This interview, with JL7, is from the February 2014 issue of our LumberJocks eMag
1. How did you first get started working with wood?
My dad always had a woodshop, and I guess my first memory was building Pinewood Derby cars back in my Cub Scout days. My very first car took first place (for speed) in our pack. Pretty thrilling for a little guy. I did take the woodworking class in High School, but all in all I didn’t build much in the early days.
2. What was it about woodworking that initially caught your interest, enticing you to get into it at the level you are now?
My story might be a little different than others, since I had a 29 year stretch where I didn’t do any woodworking (from High School until 2008). I have always liked to build stuff, when I was a kid, I had an Erector set and was also into building model cars from kits. In both cases though, I tended to make up my own rules and deviate from the written directions. This holds true today in my work.
It was really just 5 years ago that I really “discovered” woodworking. I had never worked with hardwood before that and would have say that once I discovered the magic of Hard Maple, it was all over.
3. Tell us a bit of history of your journey from that beginning to where you are today
I’ll give the quick version. As previously stated, I always like to build stuff, plus most of my working career has been in manufacturing. I just love to build and fix things. For many years, and for many reasons, I’ve never had a proper workspace.
I bought this house in 2008 and it had a tiny little workshop in the basement, like 7’ x 16’. That little shop sold the house for me. Woodworking wasn’t in the brain anywhere, just a cool little workspace to build stuff. First tool purchase was a bench grinder. Then a power miter saw, because I had to rebuild the shed in the backyard. Then a bench top drill press. Again, no woodworking, just a little shop. Spent many years wishing I had a place to putter.
Was at the big box store one day, and walked past the “craft wood” display. Picked up a few pieces on a whim and built some (fairly crude) boxes.
The first challenge was finding wood. I was tearing apart old furniture and scavenging 2×4’s to build stuff. Then I discovered the “Materials” section of Craigslist and with the depressed economy, I discovered some really great buys on wood. That was the beginning of my wood hoarding obsession.
In the meantime, my tiny little shop now had more tools than anyone could ever imagine having in 112 square foot space. After 3 additions, the shop now occupies 75% of the basement. Lost in the process was a finished family room. I call it de-modeling……..
The original little shop space is now just wood storage, along with the utility room, the garage and the shed, plus several wood stashes in the working shop. Having a wood stash is huge when you don’t have great planning skills. I believe having cool wood available when inspiration hits is key. I can say for me, that I wouldn’t have the patience to purchase wood for each specific project. Plus, as most of you know, sometimes the wood dictates the project….
I have some cool wood that is still too sacred for my woodworking skills. I hopefully look for the day that changes…..
4. What inspires you regarding wood creations?
Since we live in the internet age now, it’s really hard for me to imagine how people prior to this would learn such a craft. My hats off to the greats of the past who forged the way for us to learn now. Many of them are members here.
That being said, the greatest inspiration I have were from fellow LJ’s. There are many, but specifically Steve (Spalm), Martyn (Britboxmaker), David (Patron) and Larry (Degoose) were some early inspiration for me.
I look at some of the incredible stuff posted here, then think, that’s impossible. Then say, well it is possible, because they did it. I want to post projects that people say, that’s impossible…
I also try to build things using pure wood joinery and try to avoid other mechanical fasteners (screws and such).
Honestly, most of my stuff is just glue and hope……truth.
5. What are the greatest challenges that you have met along the way? (And how did you overcome them)
1. Patience – It doesn’t come naturally for me. I don’t always overcome this one, and those projects usually don’t get posted. This is an on-going issue, but I’m much better at understanding that some things just take time.
2. Wood movement – It’s something you can read about, but it is really something you need to experience. I am just now getting to the point where I think I have some understanding and attempt to design correctly for it. Lot’s more to learn here……
3. Respect for the tools – This is an ongoing challenge – the table saw requires your “A” game every day.
6. What is the greatest reward that you have received from woodworking? (personal or tangible)
Almost all of my stuff is given away as gifts, so seeing the reaction of the recipient is the best. I’m sure many others have experienced this pneumonia where some (non-woodworking) folks ask how you colored that wood. LOL!
Of course the wood is the star here, and I don’t ever use stain or such, just the natural colors…..
One footnote, I have friends and family that say “where did this (woodworking thing) come from?” I’m really not sure…….
7. What is your favourite tool that you use for woodworking?
For sure, the workbench. No stats on this, but 95% of the project time is on that bench. Everything starts and ends there. I view my workspace in 3 dimensions. When I sit at my bench, I have access to so many things…. it’s like the cockpit of a fighter jet.
Second would probably be those crazy Incra fences……I have one on the router table and one on the table saw. Accuracy…….wood moves, we need every advantage we can get!
8. What is your favourite creation in/for your woodworking?
That would have to be the bench again. It is really one of those things I still wonder how I did it, but like so many things in this world, it only happens if you make the effort. I say that because there are so many things left that I need to make the effort for. Also, folks like SuperDav (Dave) were a great for moral support. Thanks Dave.
9. What tips would you give to someone just starting out or currently struggling with woodworking?
Try stuff. Safely of course. Reading is great, but hands on is where you learn. Understand that what you envision may not be what you get, and be ok with that. Sometimes you get more than you ever imagined.
10. How did you find LumberJocks and what is it that keeps you coming back?
I’m a computer guy so LumberJocks was always popping up in Google when I searched for anything woodworking. It took me a year to actually sign up because I was intimidated by all the talent here, but I lurked before that. The projects page has always been the shining star in my mind, but the friends I have met here keep me coming back. Some of them are a bit quirky, but I’m sure I’m not all there either……
-- ~ Debbie, Canada (https://www.facebook.com/DebbiePribeleENJOConsultant)