Category Archives: Get Woodworking

Get Woodworking Week 2014 – Thursday

I have a friend who is a Civil War Reenactor.

There, I said it. It’s almost like admitting I am in a rehab program. “Hi, my name is Tom, and I have a total addiction to Tic Tacs.”


Well, anyway, my friend derives tremendous enjoyment from getting all gussied up in his scratchy wool suit, sleeping on the hard ground and eating hardtack. To me, this sounds like doing hard time at some correctional institution, but, hey, that’s just me.

This hobby is a good one for him to have, because he is also a history teacher at a local high school. He once worked at my office helping us with some emergency management work, and we frequently got into long discussions about Civil War era politics, personalities and tactical matters.

And, while my friend wears blue, he is a native Mississippian, so does have a soft place in his heart for Dixieland.

Stonewall JacksonOne of the most intriguing personalities we discussed was Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. This famous southern general was a tactical and strategic genius, often leading terribly outnumbered forces against well-equipped Union troops and achieving startling victories.

He was well known for being able to determine where smaller divisions of the much larger Union army were located, and attacking each of them in turn, moving from smaller victory to smaller victory until he was able to totally unnerve Union generals sent to confront him.

You know, when we start woodworking, there are many times that there are projects that look too difficult to overcome. For me, the first time I remember that happening was when someone asked me to build an entertainment center for them. They were going to pay for a low Craftsman-style piece, and they were pretty specific on what they wanted.

Had I ever built doors before? Nope. How about glass doors with an applied grill? Nope. Cut a curved bottom apron? Never.

But, I wasn’t about to let that get to me. Oh, wait, I was. I was nervous as heck. How on earth was I going to do this? It was a complicated project, and I was overwhelmed.

That’s when I decided to go all Stonewall Jackson on it. The folks over at the Woodworker’s Website Association told me that things would be easier if I broke each of the components down into smaller sub assemblies.

So, I tackled the panels, and how I was going to join them to the square legs. How I was going to do frame and panel construction. How I was going to rout out for the glass inserts into the middle doors. How I was going to do the doors on the side compartments. How I was going to joint and glue up the top slab.

Are there things I would have done differently?  You bet. Was the client happy? Absolutely. Did the client pay for the project? Indeed he did.

Remember, as a woodworker, nothing is really outside of your abilities. Sure, it may take longer, and you may need some practice cuts, but by taking each step one at a time and asking for help if you need it, you will find that the project that left you sweating in anxiety is something you will master.

And, at that point, you can declare victory.

Now, for today’s haul of awesome articles:


Get Woodworking Week 2014 – Wednesday

I have a couple of friends who are looking to buy new houses. And, it seems as if every day, I get an update on how the house hunting is going. They talk about the beautiful, large rooms. The big yards. The big windows that let in lots of Florida sunlight.

When it comes to house shopping those are – of course – some of the things that people look for. But, there are other things that aren’t seen, but also need attention. What kind of wires are behind those walls? Is there lead paint or asbestos in the house? Most importantly, how strong is the foundation?

A strong Slab foundation

Sure, it’s not the sexiest part of a house, but a strong foundation gives all of the other stuff in the house the right place to live. It gives you the piece of mind to paint and decorate the heck out of that house, the assurance that your walls won’t buckle, crack or sag and the peace of mind that the entire structure won’t fall over in the first big blow.

The same thing goes on with woodworking. Oh, sure, I think everyone wants to start off building heirloom quality furniture right off the bat, and it can happen. But, building successfully is much easier if you have a strong set of foundation-level skills to build your woodworking future on. I have identified my top three here, and I would love to hear your ideas…

Operating safely1) Safety. A table saw blade can rip through hard maple with ease. A finely honed chisel can take paper-thin parings off of a piece of white oak. A router can cut a beautiful profile on the edge of a bubinga board. If these tough woods can be cut with ease, what do you think they can do to flesh and bone? When anyone starts woodworking, they should always keep safety top of mind. This includes knowing how to safely operate power tools, wearing eye and hearing protection and understanding that well-maintained tools are less likely to hurt you. Remember, it’s difficult to do woodworking if you have a dozen stitches in your hand because you weren’t careful.

