Sunday, July 31, 2011

I Refuse To Call These Mistakes

We all have to start somewhere. Nineteen years ago, and armed with less than a gram of woodworking knowledge, I would buy vintage tools that caught my eye at flea markets and auctions. I didn't know how to sharpen, much less use them.

Looking back, sometimes I lucked out as a newbie and would score a nice socket chisel or adjustable tenon cutter. Other times, I'd end up with something that looks good in a photo on a blog, but are as useful as a laser light on a marking gauge.
Good thing we're so tidy, otherwise
the garage would be a disaster.

I also bought a LOT of lumber. Here in the middle of Pennsylvania, we're surrounded by farmland. And farmers always have stacks of lumber in their barns. So, early on in my woodworking life, I attended many farm auctions. Rarely were other attendees interested in lumber; people were there to buy farm machinery. So, after awhile I wound up with so much wood we could no longer park our cars in the garage.

Back then, I'd buy whatever wood I could get that was cheap, not knowing if I'd like to work with walnut, maple, oak, cherry, poplar, beech, or apple (all the species in my stash).

Dyami lifted five boards to my one.
Nineteen years later, I know that I almost exclusively prefer cherry. Walnut's a distant second. Other than that, all the other species in my garage have sat for nearly two decades collecting dust and heaping mounds of mouse poop.

I mentioned on twitter that I'd love to get rid of it and my friend, Dyami (The Penultimate Woodshop), came to the rescue.  He drove down from Long Island with a flatbed truck and hauled a bunch of it away.

Using a short handsaw to cut
stickers apart.
My point is, there is no way to know as beginner woodworkers what types of projects and wood we'll be interested in years later.  So, we're bound to buy things we'll never use (the unopened Leigh Dovetail jig box comes to mind).

You could read every woodworking book on the market before you ever buy a tool or cut a board, but you still won't know your preferences until you start building. Chances are your tastes will change the more years you have under your belt.  Since I've become more interested in working with hand tools, the dust on my router table and hollow chisel mortiser is as thick as a Dickens' novel.

But, this is all part of the journey. They are not mistakes.

Not only that, sometimes you get to make someone's day by giving them a bunch of boards that would otherwise have gone unused. And they can make your day by helping to clear out your garage. It's a win-win.

Except for the mice. Who now need to find another place to call home.

By the way, I'm not advocating setting up a complete workshop before you've even cut a board. Pick a few projects you like and get the tools you need to build them.


Brian said...

It's a coincidence that you mention the word "mistake" here, because for the last week, I've been working on a new post (series) where I explain something that maybe I wasn't doing in the most efficient of ways. When I wrote the first version, I called it a "mistake," but I didn't like it either. So I changed the word to "goof," which I'll expand on in the post, if I ever get around to posting it.

Alfred Kraemer said...

Although I bet 90% of the readers of your blog - including myself - could tell a similar story, it is quite reassuring to have someone else tell their variation - especially if there are nice pictures to go along with it!
I have a much easier time 'weeding out' tools that I ended up not using or that have been replaced by something better. There is usually always someone else that has/may have a use for them.
But then I realized that a new group that is slowly growing has emerged: tools that I don't really need anymore but I have used them so much in the past that I can't just disconnect myself from them.

My lumber pile is a different story.


Darnell said...

You're a kind soul, Kari. Ain't nobody touchin' my lumber stash.

Eric said...

Although I am no where near your level of talent Kari, I can certainly relate to the situation of having made mistakes early on in my woodworking. I bought things and collected other things that I "just knew" I was going to need.....HA!
But,hearing it from someone like you makes it a little less painful.
Thank you & I hope your mice find nice new homes.

Bob Easton said...

Mistakes? What mistakes? Those are "learning experiences."

I've learned a lot from mine. :)

Steve Branam said...

Unopened Leigh dovetail jig? That's pretty fancy! I only have an unopened Porter Cable dovetail jig.

Did you find a car under all that lumber in the garage?

Kari Hultman said...

Brian, "goofs" is a much nicer word and it's certainly something every single one of us can relate to.

Alfred, I agree with handing things over to other people. I'd rather give away an old bandsaw to someone who will use it rather than have it wind up in a landfill.

