Do you remember your first few days as a woodworker? Maybe it was the time you set foot in a shop class at the start of a new school year. Perhaps it was the time when your dad took you into his shop on a sunny Saturday morning to build something.
Regardless of when or where it took place, many of us recall that moment very vividly, almost as if we are living through it all over again. The sights, the smells, the feel of the tools in your hand.
For some woodworkers, they are living those first few moments today. One of my co-workers for Pinellas County is just starting on her woodworking journey. It’s not too often that we get a chance to see folks just at the budding beginning of their woodworking adventures, so I graciously asked her if she would agree to be interviewed.
Dawn may be new to woodworking herself, but her memories of woodworking stretch back to her childhood. “My great grandfather was a pattern maker and I have many of his antique tools. He made a beautiful tool box out of Birdseye maple, teak, and mahogany. Both of my grandfathers also did woodworking and I enjoyed watching them build things. I still have quite a few items that they built and were handed down to me or were gifts.”
While the thoughts of those sawdust-covered relatives were running around in her head for years, she faced one of the greatest obstacles which confronts just about every woodworker – a lack of time. “I have wanted to do woodworking for a long time. I just didn’t make the time – there was always something else which pulled me in another direction. Now, it’s time to try something different in my life. I have made the time to learn and see if I have the ability.”
While a beginner, it’s not as if Dawn is entering woodworking with absolutely nothing. She has amassed a number of tools through the years as she tackled different home improvement tasks. These include a table saw, a compound miter saw, some chisels, other power saws and the various assorted pliers, screwdrivers and other small hand tools. “Originally, all the tools were purchased for home improvement projects with the hope that someday my house projects would be done and that I could also use them create wood working projects. You know things like bookshelves, custom benches… or what ever else I could build.”
As far as shop space is concerned, Dawn is experiencing those growing pains all new woodworkers seem to face. “I have a two car garage and a large driveway that I plan to use for my shop for now. Most of my larger pieces are on wheels and I move them around as needed. I have added several electrical boxes in the garage over the years, so power shouldn’t be a concern, and I have a faucet just outside the door if I need to clean things up.”
With the gentle coaxing of her new husband Greg, Dawn has taken some first steps into fine woodworking. Recently, she completed a class at a local Woodcraft on box making. “There were three of us in the class and we each made a box using our own dimensions and selecting what type of wood we wanted to use. I selected maple for the box, cedar for the liner and lacewood for the veneer top.” The first day was an exercise in cutting joinery and assembling a nice cube. “I couldn’t understand how that cube was going to become a box. How was I going to get it open?”
Dawn learned on day two just how it was going to happen. “It really freaked me out when the instructor told us we would be cutting the lid off on the table saw. I had visions of the entire box falling apart. As I cut my lid off, I was pleasantly surprised that it did not collapse or fall apart. The cut was even all the way around and the lid came apart easily with a utility knife cutting though the last bit.” The final box is something to behold – the first piece of advanced woodworking she was able to complete from scratch.
While Dawn is just in those early stages now, she does have a vision of where she would like to be in the future. “In five years, I would hope to be fairly proficient. Not an expert woodworker, but certainly proficient at making those things that I currently want to make. I expect to be beyond the rookie mistake stage and working on more detailed projects.” And, that’s just the start. “At that time I hope to be looking at retiring in the next several years and beginning to design a better shop that is dedicated to woodworking, not sharing the space with a car. I would think by then I would have built my bench, bookcase and even a wine rack or two. I hope that I come up with some other inspiration along the way.”