Four years ago, I was looking for some bookshelves. I came to the conclusion that I was sick of store-bought furniture, and that, as a “Veritable He-Man” (chuckle), it was a moral imperative to learn woodworking and build my own stuff instead of buying one more stupid thing that I didn’t really like.
Four years later, my steadfastedness has only resulted in having huge piles of books lying all over my place because I still don’t have any bookshelves. But stuff happened in those four years, it was somewhat crazy, and I am now in a good position to actually make good on that promise I made so long ago. Therefore, I’m going to chronicle my, uh, “adventures” here.
[Edit: On reflection many years later, this next paragraph sure seems like boilerplate to me.]
My grandfather worked for a publisher, but also did a bit of woodworking. He knew a thing or two, much like many people of that generation did, but perhaps only a thing or two. Unfortunately, he became ill and passed away before he was able to teach me anything. You can call it silly, but sometimes you can’t ignore what runs in your blood, as my friend Linda tells me. Having written three books and worked on many others, I’m now involved in publishing myself. I might as try to live up to my grandfather’s name (well, even if it isn’t exactly my name).
When I decided to do this, I didn’t know where to start. Even though I’d been around many of the tools all my life, I didn’t have any instruction whatsoever on the proper way to use them for woodworking. I didn’t know a whole lot about wood. It was basically square one.
So I figured that since I’d written some books, maybe I’d go down to the bookstore and look for something that might tell me a thing or two. Well, first I checked on Amazon for reviews on books. I decided that “The Complete Manual of Woodworking” by Jackson, Day, and Jennings seemed like a pretty good bet. I found it without a problem. I also picked up “Classic Hand Tools” by Hack, because, well, it had a lot of pretty pictures in it, and there was something about hand tools that I sort of liked. Oh yeah, and it didn’t cost an arm and a leg. (Now you guys who wrote these things are now honor-bound to buy my books, right? Ha ha.)
In buying these books, I was in the early stages of discovering that the old system of apprenticeship where young’uns learned from a master is pretty much dead. Unless you know someone who does this stuff, no one is going to teach you; you have to learn it yourself. This isn’t such a bad thing, though. You have to understand that, as in disciplines like software engineering, there are about a million ways to do things in woodworking. Not all are equally good. Fortunately, due to the now rich array of literature on woodworking as well as the flood of, uh, stuff on the web, you can find out how to do quite a lot of stuff if you actually know how to read. In another turn of fortunate events, I know how to read. Well, maybe if only just a little.
The “Complete Manual” is eye-opening for someone who’s never seen any of this stuff before. It succinctly covers a lot of ground, starting from the biology of trees. I’d lump the topics in the book into four main areas: (1) trees (2) tools (3) joints (4) other stuff that you do with wood (turning, carving, etc.). Tools are grouped into three categories: hand, power, and machine.
I’ve read the book in its entirety (several times). I’ve now got more that go into more detail on certain topic areas. What I have not done is actually using any of what I’ve learned to actually make anything. And it’s high time I fixed that.