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.