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Not sure if this is 'general' of 'off topic' but the moderators can move it if needs be.

Sorin's question prompted me to think about my own 'history' with woodwork as I only really got into it big time later in life - actually when I was laid off during the recession and I had to make some money somehow! I was 45 and hadn't really done anything serious with wood since first year grammar school in 1959 when we had one term of woodwork followed by one term of metalwork. I'd done the usual putting up shelves and assembling flatpack stuff, but no real starting with a piece of wood and creating something.

In 1993 I was unemployed in the USA and there's no hope for Brits in the US consulting scene when there's a recession, neither is there much in the way of unemployment or welfare benefits, so I did a lot of other things. One of them was to take up woodwork because I'd been inspired by Norm Abrahms on NYC and by This Old House (we bought an old New Englander that needed fixing up - badly). Yes, good ol' Norm! Still wish I had his workshop, which was actually only 10 minutes down the road from where we lived in Lexington, MA. Well concealed and you'd never know it was there...

I took a course with a master carpenter in Maryland to learn about power tools and techniques and spent $300 on a table saw (still running to this day - a Delta cabinet model). The first big item I made was a wedding box for my step-daughter's wedding (see the website for pic) and that was it, I was hooked. The techniques came in useful in fixing up the house, and I even set up a little office business making desktops, putting up shelves etc - even made a bit of money!

In the mid 90's I was elected to the Woodworker's Guild in Lexington. I spent a lot of time trying to make joints that you couldn't see, mostly on fancy boxes using different types, and colours, of wood. They all sold, which was very encouraging. :D I've made furniture, trivets, fancy boxes, all sorts of stuff. I've used my skill as a carpenter to rebuild the bedroom wing in our bungalow to make it 3 beds and an en suite instead of 2; I rebuilt the old garages outside and made them into my workshop; now I'm taking some small commissions inbetween my consulting work (I'm a full time management consultant and travel all over the world).

Most recently I've joined the local artists group, Borderlands Artists Consortium, and found this forum. BAC are mostly painters and printmakers, but there has to be room for some 3D art and next year I plan to build pieces to exhibit/sell in their shows. Artistry and functionality in wood...
 

Philly

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Wow!
Brian, nice work! :shock: Looks like you're not an armchair woodworker then! Very impressive. How about some pics of you work?
regards
Philly :D
 
A

Anonymous

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Do I, a Yank, dare stick my head up here? I got into woodworking about 25 years ago because my wife needed more storage space in our kitchen.
We had cabinets on three walls and one wall was vacant. I looked at the existing cabinets and said "sure, I can do that". Actually the originals were very simply constructed and not particularly ornate. About the only woodworking tools I owned at that time were a handsaw, adjustable square, 1/4" power drill Craftsman router and a hammer. I purchased a 10" Craftsman radial saw and dove into the project. Actually it turned out quite well, and the rest, as one says is history. This started me on the slippery slope of tool-buying. I have a rather well fitted-out woodworking shop in my basement and have made cabinets for others as well. I dabble in furniture building and have recently developed an interest in woodturning.
 

ike

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Thiggy,

You're very welcome here as is everybody, (even if you don't talk proper English or spell properly :lol: :lol: )

ike
 

Alf

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thiggy":2cy6je66 said:
Do I, a Yank, dare stick my head up here?
Sure you do, and welcome. Anyway, I see you're a Brummie* :D

Cheers, Alf

*A native of Birmingham, but in England
 

ike

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Hey!... hang on.. I can't either! :shock: Aw, shucks!
 
A

Anonymous

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A Brummie, well I like that. I will try to work on my spelling, but the pronunciation I fear is a lost cause. As long as we continue to use this format perhaps we will be able to communicate adequately. :lol: (By the way, will this spellcheck help me with the Queen's English?)
 

mudman

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thiggy":axpk0wf4 said:
A Brummie, well I like that. I will try to work on my spelling, but the pronunciation I fear is a lost cause. As long as we continue to use this format perhaps we will be able to communicate adequately. :lol: (By the way, will this spellcheck help me with the Queen's English?)
Hi Thiggy,

