After I got bit by the woodworking bug a few months ago I’ve been scrambling to figure out how to start making stuff given that I live in a 3rd floor one bedroom apartment with my fiance in San Francisco (and having no hand skills whatsoever). I hope this entry helps inspire others in a similar situation that it can be done, but please don’t look at this blog or my projects for any tips on technique. I’m sure I’ve made every mistake in the book—but all while having a lot of fun :)
So to figure things out, I first took a weekend course at a community center down south near San Jose, and even though I ended up with a small walnut wall cabinet at the end, I had no idea how it came about. I just know that I had to use a lot of pre-made jigs and a lot of power tools, the latter which wasn’t very feasible given my current circumstances.
I then enrolled in an excellent one night a week hand tools class at the Randall Musuem, just a few minutes from my apartment (a real hidden treasure in SF by the way). Although we didn’t make anything notable, we did practice a few joints, and I had the chance to really ask a lot of questions, and to that I deeply thank the patience of my excellent teacher.
So as the class was wrapping up, I began to think of what my first project should be. Something relatively simple, low-cost, useful, requiring a minimal set of tools, and not least of all having a high tolerance for messing up and still being functional. After reading the beautiful blog post by mafe on Japanse saw horses and finding more instructions online at Make, I had my first project.
I acquired my set of tools: a Japanese double sided saw, 3 chisels, a combination sharpening stone, and a couple squares. Here’s my on the ground “workshop” in our living room (spoiler alert: i took this at the end of the project). Good place to mention that my fiance has shown infinite patience for this new hobby.
For the sawhorse, the raw material was one 2×4 from the nearest big box store. From there it was a fair bit of time trying to be as precise as I could to do the layout and initial first cuts (tip, dining chairs in the kitchen make an excellent saw horse).
From there, it was the half lap joints which I’ll be honest were a bit of struggle to get “good enough.” I’ve really begun to gain the appreciation for how much precision and skill it takes to do fine joinery—something to strive for! Finally there were some decorative curves on the legs and the beams to be sawed, chiseled, sanded—the results were pretty sloppy but a good learning experience.
For a guy who spends his day in front of a computer, this was a huge challenge but also hugely gratifying. Living in an urban setting with little access or exposure to craft, I feel I’ve discovered a new range of experiences that I didn’t know existed. All the inspiring projects and craft men/women on Lumberjocks are a big part of that, so a big thank you to the community! Hoping I’ll put these sawhorses to good use soon.
-- "As I’ve said to myself many times before: Try to live the way you are, be the person in your work that you are in the rest of your life. Easy to say!” - James Krenov