The road goes ever on…

To quote one of my favorite authors,

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.



This week is “Get Woodworking Week”. A project being spurred by Tom Iovino to get beginners to jump into woodworking. I’ve been preaching the “Just do it” mantra for years now when it comes to woodworking. GWW is all about just that…get into your shop and work some wood. Just do it. Kari Hultman, The Village Carpenter, posted an entry titled exactly that…Just do it.

Why do we woodworkers hesitate so much? The answer is simple, fear. We’re afraid of getting in over our heads. We’re afraid of breaking new ground. We’re afraid we’re going to waste materials, time and effort. We’re afraid we’re going to make something that’s completely unpalatable from a construction and/or an aesthetic stance. We’re afraid of making a mistake. But why are we so afraid?

When you were in school (and it doesn’t matter whether it was grade school, high school or college) you were taught things and tested. Did you get paralyzed to the point of inaction when it came to the subjects you were less familiar with than others? Or is it that you aced everything and never made mistakes? Did you expect a perfect score on every test?

When you started a career or a family, was there a learning curve or did you immediately know everything there was to know about it? Are you as good at your job, or at raising a family, today as you were when you first started? Then why do you expect perfection when it comes to woodworking.

Everything has a learning curve and I mean EVERYTHING. Woodworking is like sailing. I can teach you everything you need to know about sailing in about half an hour. You’ll spend the rest of your life learning to do it right. To me that’s the fun of both sailing and woodworking. On the surface, they’re both fairly simple to understand and do. Let’s face it, just about everyone can throw up a sail and make a boat move. The same holds true for just about anyone being able to nail two boards together. The fun begins when you decide it’s time to learn the craft of each. To do something and attempt to do it well, that’s the challenge. The great thing about both activities is, they are simple enough to get started.

And how does this relate to Mr. Tolkien’s lyric? Your first project doesn’t need to be elaborate or complex. It’s rather fitting that this week is “Get Woodworking Week” and this weekend I have a Woodworking Fundamentals 1 class scheduled. The students this weekend will be setting foot on the Road. They will be embarking on an adventure that will last a lifetime. They will travel the Road with all its twists and turns. They will follow different paths, on different errands yet all will remain on the Road. And, for them, their journey will begin this weekend with a simple sanding block. Sure, they will have to sit through a few hours of me yammering on Saturday morning about wood structure, tools and sharpening but they’ll spend a good portion of the day making a simple sanding block.

When I first seriously considered woodworking as a vocation, Werner Duerr taught me how to sharpen and use my tools to make the same simple sanding block my students will make this weekend. Upon first seeing the project I  thought “This is going to be easy.” (and I’m sure my students will as well). For me, that one simple project launched a woodworking adventure that has lasted over 35 years. I’ve explored various avenues of woodworking, taken side trips into projects and techniques that wandered far from the main Road of my journey but, to me, those wanderings have appeared to be one continuous trek.

Have I always been successful at everything I’ve tried? Many would say so but I (like most woodworkers) see where I need to improve. Each new project offering mysteries to be unraveled. Each new technique posing challenges to be met. I have never failed. I have merely presented myself with ENDLESS learning opportunities. I’ve made just about every mistake there is to make in woodworking. If you’re in it long enough, I hope you do too. It’s made me a much better woodworker. Thankfully, I still make mistakes. I embrace them and so should you. If I let fear overtake me, you would not be reading this today.

So, I say to you the budding newbie woodworker…step out your door and set your feet upon the Road! Explore every side road and path for that’s where adventure lies. Fear not getting lost upon the path for all lead back to the Road. Sure, you may have to press your way through a thicket now and again but, from where I stand upon the Road, I see fun and adventure await you. I (and many others) will help guide you if I (we) can.


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