'fraid not, it seems that the spellchecker lets all variations through :roll:
Try :

color
colour

aluminum
aluminium
 

bg

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Ah, Brian of White House Workshop, how I would like to give up my IT contracting and run a nice little workshop for a modest profit. Trouble is I don’t think there is much of a market in England for a small one man band furniture and fancy box maker (sigh). :cry: I may well give up IT contracting sometime soon and spend some enjoyable time knocking up some furniture but I guess it would be just a hobby. :D Anyway I have some way to go as I’m just getting into WW really an extension of general DIY and being a bit tight with my funds. Well a year back I was quoted £4.5K for a fully laid oak floor in my new loft rooms, and I found I could buy the oak flooring wood for £2K. Now that was an excuse to buy a nice sliding chop saw (nice square cuts ). One year on and the floor was finally finished. (too much work, not enough leisure). And what to do with all the left over oak flooring? By then I had got sky tv and had seen a few Norm’s so I decided to have a go at making a few tables. I read somewhere that a biscuit joint was as strong as mortise and tenon (!?) so I biscuited the legs to the table frame with a number 20 at each rail / leg joint. Surprisingly enough they are still stuck together and one table bears the weight of a couple of large monitors I struggle to lift. All this was a good excuse for a small thicknesses and an even smaller perform planner and my first router. ( the workshop was growing). Now I have to replace some old metal windows. We wanted the Georgian one to match those in the rest of the house. The standard catalogue ones (in both metric and imperial sizes) would not fit, so I asked a local joinery shop to quote. £9k for a bow window of 5 pains, 4 window of 2 pains, and one door. Ouch! So now my workshop (ok my garage) includes a router table, table saw, band saw, two benches and no bloody room left. A bunch of Douglas fir boards lie in my second workshop (ok my dinning room) and I about to start on the windows. I’m really just getting into WW as opposed to ‘got there’. If I get these windows done ( and they do seem horribly complicated ) I may be at the end of the beginning, and then I would love to do a nice oak sideboard. The more I do WW the more I want quality time to devote to it.
 

Noel

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Hi Bernard, interesting tale. I'd be interested, as perhaps others would be, to hear more on the window project. Let us know how thing progress, maybe a few pictures?

Noel
 

Philly

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Nice one BG
A legit way to buy new gear AND get into ww'ing.
Keep up the good work and please, post pics!
regards
Philly :D
 
A

Anonymous

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Well.....

I started out as an electronics design engineer and part of our training involved a year in various manufacturing departments including the machine shop. Later, I studied for a Mechatronics degree and became a multi-disiplinery design engineer.
Well, I loved motorcylces in my teens and early 20s and so decided to use my new found skills to make better frames than those offered by the manufacturers (this is the 80's where bendy frames were de rigour). I had Colchester lathe, drill stand, bench, gas welding bottles, and many grinders and played for years.
Redundancy resulted in the sale of all kit in able to feed family and keep roof where it should be :(

My dad was a carpenter (retired) and cabinet maker and I helped him during school holidays many years ago - putting up fences and first/secodn fit in houses- I always enjoyed playing with wood.

So, there I was many years later, back in employment as a design engineer and subsequently lecturer (both more cerebral than practical), and itching for something to do of a more manually creative nature.

Bikes have come on somewhat in the intervening years with handling that I used to dream of, and so I could see no point in building my own any more; and didn't really want to play with metal any more apart from making odd bits of silver jewellery now and a again (still do).

Around this time, I saw a program called...........

Yep, you guessed it. New Yankee Workshop.

Eureka!!! I would play with wood - engineering but much easier and faster than steel!! :D

I started with cheap power tools. Moved to mid range power tools and made lots of things + did a lot of work around the house building new staircase, studded walls, replacing doors and architrave and skiritng etc.

I then realised that I ddin't really enjoy this DIY sort of woodwork and actually wanted to make furniture and boxes etc., I also started to convert away from power tools towards hand tools - just like when I used to help dad :)

Over the last 2-3 years I have learnt to tune planes (more bloody metal work!) flatten chisels and cut straight lines with a hand saw :) I love cutting dovetails by hand and might try a hidden one in 50 years or so when skills are up to it
I discovered this forum and LN planes and the rest is, as they say, history.

Hope you've enjoyed my little story :wink:

Cheers

Tony

PS For me the best woodworking experience I've had is finding this forum.
 