2) Sharpening. Sharp tools are a pleasure to work with. Dull tools can mar your work, potentially hurt you and make a pleasant day in the shop a real pain in the patootie. That’s why you want to stack the odds of building a great project in your favor. Sharp tools can do that. Learning how to sharpen can seem like scrubbing the floor, but you will love the results. Besides, some of my best shop ideas come when I am working at my Tormek, thinking about how I am going to take my project to the next step. Cleaning your bits and blades is just as important.

A precise cut

3) Precision. Knowing how to measure properly is awesome. Sometimes, you don’t even need a tape measure or other device to know how long to cut a piece, because you can measure it exactly from the project, eliminating a potential error. Knowing how to cut, pare or plane to a marked line also ensures that the pieces you cut will fit just as you want them to. Believe me, remilling parts and starting from scratch are things that take a lot of time and always prove frustrating…

Developing these foundation skills may seem like hard work and drudgery, but believe me, if I hadn’t glossed over these three steps while starting back in 1998, I would have been a much better woodworker in considerably less time.

And, if you do make a mistake, just remember; if you aren’t making mistakes, you aren’t really learning. Believe me, we all make them.

Now, for my favorite part of Get Woodworking Week – today’s bounty of articles from other talented woodworking bloggers:


Get Woodworking Week 2014 – Tuesday

So, we’re a few days into Get Woodworking Week, and I had an interesting question sent my way.

It comes from Neil Zenuk – better known as TwoWheelNeil on Twitter – in response to yesterday’s post about inviting someone into your shop to teach them about woodworking, Neil wrote, “Any tips if you don’t know anyone who is interested?”

Hmmm… Neil seems like a pretty social guy, but maybe he is secretly a little bashful. That assumption flew out the window when he said he was taking out a personal ad reading “Woodworker seeking new friend willing to explore new joinery.”

OK, that would be kind of an unorthodox approach to the week’s mission, but hey, if it floats your boat.

Back to the question at hand. Not everyone knows someone who is interested in coming into your shop to learn the basics. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t play along. In fact, here are some ideas on how you can participate without inviting anyone into your shop:

Groaning with woodworking books

Spread the wealth. Most woodworkers have that special bookshelf in their homes… Someplace where their collection of woodworking magazines runs back to – I dunno – 1984. While it’s great to stroll down memory lane to see how to build a great typewriter stand, your shelves might appreciate if you went through the collection and donate the ones you may never read again to the local library. Future woodworkers would get a kick out of reading the collected knowledge.

Sneak it in. One of the members of the St. Petersburg Woodcrafters Guild took several of his old woodworking magazines and left them a doctors offices, gyms and other places he frequented. Not only did he do that, he also attached stickers to them inviting the reader to the guild’s next meeting. Pretty resourceful.

Some servicemen who appreciate woodworking

Send to a solider. Or airman, or Marine, or sailor. Many of the brave men and women deployed overseas are woodworkers, and while they are on base, they may be looking for a distraction from the day-to-day grind – or the dangerous missions they undertake. Get in touch with a local chapter of the USO, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion or other organization to see if you can donate some woodworking books, magazines, tools or wood to the troops. You might be surprised how appreciated those gifts are.

Talk it up. Libraries aren’t just for books anymore. Many libraries offer an extensive speaker’s bureau where professionals come in to talk tax preparation, what the local government is up to, how to write a novel… the works. Talk to your local library’s manager and see if they might be interested in hosting a talk where you let people see some of your tools and finished projects.

Kids LOVE woodworking

The ABC’s and 123’s of woodworking. Where will the future woodworkers come from? The grade schools, scouting groups and other youth organizations. Find out where these groups meet, make an introduction to the leaders and see if you can’t schedule a talk there. You just might be the spark that ignites a new woodworker’s career.

Start a blog. Hey, come on in. The water’s fine. Google and WordPress are two easy places to start blogging. Just set up an account, and let us know what is going on in your shop!

You can see, there are plenty of things you can do if you can’t invite someone into your shop. Just give it a little thought, and you’d be surprised just how cool it can be…

And, here are some links to some great articles written for Get Woodworking Week. Remember, send me links to your articles so I can link to them:


Get Woodworking Week 2014 – Monday

What a way to kick off Get Woodworking Week 2014 – by missing the Sunday post!

But, hey, that’s not too bad. Didn’t we spend hours yesterday making plans for big parties, tasty food and copious libations, only to watch that stinker of a game? I mean, the Super Bowl ended up being the SubPar Bowl, with little to hold your attention, unless you were a Seattle Seahawks fan.

Then, it couldn’t have been any better.

