Thursday, April 17, 2008

Woodworking: The Perfect Hobby

At least it is for someone who loves variety. Woodworking is an inexhaustible source of learning. There is always another technique or talent you can acquire or challenging project you can build.
When I first started woodworking, I built rustic furniture. The wood was free (fallen limbs in the neighborhood), it required few tools, and it involved basic joinery. From there, I became interested in building New Mexican furniture because the carving looked like fun. Then, I migrated toward Mission furniture, then Shaker furniture, then learning how to handcut dovetails, then how to make handplanes, and now PA German furniture.

I’m crazy-interested in learning more handtool techniques.

Recently, I bought a video on marquetry from Jane Burke and a video on sharpening handsaws from Tom Law. A year ago I learned how to make string inlay, for a line and berry design, from Steve Latta.

But it doesn’t end there.

There are a multitude of other types of woodworking and ww techniques, including wood bending, veneering, carving in the round, chip carving, furniture design, making handtools, mastering complex joinery, finishing, building musical instruments, and woodturning, just to name a few.

And my list of “to-build” projects. Well...I will never reach the bottom of the list.

But that’s what I love about woodworking. It’s impossible to learn everything or build everything you'd like to, so it's constantly exciting and it's impossible to be bored.


Unknown said...


Anonymous said...

A phrase that has some connection to woodworking, "Jack of all trades, master of none" is something to keep in mind.

There are so many directions one can take in woodworking. As a hobbyist, take them all on. If you plan on WW as a career, narrow down the selection and learn them as well as you can.

Magazines and tool stores foster the generalist approach but that isn't always the best way.

Look at the history of WW, young people apprenticed in a particular part of WW - stairs, houses, cabinets, etc. and they became good at it and then only did that one thing for their career.

WW generalization is something of modern times. Nothing wrong with it, nothing at all, it's a great hooby.

Kari Hultman said...

Anon, I would never make it in a ww business. Doing the same thing day in and day out would be excruciating for me. Hobbyist's are definitely fortunate in having the opportunity (and no boss looking over our shoulders) to try everything, if that's their preference.

Of course, some of my ww friends, might call their wives "bosses".
; )

Kari Hultman said...

I didn't mean to sound like I was casting aspersions on someone who prefers to "do the same thing day in and day out". That's an admirable quality to want to master a craft.
Whatever makes you happy. :o)

Shazza said...

Sounds like you have woodworking ADD!

Kari Hultman said...

I know someone who would wholeheartedly agree with you!

Woodfired! said...

I agree. While I have the greatest respect for woodworkers who do manage to make a living from it (which is far from easy - at least here in Australia) I see them working flat out on the "production" runs that bring in the money and only getting a few hours a week to do the creative work they enjoy. Of course if you can make money from doing what you really enjoy then good luck to you.

I have to admit I've taken the easier road and earnt money using skills that are valued highly in our society, so I can spend time in the workshop exploring the areas I am interested in.

While as you say woodworking offers so much scope, there are (dare I say) other pursuits like learning to work glass, stone, plastics, metal, etc. Of course these would only be as adjuncts to our wood projects :-)

The discussion on generalisation versus specialisation brings to mind a quote from Robert Heinlein.

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, and die gallantly.
Specialization is for insects."

I doubt that I've ever agreed with Robert Heinlein but this has always held some resonance for me. There is so much to try out in this life!