Not trying to get sentimental, but my first memory of woodworking was as a kid being at my grandfathers shop. He was a carpenter/timber framer from Germany and had a large shop where he did his work; about 2500 sq/ft. As a kid the shop seemed just that much larger. I distinctly remember the 12” wide cast iron jointer. The hum as it turned on and came up to speed was that of a jet engine. Slow and steady, but never a doubt as to its ability to tear through wood. Rock solid, the shear mass kept it from vibrating, and left it firmly planted in place. Probably built around WWII, or not long after, it is still a fixture in the shop. To this day it gets much use from both my father and brother, also carpenters/timber framers, and excellent woodworkers.
I was a hard worker, but utterly useless when it came to building in general, as well as operating tools.
From the clear recollection of that childhood memory one would think that is from where my interest in woodworking stemmed. But that was not the case. My childhood was filled with sports, hockey and golf mostly, and not until my late teens did I even care to pick up any sort of tool, or use the shop that was always available to me. At that point, my father had taken over the shop and, along with two partners, was running a timber framing business out of it. I needed a summer job upon completion of my first year of university and they were generous enough to hire me (only because I had the right last name). I was a hard worker, but utterly useless when it came to building in general, as well as operating tools. I was fortunate that they were extremely patient and kept me around long enough to teach me the necessary skills to be productive. Many of those skills, which I didn’t really dwell on at the time, were woodworking skills. Sanding, routing, cutting, marking, and measuring, were all things I got good at through repetition. It wasn’t until years later, right after I had graduated from university and was looking for employment did I realized I even possessed those skills. Not having many connections in my area of study, I took a job as a carpenter just two days after my Corporate Finance final exam, and put those skills to good use. I was good enough to fake my way through, but not nearly as good as I should have been. As I started to work full time as a carpenter, I was given many different tasks to do. Some of these tasks I was familiar with. Some were foreign. Over time I began to realize I was more interested and drawn to the ones that required an attention to detail. Installing baseboard and trim, mantles, and built-ins, were all things that grabbed my attention and made work interesting. It was at this point I would say that my interest in woodworking started.
The challenge of fine woodworking and furniture building, I feel, is the next natural progression in my woodworking journey.
My progression as a carpenter has started from rough work, and as my skills improved, has allowed me to fine tune and become what I consider a woodworker. From framing and form building, to finish trim and crown molding, my skills have evolved to the point where I can tackle most projects with confidence. The challenge of fine woodworking and furniture building, I feel, is the next natural progression in my woodworking journey. The challenge of learning new techniques, using new tools, and trying something that I have never done is what inspires me to get better. Recently, my lovely wife and I purchased a house and were able to do some renovations on it. One of the key selling features of this house was that it had a garage. Almost more importantly than the garage, it had a parking space on the road that my lovely wife (did I mention she’s lovely?) agreed to park her car in. This freed up the space in the garage for me to create a small shop (which I will discuss in my next post). With a shop of my own, I am hoping I can continue to refine my woodworking skills and create better and more elaborate projects. The more time I spend in the shop, the more I am learning, designing, and creating. As I progress, I will document what I learn and hope to pass it on in a meaningful and coherent way so as to make this blog both interesting and practical.