ike

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Well, here's my story (I think the failures have roughly balanced out the successes. I first got interested in woodwork when I started secondary school. Back then the school had extensive and well-equipped workshops for metalwork and woodwork as it was originally built as a technical school.
Well, My first woodwork teacher was inspirational, a kind, gentle old man (he must have been knocking 70) - Mr White aka "Snowy" to us little snotters! He was passionate about woodwork but his main hobby was making clocks - the mechanisms as well as the cases. So from then I was hooked on woodwork although I never took it up as a trade. I then did a mechanical engineering apprenticeship and qualified as a Turner, Heavy Plate Fabricator and in Jig and Tool Design. Redundancy shifted me to engineering inspection on sub-sea oil wellheads for the North Sea fields. Redundancy again (North Sea oil had moved from development into production phase by the early '80's) forced a complete rethink. So I became self-employed for a few years building, metal fabrication, commercial vehicle mechanics, even dry stone walling, and carpentry rather than furniture making. Another rethink and I joined VSO and was sent to a remote corner of Belize in Central America for 2 years, as a metalwork teacher in a secondary college in a town called Punta Gorda. 2 years in the Caribbean turned into 6 years, during which I met my wife to be, started a family and built my own house. I taught metalwork, then took over woodwork (when I started to get into furniture making (all solid mahogany, rosewood and other lovely tropical timber straight from the sawmill), then developed a building construction course from scratch. Half the challenge was teaching and half was developing the facilities, so I also spent 2 years getting funding from the UK and Canada to completely re-equip the workshops from nothing, and I mean literally nothing but a few rusty files and broken Chinese hand planes) Those 6 years were in retrospect unquestionably best so far of my life but the endless challenge of it all burned me out in the end. Back to Blighty in '92 and down to earth with a big bump at the bottom of the recession, so unmployed for about a year. So, retrained in CAD and became a design draughtsman once again. I have done similar work - Engineering and Product Design on and off since. Although my main job is as a Technical Author is producing instruction manuals for the electronics company where I have been for the last 9 years (about 6 too long I think!). Oh, and in between I did the OU and got a BSc - mainly Materials Science and Environmental Engineering. I've been utterly broke, then poor, then just keeping above water, and now I can afford a modest (very modest) but comfortable existence. I have two sons' (one very nearly bigger than me now and learning to drive / sharking etc etc), the very luvverly missus and something I wanted for quite a while - my own (albeit modest), workshop. I don't get a lot of time to indulge in the finer art of woodworking much, but do get occasional commissions for furniture, built-ins, and a special line of circular and gothic arch frames for stained glass panels (my sister is a Stained Glass maker and Sculptor). Apart from the odd indulgence, a rule I stick to is that my tool aquirring habits have to be self-financing from paid carpentry jobs, anything from Victorian panelled doors to roofing. When I think back to my time in Belize, then, I thought I knew most of it. Now, I know how little I really knew, and reading this forum, how much I still don't know.

....zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz....HEY!, WAKE UP! I've finished :roll: .

Ike
 
A

Anonymous

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Norm has a lot to answer for! At least he knocks Handy Andy into a cocked hat. I guess MDF does have its place - and Norm used it once if I recall - on kitchen cabinets(?)

I too would love to see bg's window project as I just made 2 windows for my stepson and wife who are refurbishing a house in Shepherd's Bush. Wide, thin, designed to go above eyelevel in a bathroom, not opening. Very simple - I just hope they are watertight! At least the windows defined the wall, which is still to be built, which made the job even easier. Wish they were all like that!

Off to the Big Apple in a week or so for more consulting. Could be worse - it could be the middle of nowhere! Have to down tools for a while, but should be building again by Christmas... :D
 

johnelliott

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Years ago I became fascinated by electric guitars. I made one at school, assembled some others from bought parts, then spent several years trying to find ways of making guitar nects without using wood! I learned about glass fibre and vacuum impregnation etc etc. Eventually I learned that the easiest way to make guitar necks, and bodies, was to use wood.
I bought a cheap bandsaw and a small router, then a bigger router which I made into an overhead (pin) router. I developed some templates and routing techniques, taught myself how to fret a guitar, all about the electrics etc.
After a while I started to get quite good at it, and started selling necks, bodies and complete guitars. I also found myself doing a lot of guitar repairs.
I started in the guitar business full time, became almost sucessful business wise, and made some excellent stuff, better IMHO than even the best of factory made stuff, although not so highly decorated.
At long last I learned the thing about guitar making that I hadn't realised before-- guitar players don't have any money!!!!!!, and even if they do, they aren't going to spend it on a english guitar.
I got out of the guitar business altogether and did other stuff, but retained an interest in wood working. Eventually I decided to give full time woodworking a go and set up as a furniture maker. Things didn't go well, and I was really struggling by the time somebody asked me to make them a kitchen.
Since then I have'nt looked back, and have always had a queue. Don't get so much fun out of working wood as I used to, but I can't imagine doing anything else for a living
John
 

Shady

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I was in the Army: SWMBO was an 'army brat' (ie child of another soldier), who was fed up with 'her majesty's' furniture, and put her foot down on return from honeymoon: no way was our marital bed being provided by the state... :roll:

So I, coming from a miserly family, went out, grumbling, to local furniture stores, and fell over when I looked at the prices being asked for obvious rubbish... Bought some chisels and saws instead, and hand built our bed out of pine. 3 boys later, (eldest now 13), I've just dismantled it, not because it fell apart, but because we bought a new mattress for my bad back - and it's too big. So I'm about to build our second bed: this time it'll be oak and cherry, and I will do a better job on hand cut 1" wide by 4" long mortises...
 
