Seeing as how I just joined and haven’t any woodworking projects to discuss, I thought that a little introduction might be appropriate. Here goes:
I graduated from college with a degree in Computer Engineering in 2006, spent a season working as a wilderness ranger in the Sierra National Forest in California, then returned to Virginia to start my “career.” For the past two years, I’ve been sitting at a desk nine hours a day, five days a week, hating every minute of it. The salary has kept me more than comfortable, and my boss has been pretty accommodating when I need to take some time off. As an avid climber and mountain biker, I tend to keep my evenings and weekends packed and thus maintained a fairly satisfactory work-life balance. So I’ve stuck with the job.
Last fall, I befriended some local farmers who were building their own home. I started lending a hand on the construction or around the property a day or two each week. After a while, they invited me to move out to the farm and live in the 90-year old cabin they’re moving out of, and I couldn’t think of a more ideal environment. After 9 months, the new house is nearly complete, I’ve moved out of my apartment in town and should be into the cabin by the end of the month.
As I’m sure everyone here understands, there’s something incomparable about working with your hands, even more so when you’re outside and close to the earth. Its something I took for granted when I was a ranger, and had somehow forgotten during all time at a desk. My time at the farm “sowed the seeds of discontent.” I grew more and more dissatisfied with my job and decided I needed to take some time off to gain some clarity and perspective. So I road-tripped through the Southwest for three weeks, climbing, biking, and spending time with a few of my best friends. During a five-day permaculture course in New Mexico, I was swept away by the positive energy of my classmates. People of all ages and backgrounds, excited about their lives, excited to learn, excited to embrace new challenges. It was cathartic. I thought to myself, ”Self, why are you still working a job you hate? What do you really want to do? What are you scared of?” And self had no good answer.
When I got back from my little journey, I put in my notice. The office is pretty short-handed, so I gave them six weeks instead of the usual two. But that six weeks is nearly up. Next Friday, I’m gone. I’ll be living and working on the farm, with a little part-time software consulting work to pay the bills. I’ve had a life-long interest in woodwork, but never the means or expendable time to pursue it. Now I do – a biking friend has basically given me the keys to his wood shop, which is pretty expansive (he runs a little furniture- and cabinet-making shop on the side). I’m going to work in trade (free lumber!) for a local sustainable timber harvester, felling trees and milling logs a couple mornings each week.
So long story short, I’ve got the hookup of a lifetime. I feel incredibly fortunate at this opportunity and am determined to learn as much as I can, diversifying myself between a few different types of work and still maintaining a little time for my biking and climbing addictions.
I’m considering this little venture to be something of a secondary education, one that’s going to take a lot of work and dedication. Experience being the best teacher, I intend to work wood so that I can grow as a woodworker. I suppose my question to the group is this: What kind of ‘syllabus’ would you design for a foundation in furniture building? While I’ve plenty of resources to go to with questions, this is no apprenticeship, I have to determine what and how I’ll learn. Where to begin?