the basketball court, my church youth group, or our high school woodshop.
I liked our shop teacher right away. He was a sort of man who would kill you with kindness. And he was a wonderful woodworker. In his office, he had an entire wall with every issue of Woodsmith magazine ever printed. I would read through them and think, “I could build that. They show you every step.” I had no interest in bird houses or the like. I dreamed of bigger stuff. I wanted to build furniture I could use! I started with some oak end tables, relying heavily on my teacher in the beginning. By my senior year I built the oak desk I still use today.
After I graduated from college, I put some of those skills to work fixing up my mom’s house. She had a wealthy neighbor who kept pestering me about working on his place. I thought the guy was arrogant, so I just threw out a weekly wage twice what I was making at the time never expecting him to agree. He said, “That’s fine. Can you start Monday?” Looking back, the arrangement was crazy. This guy would just find stuff in books and magazines…then dare me to make it. Money wasn’t an issue, so if I screwed it up, he would just say, “Oh well. Go buy some more lumber and try again.” I was a 22 year old kid, and I was building solid oak breakfast nooks, closet built-ins, entire kitchen and bath remodels. I was coordinating electricians, plumbers, and working hand in hand with an interior designer. It really was crazy, but I learned a lot.
Soon after that I got married and needed a “real job with benefits.” I knew the love for working wood and creating with my hands would never leave me. Once we got settled down here in Iowa, I started building furniture again. At first I just had a tablesaw and a router.
Seven years of hard work later, I’ve got a pretty nice shop.
2. Power or Hand tools? Why?
Both. I started Norm Abram style- power tools for everything. However, I disdain sanding and I couldn’t get the precision I wanted out of power tools. So, just a few years ago, I embarked on the world of hand tools. Now handwork is my favorite aspect of woodworking. I recall my first quality hand tool was a Lie Nielsen rabbit plane. I call that thing a “joiners best friend.” Now I’m straight up addicted to Lie Nielsen tools!
Generally speaking, I surface all my lumber, cut to rough size, and roughly mill joints with power tools. I try to do all my fine tuning of joints, shaping, and smoothing with hand tools.
3. What advice would you give to someone just getting started in woodworking?
Well, here’s a couple of things I would do differently:
- Don’t wait to learn the skill of sharpening.
- Take classes if you can. Reading and teaching yourself each skill can be a slog.
- Don’t wait to take advantage of all of the great information on Lumberjocks and other places on the web.
- Cancel your cable tv, get in your shop.
- Find that wonderful balance where you push yourself to improve without beating yourself up when you don’t achieve perfection. That balance is elusive, but it’s there.
4. If you could build one thing, what would it be? What is your dream woodworking project?
Well, if we’re shooting for the stars, I would like to design and build an entire bungalow like the Greene and Greene brothers used to do- furniture and all. Except I wouldn’t do it in their style, I’d borrow from several source of inspiration.
Ever since I renovated that home in my twenties, it seems I’m not satisfied in merely building one piece of furniture. I want develop the entire space. Those who have been in my home or my shop have probably picked up on this.
Ehh, the bungalow this is probably a pipe dream. So, I guess I’ll stick with my current bucket list of a Maloof rocker, a Bombay Chest, and a solid walnut bedroom set for my wife.
5. What is the greatest reward that you have received from woodworking? (personal or tangible)
Hosting Thanksgiving dinner for four generations of my family on the cherry dining set I made was pretty special.
6. What is your favorite creation you’ve made in your woodworking?
My Roubo bench is still my favorite. I keep revising and tweaking it, and it just gets better. Maybe I’m a sap, but I got quite in emotional when I finished it. I thanked God for the ability and the means to pull it off. Then I put it to work.
Come to think of it, I sent a note to Christopher Schwarz afterward thanking him for the inspiration. I told him that there were a lot of Gen Xers like me who didn’t have a dad around to teach them this craft. I have a special appreciation for those who gather knowledge of the craft and put it in the written form for our gain. It’s a wonderful thing.
7. How did you find LumberJocks and what is it that keeps you coming back?
I found LumberJocks the same way a lot of folks do, I had woodworking questions, and Lumberjocks had answers. I’m pretty sure it was of DonW’s hand plane blogs that lured me in. I’m very passionate about hand planes, saws, lumber….you name it. On this site, I found a lot of folks who were just as nutty about these things as I am. That makes it fun.
Since I joined, I’ve received all kinds of help and encouragement from other members. I’ve tried to give as much as I’ve received.
8. What are the greatest challenges that you have met in your woodworking journey? And, how did you deal with such challenges?
Patience doesn’t come naturally to me. Nearly all of my woodworking blunders have been due to rushing things. I’m afraid I’ve just learned this one the hard way.
9. What would you like to share with our fellow LumberJocks, that you haven’t shared on your project page or introduction blog?
Um, I really dislike chocolate….and turtlenecks.
10. What inspires you regarding woodworking? What keeps you interested in woodworking as a hobby?
Imitating the masters. There’s no shame in it. Pianists try to play like Beethoven. Guitarists try to play like Page. Someday I’d love to make something even close to the quality of Maloof, Nakashima, Peart, or Rogowski. It might happen, might not. I realize I may never master this craft because working at it full-time just isn’t in the cards for me. It’s alright. I’m content spending the rest of my days just meddling in the shadows of master woodworkers.
To my fellow lumberjocks, thank you for sharing your passion and your lives.
Take care knuckleheads, Red
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