A

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hmm, ok, I'm bored at work, so I'll tell my tale. A bit of it, anyway...

Woodwork at school was dire - the teacher new nothing, and cared even less; I still bear the scars on my hands of using tenon saws incorrectly, with no-one there to point me in the right directions...and forget planes! (irons marginally blunter than the spoon i used for my morning cornflakes)

Anyway, time passed - i was an academic (and sometimes pretend to still be one), and ended up at university, luckily sponsored by BT. For the duration of my 1st year's summer holiday, the BT sponsored students spent their time at BT Fulcrum in Birmingham (yes Thiggie, Brummie, in England!) learning drawing office practice and a few weeks metal working. I loved the metal working, and was actually pretty good at it; even now, 18 years later, my cantilever tool box is the one I made myself way back then - including hand made rivets!

More time passed, university was over, and I entered the IT industry, which I'm not going to complain about - it's paid my mortgage for the past 15 years - although I would much prefer an 'alternative' lifestyle. Houses got progressively bigger, and kids happened. When we moved to the current abode, I had space for a workshop (ok garage), and the need to do DIY...so I bought some tools - cheapo wickes router, cheap chisels, a DW radial arm saw, modern planes and so on...My daughter sleeps in a bed I made, and her books are on an elephant shaped book case I also made. My son's toys are stored on shelving units I knocked into shape - the handcut dovetails are still holding strong, 18 months later!

These days, people at work ask me to make things for them (currently on order, 2 display cabinets for a medal collection), and I've just finished a picture frame for a friend; I don't get to do a huge amount of woodworking, because of the hours I put in at work (not to mention 3 hours a day commuting!) - I get grief if I dive off into the garage at weekends to play, unless of course it's something that's been requested by the grief-giver! I am though rapidly sliding down the slippery slope, and using power tools less and less - a huge fan of japanese saws and chisels, and have recently aquired my first LN plane.

My biggest problem with wood working is that I'm incredibly impatient, and tend to rush things; the result - generally sloppy joints and the use of fillers. Or mistakes, resulting in thrown away wood. I know the fault, and sometimes even manage to curb myself, and when that happens the results are actually pretty good, though I confess to being overawed by some of the pictures you guys post sometimes!

Oh, and yes, Norm did play a part in my conversion to wood...but I now can't watch him - he annoys me, with his infinite access to exotic machinery to do all sorts of things...and also the use of inches drives me nuts! Anton Fitzpatrick was, I think, more inspirational for me (wood works, I think was the title of his series on H&L)

With a house move imminent, and a bigger worksh...garage looming, I think it'll be time for a bandsaw and a P/T and more LNs...and then there'll be no stopping me (apart from the long hours at work and the 3 hours a day commute, of course)
 

Chris Knight

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I somehow missed this thread in my catch up after the hols - there are some very interesting stories here!

Ike, I don't know if this picture reminds you of somewhere but it's boat building on Half Moon Cay in Belize (British Honduras as it was then in 1966).



I had a marvellous year there supposedly working - looking for oil but spending as much time as possible scuba diving and fishing for Marlin and Sailfish. Travelling around the world in the oil industry and moving every few years gave me lots of practice in putting up shelves and pictures but not much else, especially if it required a workshop. I sublimated my desire to make things with my hands to making RC aircraft models and thanks to a small portable metalworking lathe (a Cowells), I was able to indulge my first love of metal working to a degree. I had a favourite uncle who had let me have the run of his extensive workshop once I was about 14 years old (I don't think I ever abused the trust but it boggles my mind these days thinking of my own grandchildren - now approaching that age - of being allowed the same freedom.) and I recall making endless cannons out of various metals and firing these with black powder and other more adventurous propellants. Some were pretty and some were functional. The biggest and most powerful would fire a shell at around 6000 fps and penetrate targets of mild steel with ease.

Having survived these experiences but also having been infected with the urge constantly to be making things, it was a natural to set up a workshop when I returned to the UK and was living in one place and able to think about stuff other than YABS (yet another bookshelf). This started out as a combined wood/metal shop but has rapidly focused on wood and in the ten years or so that I have been doing this my interests have encompassed almost all of woodworking to the extent that my major problems are now about where I can put the stuff I want to make.

I have made stuff for friends and family but I am not looking to go commercial although I think I could possibly do so in a limited way but I suspect that working to deadlines would take a lot of the fun away that I get out of woodworking at present. A natural love of power tools gave way to handtools and now, a long way down that slippery slope, that in turn seems to have led quite naturally to woodcarving on which I am spending quite a bit of time these days. It is still a thrill however to help out a friend as I have been doing recently, who needed a radiator surround cum seat/bench and to make some close fitting M/Ts and dowel joints to do the job in what seems to her to be no time at all.
 
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