Darnell, well it's one thing to give away my lumber, but I'd have a hard time giving up my vintage tools (even if they're useless).

Eric, this will make you feel really good then--I bought a Tormek with lots of bells and whistles about two years ago because they were running a special where you could get an axe for free. I have yet to turn on the Tormek, but the axe is great!

Bob, indeed! :o)

Steve, we didn't find a car, but I did find one dead mouse. ew.

Rob Porcaro said...

I couldn't agree more, Kari. No one's luck is good enough to learn without making some mistakes, so if we aren't making them, we're not learning.

The only real mistake is in no longer trying to do what is important to you.

The best multi-millionaire sluggers in baseball spend most of their at-bats making mistakes!

Thanks for the post.


Pablo said...

In the imortal words of Rumsfeld "there are things that we know we don't know and other things that we don't know we don't know"

Marilyn in Seattle said...

Ok, thank you for allowing me to vicariously scratch the cleaning itch I was starting to have .. and see a picture of Dyami. I've been wondering what he looks like.

So call me crazy, but I've been starting to wonder if you're finding yourself wanting to do less woodworking these days. I wouldn't want to start any silly rumors. :D

Kari Hultman said...

Rob, if only woodworkers were paid to make mistakes like professional baseball players. We'd all be gazillionaires. :)

Pablo, that quote makes my head explode every time I hear it. heh.

Marilyn, if this is a clever ploy to try to relieve me of my hand will not work!!!

Marilyn in Seattle said...

Busted! ;D

John Cashman said...

Ah, the nearly useless double-spokeshave. The coolness factor of those has tricked people into buying them for 150 years now.

I have a used-once Leigh dovetail jig that's been gathering dust for about 25 years now. I can't remember what I was thinking.

In fairness, it doesn't look as if that garage is wide enough to fit a modern vehicle in, anyway.

Bob said...

Wow. Lucky Dude. I'd be loading them on five at a time too, but I too don't live in Pennsylvania, so the idea of free or low cost hardwood is something that makes me a little giddy.
Now, about that unopened Leigh dovetail jig? I guess I'm a complete idiot, but after doing an entire kitchen with some 29 drawers with machined dovetails, I sometimes thought I'd like to upgrade to one of those puppies from my present "Sears-frustrate-the-uninitiated" version.
And yes, I suppose I could have hand cut them all (although I think I'd still be there...) I "can" do that, but mostly just choose not to, especially when there's that many, so please don't jump on my head.

Greg Miller said...

Hey, Kari. It's NEVER a mistake to collect pieces of wood - and lots of them. My house is surrounded by piles of timber, under tarps, in racks, on top of other piles of timber ... stacked and stashed everywhere.
Take it from me, the only mistake is to not have a nice storage facility big enough to keep all those wonderful treasures in!

...mmm...Thinking about it, maybe there is another mistake possible -to never use the stuff (or never make it available for someone else to use.)
OK, you're on the right track then.

...But then again, can't I just call it carbon sequestration??


Shannon said...

So what are you going to do with all that space in the garage now? Do you want me to get you started on a Mahogany habit? I have a few boards with your name on them

Megan Fitzpatrick said...

Ya know, if you want to get rid of the mouse problem, I could send you a couple cats (i have some to spare).

Kari Hultman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kari Hultman said...

John, our garage is two cars-long, but not very wide. I did fit my SUV in there before all the lumber took residence. But yeah, it was a tight fit.

Bob, I had the same idea as you when I bought the dovetail jig. I had planned to line the walls with work surfaces and drawers and there was no way I was going to handcut all those dovetails, especially in plywood.

Greg, that sort of goes with the territory for woodworkers--we all covet our lumber stashes. I've heard that same thing with other craftpersons. Our friend is a quilter who has shelves full of fabric.

Shannon, you're a wood pusher! :D I have a bunch of cherry and walnut I plan to move to the back of the garage once I built some lumber racks in there.

Megan, how I envy your mousepoop-free house!

Doug said...

I have a few boxes of unusable tools that I picked up when I first started. Each one taught me something!

A great post, Kari.