This interview with HorizontalMike is from the May 2013 issue of our LumberJocks’ eMag
1. How did you first get started working with wood?
As a home owner, I have built the deck projects and an elevated astronomical observatory using noting more than a circular saw and powered miter saw. I always had a desire to do some woodworking as far back as high school. Unfortunately, back in the 1960s my high school counselors were insistent that I take the “academic curriculum” because “shop” was for those others, whatever that meant. Long story short, no shop for me in HS.
2. What was it about woodworking that initially caught your interest, enticing you to get into it at the level you are now?
Just touching and handling wood always held some mystic power over me, however, that always seemed to take a backseat to the demands of everyday life and pursuing a “professional” career. It was not until my “professional” career was winding down that I decided to act on my woodworking desires. I had already built my decks, observatory, and a 24’x30’ garage by this time and the woodworking desire was burning strong in my soul.
When I decided to convert my garage into a woodworking shop, I did so pretty much in one fell swoop. I bought my TS, BS, Jointer, Planer, and my first Router all in one summer season. In other words, I jumped into the water with no exit strategy and I was determined to make this happen.
3. Tell us a bit of history of your journey from that beginning to where you are today
Since I jumped into the woodworking hobby full tilt, at least equipment wise, my first major project was just as big and audacious in scale. I chose to build the 21st Century Workbench designed by Bob Lang. It required all of the skills that I lacked at the time and it would require me to develop those skills as I went. This ended up being a very important decision and well worth the long and drawn out effort that it required of me. I had some other challenges in my life pop up during this time, so my workbench project had to take a backseat for a while until I worked things out elsewhere. Once completed and posted on LJs, the many, many LJs responses/comments pretty much signaled to me that I had arrived as an “official” woodworker, at least as a hobbyist.
After that, I got a bit distracted with the whole LumberJocks woodworking community thing and spent more time online, than in the shop. I now know that that happens to several folks on occasion and now try to spend most of my time actually IN the shop and not just talking about it. Thus far I have made a hand full of furniture pieces and developed an interest in Early American Arts and Crafts, as well as some primitive Early American. These tended to compliment our existing furniture pieces handed down in the family. I am now spreading my wings into hand tool restoration and smaller projects that won’t take up so much room.
4. What inspires you regarding wood creations?
My inspiration in woodworking is about learning the trade/skill-set. I am not driven to have my own creations as much as I am inspired to learn how to recreate existing interesting pieces. That said, I am learning to make minor modifications to existing plans, such as changing joinery techniques on a project in order to accommodate the equipment I own. The projects I take on, give me a feeling of time-travel, back to the time when each of these pieces were an important part of our lives. Sure, I use power tools mostly, but I do mix in hand tools as needed while I imagine how these were created originally.
5. What are the greatest challenges that you have met along the way? (and how did you overcome them)
My greatest challenge has to be learning to operate all of my power tools in a safe manner, WITHOUT harming myself from such things as ‘kickbacks’ and the like, and doing so WITHOUT formal instruction. This was a scary time in my life and I fully understood that mistakes, any mistake, could end very badly.
How did I overcome this challenge? Very slowly. Input/advice from fellow LJs was instrumental in guiding me to online tutorials and video instructions to increase my safe-practices skill set. While I do not recommend “online-only” instruction at this very early critical time, I did find that it is possible to self-learn these skills as long as you realize that this is not a trial and error learning mode. That said, NO, do not create a kickback just to see what happens!
My other big challenge is finishing. This may also be on several other folks list as well. Overcoming finishing problems is much more trial and error, though getting the advice from fellow woodworkers goes a long ways in shortening that trial and error time frame. Even with the best advice, I have found that sometimes the wood does what it wants and you may still have some trial and error practice to get things just right.
6. What is the greatest reward that you have received from woodworking? (personal or tangible)
By far, having furniture in my home that I alone built, gives me the greatest sense of pride I have ever experienced. I do enjoy praise from other woodworkers of my posted projects as well, and that praise does drive me to start new projects more quickly. While not exactly a competition, it feels more like a “group” expectation in order to maintain your own membership within the group even though this is just a perception.
7. What is your favourite tool that you use for woodworking?
I would have to say that my favorite tool is actually the combination of my powered jointer and planer. These two machines together, have made my woodworking projects fit more precisely and look much more professional than I could ever have dreamed of without them. Now I do not have to make excuses for ‘bad’ commercial lumber when building a project.
8. What is your favourite creation in/for your woodworking?
Boy this is a tough question to answer… Barring any large woodworking mistakes, I would have to honestly say that each piece gets better than the last and that the last piece is my favorite creation. I am early enough into my woodworking hobby that I am continually learning new skills and improving on each and every new project I take on.
9. What tips would you give to someone just starting out or currently struggling with woodworking?
First, ask questions. There is a great abundance of advice on LJs for the asking. Most advice is good to great, however not all advice falls into those categories. Taking time to learn about your fellow LJ members’ expertise is an important part of seeking advice. The shear number of postings is NOT a good gauge, though browsing through a member’s projects and blogs can go a long ways in predicting the quality of advice you may be receiving form that member.
10. How did you find LumberJocks and what is it that keeps you coming back?
I am sure that I discovered LumberJocks while doing an online search concerning woodworking. It was one of those things where a LumberJocks post happened to answer a specific question and the LumberJocks webpage popped up along with the post that answer. From there, I started reading/lurking until I was convinced that this LumberJocks website was truly worth my time. That did not take long at all, and I have been here ever since, as long as I behave that is… ;-)
Thanks, Mike, for taking the time to do this interview as well as for behaving (big grin)
-- ~ Debbie, Canada (https://www.facebook.com/DebbiePribeleENJOConsultant)