[Taken from my Adventures in Woodworking blog, August 2007]
A few years ago, I came to the realization that I didn’t have any significant hobbies or leisure that did not involve the computer. This is not good. So one day, I brainstormed with my wife as to what hobby I should take up, and ended up choosing woodworking. I think the main reason was that I did not consider myself a handyman, and wanted to be able to build or fix things with my own two hands.
I began my hobby while still living in SE Asia. At first it was quite difficult. My first project was, as it should be, a workbench. I didn’t know anything about how to flatten a bench top, and in the end had to glue a piece of plywood over my crooked boards (and even then, a corner of the plywood would never stay down). I installed a regular vise on the right side of the bench, but after realizing that it was hard to work that way (I’m a righty), I moved it over to the left side.
After my bench was complete, I wasn’t very productive. As a result, my bench turned into just another flat surface in a storage room, with all sorts of stuff getting piled on it. I did clear it off a couple of times to make a picture frame and a bed for my son (made from one sheet of plywood and a few 2×4s).
My main frustration was that even though I had the book Woodworking for Dummies, I still felt like I didn’t know the basics of how to work wood. I bought a wooden plane from the local hardware store, but didn’t realize that plane irons (especially one as cheap as this one was) do not usually come that sharp. I just thought I had a crappy plane – but it was probably just my own lack of knowledge. Ditto that with a spokeshave I bought.
We returned to the States in the summer of 2006, and I got more interested in working with hand tools. I took the “Hand Tool Basics and Sharpening” course at the Dallas Woodcraft store, and that really built my confidence. I started following hand tool websites, joined the Old Tools mailing list, and started to consider myself a Galoot. I then attended a one-day workshop at Homestead Heritage that touched on sharpening before moving on to joinery (mortise and tenon, dado and dovetail) – all with hand tools. I was sold.
My last few months in the States have found me scouring the web (eBay, mostly) for the best deals on the remaining hand tools I needed to feel I could do pretty much everything. In fact, when I return to SE Asia, I think I’m going to go ahead and sell that electric router I bought a few years ago.
So that’s my story so far. I plan on using this blog to talk about my struggles and victories as I progress in my woodworking journey.