This interview with William is from the August 2012 issue of our LumberJocks’ eMag.
(Note: William’s projects were hijacked earlier this year and photos and descriptions are not what was originally posted.)
1. How did you first get started working with wood?
I got started in wood work by accident I guess you’d say. I was struggling to find something to keep myself busy that I could handle due to health problems. I lucked up and acquired access to a huge shop. I had no idea what to do with it though. So with just basic tools, and the suggestion of a friend, I started building bird houses. I hated it.
Then, I guess it was about five years ago now, my wife said she was going to buy me a scroll saw for my birthday. My immediate reaction was, what in the world was I going to do with a scroll saw? Well, I came home and looked on the internet and seen what you use one for and decided to give it a shot. A love was born. I’ve been scrolling ever since and my projects have gotten bigger and bigger, more detailed, more elaborate, and of course, better.
2. What was it about woodworking that initially caught your interest, enticing you to get into it at the level you are now?
Well I told you how I got started scrolling. I started out with simple designs. I worked from free patterns off the internet. Somewhere along the way though, these simple patterns started boring me. I wanted more. I searched far and wide on the internet, but kept coming back to one website, called Wildwood Designs. The photo of the projects there amazed me, but I had doubts as to if I could ever do that level of work.
At the time, I was working with the Ryobi scroll saw my wife had bought me. I could do those simple projects, but if you tried to do anything with any kind of detail in it, it just wasn’t good enough tool. I used that saw until the bearings were near falling apart in it. Then I went on a search for a different model. I wound up with a Delta. It is an entry level Delta, but it is heads and shoulders above the Ryobi. After working on that Ryobi for so long, the Delta made me feel like I could scroll anything, and I have about tried to do just that. Soon enough, I was picking any pattern I thought I’d enjoy and cutting it.
I guess it was that Wildwood Designs website that kept me at it. I was determined to cut those kinds of projects. I just had to get enough skill and a tool good enough to do it with.
3. Tell us a bit of history of your journey from that beginning to where you are today
Well, as I said, I started out building bird houses. I still hate building them. I got to a level though that I did built a birdhouse some time ago for a Lumberjock contest that I actually enjoyed building. It was modeled after a childhood memory if mine, the Mississippi Queen riverboat. It hit me while building that bird house, that, while I don’t claim to be no wood working master, I had reached a level that I was comfortable tackling pretty much any project I felt like doing.
This got me to thinking about what brought me to that level. It was nothing more than staying at it. I have had times since I started wood working that I thought about quiting it. What else would I do though? This is basically a hobby for me that keeps me active so I don’t wither away. I tried many things before wood working, but nothing has kept me going like this. Even on days that I cannot walk, I sit in my wheel chair and look on the internet, or in wood working magazines, searching for my next project.
4. What inspires you regarding wood creations?
The WOW factor. I have done many projects, from the most simple, to some that others think are impossible. The ones I love though are the ones that make others say, “WOW”.
It isn’t just about others though. My favorite projects are the ones that make me go WOW while trying to wrap my head around how to do them. If I have to scratch my head to figure out a project, then that’s the project for me.
5. What are the greatest challenges that you have met along the way?
Money. When I started scrolling, as I said, it was with a piece of crap Ryobi. I dreamed of an Excaliber, or a Dewalt. I still haven’t gotten that. I do have a Delta though that I have modified to fit my needs better than the most expensive tools on the market today.
Then there’s all the other tools I use. If you walk in my shop you would think that I’m a rich man to be able to afford such a fully equipped shop. You’d be badly mistaken. The main thing that’s helped me build up all the great tools that allow me to do what I do is patience.
I started out in this journey like a lot of people, thinking I can’t do this or I can’t do that because I need this tool or that tool. Aling the way though, since I didn’t have it, I made do with what I did have and eventually, I had this tool or that and more. Let’s take for example, my table saw operations. I rip my lumber on a fully restored antique Craftsman saw that I traded a riding lawn mower for. It is extremely accurate thanks to the incra system that was on it when I got it. I crosscut on a Ridgid saw that I recieved from a kind lady. All I paid for it was she wanted me to build her a potato bin.