The Seahawks Defense was impressive

But, that’s not to say that the game yesterday couldn’t be linked to woodworking.  (Oh, yes, I’m going there…)

Think about it for a minute.  No one on Seattle’s team had a Super Bowl Ring before last night. Today, everyone has one.  Now, what do you think holds people who have never been in a woodworking shop back from trying it for the first time?  A lack of experience?  No tradition in doing woodworking?

The Seahawks beat up the Denver Broncos...

Well, no experience in the Super Bowl and a lack of a winning tradition in Seattle didn’t seem to stop that team from getting out on the nation’s biggest stage and having the best game of their season.

This week, find someone who has mentioned to you that they have wanted to try woodworking, but never took the opportunity to do so. You might just find a new shop MVP that way.

Pete Carroll coaches up  Russell Wilson

And, how did those talented Seahawks players get to where they are today?  Certainly, they didn’t pick up playing football this year. Many of them have been in the league for several years – on several other team’s rosters – before they got to the pinnacle last night.  They honed their skills in college and established the fundamentals in high school. The team’s coaches kept introducing new skills to them throughout the season during numerous practices.

The person stepping into your shop for the first time also needs to know that he or she isn’t going to be playing at world-championship level for some time to come, but, instead, they will be getting the basics down, learning about what the tools do, how they are maintained and what kind of functions they do in the shop. With a grasp of the basics, the rest will come naturally.

Hoisting the Vince Lombardi trophy

And, finally, as the Seahawks players hold the Vince Lombardi Trophy over their heads in triumph, they will be hosting the physical representation of their victory in their hands. It will serve for years to come as a reminder of the hard work that went into getting to this point.

Now, that's a happy wooworkerMuch like their first successfully completed woodworking project…

So, the game plan for this week is to get some new folks into your shop or to get them started in woodworking somehow. You may never know who goes on to build world-class furniture.

Remember: This week, if you plan on writing some articles about Get Woodworking Week, be sure to send them my way. I will link to them here to make sure we spread the word.


I *GET* woodworking

So, we are just a few short weeks away from Get Woodworking Week 2014, and I am excited about what I am going to read coming from blogs, companies, woodworking magazines and a lot of other folks around the Internet.

Get Woodworking Week 2014This is now our third year of doing this exercise, and I have seen some tremendously creative ideas for pushing the concept. Videos. Articles. Strange projects (Just what the heck is a B’rall, anyway?)

The best question I have ever received about the week came from Steve Ramsey over at Woodworking for Mere Mortals.  As you can see in this video, he was perplexed by the meaning of ‘Get Woodworking Week.’  Well, Steve, I’m here to answer your question.

Steve looks confused

At first, Steve thought – perhaps – that Get Woodworking week was some kind of order. “Get Woodworking, or I’ll give you the back of my hand.” Or, maybe an order as voiced in the famous 1975 Disco song by Van McCoy: the Hustle. You know that one… I think the only three words in the song are, “Do the Hustle.”

Disco down!I mean, I can understand you may not want people sitting at tables off the dance floor, watching the disco-frenzied, polyester-wearing skilled dancers strut their stuff, but maybe it’s a good idea to ask for their participation. You know, could you please do the Hustle? Would you like to try the Hustle?

That's heavy stuff, man....Or, perhaps Steve pondered, is it some sort of hyper conscious type of transcendental meditation where you have to hike up a mountain, partake of some mind-altering chemical compound and deeply reflect on woodworking until you, “Get it”, man.

“Yo, bro, after inhaling those heady cedar aromas while sitting naked on the mountaintop under the full moon, I totally get woodworking.”

In many ways, Get Woodworking Week isn’t one of them.. it’s both. After all, the main goal of the week is to find someone who has never done any woodworking, get them into your shop and just have them see what woodworking is all about. Doesn’t matter who it is or how old they are. A parent. A neighbor. A friend. A child.

Spreading the love of woodworking

In that way, it’s a Hustle-like order – stop thinking about woodworking, and try it for once.

Even more important, Get Woodworking Week is also an opportunity for people to understand what makes woodworking such a great hobby to pursue and skill to master. Once they understand how joinery choices affect the look and strength of the project, they will have a new appreciation for what goes into building a quality piece of furniture – and a better appreciation for how much skill it takes to make it happen.

So, mark your calendars for February 2 – 8, and take that week to do something special to help people get woodworking – in both senses of the term.

