What it takes to be a beginning woodworker


Continuing the theme of Get Woodworking Week, a project launched by Tom Iovino, I really thought about the most important aspect of woodworking for someone who is just starting out.

After more than 35 years of woodworking I sometimes forget what it was like when I first started out. Starting the school four and a half years ago has really made me continually re-examine my roots. Having students who’ve done little or no woodworking in the shop has lead me to believe there’s one common area that woodworkers continually have trouble fully understanding. Sure, you can buy all the hand and power tools a person could need to make anything out of wood. You can learn every method under the sun for sharpening, tuning and using a chisel, a handplane, a tablesaw or a jointer. You can spend your time perfecting your sawing technique so you can create perfect handcut dovetails but unless you understand one thing you’ll struggle perpetually.

So, what is this one thing you ask?

The answer is simple: the nature of wood.

If you don’t understand what wood is, how it reacts to different things and how to put it’s weaknesses to work to our advantage woodworking will be much tougher than it really needs to be for you. I don’t mean to discourage folks from becoming woodworkers. Quite the opposite in fact. I actually believe that a good basic understanding of wood, its structure and how it reacts to different environments and the implementation of tools ought to be the starting point for every woodworker. So much so that this is the exact place where I begin my Fundamentals classes. For a couple of hours we discuss everything from how a tree grows to how we dry the lumber we turn it into to how to read the grain direction in any board. I can tell you that students who have gone through my Fundamentals series and return for other classes have a much easier time with implementing new woodworking techniques than students who did not take my Fundamentals series.

I realize that not everyone can come to a class here with me. I’m not expecting that either. This is exactly why I started my new online show. I want to help woodworkers of all levels improve and reach their woodworking goals. In the spirit of my goal I made the first couple of episodes of my show available to everyone for free.

The first show deals with the nature of wood and how we impose grain direction on wood when we turn it into lumber. It deals with how that grain direction affects every aspect of woodworking from the simplest task to the most complex. In the spirit of “Get Woodworking Week” I offer that show here on my blog for you to watch. If you only ever watch this episode of the show it should help you become a much better woodworker.

If you’re new to woodworking, or you are contemplating woodworking as an avocation or vocation, this is a great place to start. Enjoy the show and please post any questions you may have. The only way to get folks woodworking is to demystify the whole process. If there’s something you don’t understand in the show, ask and I’ll do my best to help clear it up. I truly want you to achieve your woodworking dreams. Every journey begins with the first step.




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