I could write a lengthy post in and of itself about my tools and how I got them. However, to make this story shorter, between yard sales, trades, and refurbishing antique tools on my own, I have a shop that one could build pretty much anything in, and I don’t have nearly what one would think in it.
So, to overcome my lack of funds for my hobby, I just kept busy and doing what I do and it all came to me in good time.
6. What is the greatest reward that you have received from woodworking? (personal or tangible)
The ability to give back. Back some time ago, when I was confined to a wheelchair, my kids were not going to have a Christmas one year. Through the generosity of some people, they had something under the tree that Christmas morning.
Somewhere along the way, I started making rocking toys using my scrolling abilities. The first year I made these, a preacher friend of ours told me of a family with two small kids who were going to have nothing for Christmas that year. I looked in my front room at a rocking train and a rocking motorcycle and thought to myself, oh yes they will. I have given to various families every year since. I never actually meet the people. I do it through a couple of different churches so I can remain anonymous with it. It is such a great feeling though to know that a man in my health, can still make some kind of difference in another’s life.
7. What is your favourite tool that you use for woodworking?
Since I’m a scroller at heart, definately the scroll saw.
While my main saw is still my Delta, I now take any opportunity that may arise to get other scroll saws. I now have a second Delta that I have put up just in case something happens to the Delta on my work table. I have two 16” direct drive Craftsmans and a 13” direct drive. I have a somewhat restored 1940s era 24” Craftsman. Also, I have a 25” scroll saw that I built myself.
8. What is your favourite creation in/for your woodworking?
You may not believe it, but my favorite creation to date has nothing to do with scrolling.
My favorite creation so far has got to be my 16” shop made band saw. I say this for a couple of reasons. It was the first shop made tool I ever built and that set me off for the better part of this year so far building shop made tools. That has been a diversion in my wood working journey that has been quite enjoyable. Also, it is the only project I’ve done that was a collaboration effort with help from two other Lumberjocks. That made it very enjoyable for me to say the least.
Also, the band saw was a hard project. It was over two months in the making and there were times that I wondered myself what in the world I had gotten myself into. For the first time since I started wood working, I was not sure we could complete it. When it was done though, my band saw works flawlessly and it was well worth every minute of work put into it. To this day, every time I flip the switch to turn it on, I am so proud of it.
9. What tips would you give to someone just starting out or currently struggling with woodworking?
Never give up. There will be mistakes. It’s called design changes. There will be split wood towards the end of projects that cannot be fixed. It’s called fancy firewood. There will be head scratchers. They are called personal challenges. There will be finished projects though that complete strangers look at and compliment how nice it is. THAT, my friends, is called time to smile with pride and say, “I built that”.
When all else fails though, remember that most wood workers are a generous lot of folks. If you need advice, ask. I, and most other wood workers, will advise and assist in any way we can. I like to call this one, the brotherhood of wood workers.
10. How did you find LumberJocks and what is it that keeps you coming back?
I found Lumberjocks through a fellow Mississippi lumberjock. I wanted to try my hand at a lathe and seen one reasonably priced on Craiglist. I went to buy it and met Luke. He told me about Lumberjocks. I joined up and almost immediately found friends here.
To tell the truth, I see some of the arguing and certain things that I allow to get under my skin form time to time and think about leaving Lumberjocks. Then I think about it though and put it into perspective. When you assemble as many people as we have on Lumberjocks into one location, even on the internet, there are going to be minor uproars now and then. I am an adult though. I can overlook it, ignore what bothers me, and carry on. Besides, usually before I can commit to leaving this site, I complete another project that I just cannot wait to come show off to my Lumberjock buddies.
Thanks, William, for taking the time to do this interview for us.
-- ~ Debbie, Canada (https://www.facebook.com/DebbiePribeleENJOConsultant)