This interview is from the November issue of “CreativeHands Network” Newsletter.
SnowyRiver has been a member of LumberJocks since November 2008
1. how did you first get started working with wood?
I first began building things with wood when I was very young. Probably around 8 or 9. Although my dad was a weekend do-it-yourselfer and not a carpenter, I would help him build things around the house. Things like yard sheds, fences, a gun cabinet, and yard art. Even though he did most of the work, even at that young age, I had a sense of accomplishment when we finished. I was fascinated watching contractors come over to our home to do carpentry and electrical work.
2. what was it about woodworking that initially caught your interest, enticing you to get into it at the level you are now?
I can’t say that I had a particular moment or revelation that got me to this point. I think that over time I enjoyed carpentry and woodworking, my skill levels improved, and once I had my own home, I was inclined to do the carpentry projects around the house myself. I would eventually try to do more difficult projects on my own house, figuring that I could use my own environment to learn, and if I got stumped, I could always get help from someone to show me the way. I sometimes found myself lying in bed for hours at night thinking about how I might do something. You might say I became consumed by the project, and I liked it that way.
3. tell us a bit of history of your journey from that beginning to where you are today.
For me it started helping my dad. Even things like building a soapbox derby car with him was fun. I took some shop classes in junior high school which had a semester or two of woodworking. I always enjoyed those months. I still have some of my early projects from those days. One being a 10 inch high wooden dog door stop, and of course the soapbox car. I always thought maybe I had it in my blood to do woodworking. My great grandfather from Germany was a cabinet maker, and my grandfather from Denmark was too. Although I was much too young to have spent much time with them before they passed on, I do have some of their work in my home.
I actually went to college to be a wildlife manager, but after becoming somewhat discontent; I decided to go to a trade school to learn carpentry. Although they had a bit of cabinet making in the course, most of it was construction, but it was very enjoyable and they had quite an extensive woodworking shop. This exposed me to many of the tools and machinery that I have today. Once finished there, I acquired an interest in electronics through amateur radio, and I eventually got my degree in electronics. I am currently a program manager for a large telecommunications company. I would come home from work and immediately dive into carpentry projects around the house. Finishing the basement, adding the deck, installing wood floors, etc. It was a welcome diversion from the hectic day. Sometimes staying up all night on Friday nights and weekends building, probably driving my family and the neighbors nuts with all the sawing and hammering. Through all of this I started to build a good tool inventory and started to stretch out into other woodworking and carpentry projects. Eventually I had friends and relatives asking if I could help them finish their basements, remodel their homes, or build decks.
My dad asked me if I could build a potting bench for his garden. After completing that project, I was hooked on woodworking. I had lots of construction tools, but still needed a good table saw, planer, jointer, etc. I had space in my current home so it was a just a matter of setting up shop once I could afford the tools. I bought a lot of used items and some new. Sometimes they would hang on the wall for a couple of years before I would ever use them. I would buy them when I had the opportunity rather than the need. Some of them were good tools and some not so good. Over a few years I eventually got most of what I needed to do most woodworking projects. All along, continuing to build decks, remodel and finish basements, and do small woodworking projects.
4. what inspires you regarding wood creations?
I am also an avid antique collector. I love the style of the old things, so much of what I do is styled after colonial, early American, and arts and crafts.
5. what are the greatest challenges that you have met along the way? (and how did you overcome them)
I think the biggest obstacle that I run into is simply financial. Woodworking is expensive. The cost of tools, lumber, etc., can sometimes be prohibitive. I work the used tool circuit quite regularly looking for tools that compliment my shop and the work I do. I do most of my woodworking during the long winter months here in Minnesota, so I enjoy picking out the projects I plan to do in late summer, price the wood and hardware, and order everything so once mid fall arrives I am ready to go for the next five or six months. I don’t often do woodworking for hire, so it’s all on my own nickel. I tend to build things as gifts for relatives and friends, and I occasionally treat myself and build something for just me.
6. what is the greatest reward that you have received from woodworking? (personal or tangible)
The greatest reward I get is a compliment that I might receive from folks that see or receive my work. Their excitement receiving it as a gift drives a lot of what I do. It’s also rewarding to know that my work is in someone else’s home, and that they like it enough to place it in full view for their family and others to see.
7. what is your favourite tool that you use for woodworking?
That’s a tough question. I guess my favorite tool is the one that I am using at the time. I especially enjoy using the table saw. It’s such a versatile tool.
8. what is your favourite creation in/for your woodworking?
I think my favorite project to date is the mission style grandfather clock that I built early this year. I also like the steamer trunk I built about a year ago for my son’s wedding. Both are displayed in my LJ gallery.
9. what tips would you give to someone just starting out or currently struggling with woodworking?
Safety, safety, safety, and patience, patience, patience. Woodworking is a skill that takes many years to acquire. I always view an error or mistake as a learning tool. Start with small and simple projects. Take your time. Build your skill level on each of them but don’t forget to keep challenging yourself. I would get involved with not only great websites like Lumberjocks, but join a local woodworking club if you have one in your area. If not, seek out local woodworkers and ask lots of questions. Take some classes if you can. There are a lot of woodworkers that are self trained, but it helps to have a mentor if you can. It will speed your skill development. Always have a clear mind and work safe in your shop.
10. how did you find LumberJocks and what is it that keeps you coming back?
I was searching the web one day for some ideas for projects. I came across another woodworking website. I joined and posted a question….after weeks, no response. I continued to search around and came across Lumberjocks. Within minutes of joining I received a bunch of welcomes and responses to my question. Lumberjocks is unbelievable. Such a great bunch folks. It truly is a family of woodworkers. I find the experience and knowledge level is unsurpassed. I like staying connected and sharing the knowledge with those that love our passion.
Thanks SnowyRiver for taking the time to do the interview!
-- ~ Debbie, Canada (http://www.execulink.com/~yohan)