And, if you plan on writing posts to help spread the word about Get Woodworking Week, be sure to let me know so I can link to them here.


Why do Get Woodworking Week?

Get Woodworking Week 2013

Sure, Get Woodworking Week is over, but this e-mail came in over the weekend and I just had to share. Why hold Get Woodworking Week?  Well, there’s the perfect reason…

John Wolfe - ready to do some work!

Hi Tom,

I just wanted to write you and let you know how much I appreciate your efforts this week. You and everyone who participated in Get Woodworking Week have provided a semi-old man (53), and budding woodworker, with a wealth of information.

So much information, in fact, that it will take me at least several weeks to go through all of it. Why? Because when I click on one of your links, that leads to another link, which leads to another link, etc. It’s absolutely stunning how large the online woodworking community really is!

Because I work nights (11pm-7am), it’s really difficult to get actual shop time in. But what I’m doing right now is reading and studying…I’ve sorted my woodworking bookmarks into different categories and sub-categories so that when I do finally get the time in the shop and need help, I can go to a specific reference and find exactly what I need to know.

Thank you again for the hard work you put into organizing the online community this week. It’s very much appreciated!

– John Wolfe

And, of course, there would be a straggler in the articles. This one came in just under the gun!

I’ll cut him some slack.. he’s out on the Pacific coast!

Get Woodworking Week 2013: Saturday

Get Woodworking Week 2013

Well, gosh, can it be a week already?  I mean, it was just Super Bowl Sunday when we kicked this thing off, trying to get folks off the woodworking sideline and into the game. Now, we are ready to complete the drive and take it in for the touchdown.

Adam gets woodworking

But, before the final gun sound to end the game, we have one more important thing to do… award the winners of our new woodworker prize drawings.  We got quite a few entries, but none was more impressive than the one I got from Adam Wroten.  This NINE year old recently took up woodworking with his dad, and he has built a bunch of projects, including the sword Sir Adam holds in his hands.  Since accurate measurement is critical to woodworking, he’s the winner of the Bora Tools English square and measuring gauge. You go, Adam!

Next up, woodworker John Supica wrote in to tell me about his recent move from needing to purchase concrete tools to his new woodworking addiction.  Also, we had Adam Weil (What’s up with all the Adams?) who also recently took to woodworking, but his entree to the craft came through – of all things – following online woodworking bloggers such as Matt Vanderlist, Wilbur Pan and Marc Spagnuolo.  Who knew we would make a difference?  John and this Adam are both proud recipients of the Bessey Tools clamp packages.  Remember, you can never have enough clamps.

Adam's Crib
Adam’s Crib

And, appropriately enough, we have another Adam- this time, Adam Filbey e-mailed to let me know he began woodworking about a year ago out of necessity – as many of us do.  After his wife brought home their first son, he and his wife were looking for a sturdy and good looking stool for his wife to sit on while bathing their child. Since everything they had seen was of poor quality and plastic, he took matters into his own hands and built his first piece of furniture.  From there, he’s been a busy woodworker, turning out chairs, tables and a crib. Not bad, Adam.  I hope you enjoy the router bit set from Infinity Cutting Tools.

And, here’s to Cub Scout Pack #151 of Long Isand, the proud winners of the Highland Woodworking kids woodworking kits and catapult project sets.  Knowing how the scouts love to work on their Pinewood Derby cars, this one was only a natural. Way to go!

We have even more awesome posts from Get Woodworking Week – as we have had the entire week. Here’s today’s daily dose:

Shannon Rogers from the Renaissance Woodworker did a great video demystifying the Lumberyard. It’s a great watch for those of us who still get confused when we go lumber shopping…

We have another great video here from the ever-hilarious Steve Ramsey over at Woodworking for Mere Mortals.  Sure, Steve was having trouble understanding the whole ‘Get Woodworking’ thing (to answer your question, Steve… yes), but he had no issues getting his message across.  You go, Steve!

Now that the week has wound down, I guess it’s time for me to tell you what I’m doing today … I am headed to a woodworking class over at Infinity Cutting Tools on router basics and more advanced techniques. This leads us to the most important point about Get Woodworking Week – No matter how experienced you may be, no matter how many projects you have under your belt – there is always something new to learn in this great craft.

Never stop learning – or offering to teach others.

Join us all again next year from February 2 – 8 for Get Woodworking Week 2014. Until then, happy sawdust everyone.