What I Learned (in Woodworking) Over the Past 15 Years

In last week’s editorial, Rob spent some time reminiscing, in this 15th year of the Woodworker’s Journal eZine, about what he’s learned in woodworking in the past 15 years – and he asked readers to share your lessons learned, as well.

For some, the woodworking lessons learned in that decade and a half encompass nearly everything they know about woodworking. – Editor

“In 2000, I was 11 years old. So, what have I learned since then? Let’s see … How to use a power drill. How to use a square. How to turn on the band saw instead of pulling the belt. To sand with the grain. To have good ventilation when finishing projects.  In short, I’m still very much an amateur in woodworking, but I think I’ve come a long way since 2000. That’s an encouraging realization.  Hopefully the next fifteen years will be as productive.” -Amy Henrie Gillett

“I was six years into what would turn out to be a 14-year plod to a Ph.D., just starting a second career after retiring from the military, and still eight years out from taking up woodworking as a serious enterprise. Once I got all that academic silliness out of my system, I wanted to do something — anything — with my hands, and it just so happened that the local community center had both a woodshop and a wonderful couple of guys running it. I’ve since taken just about every class they’ve offered — basic hand tools, joinery, inlay, and the like — and have set up shop, literally, in a 13×13 basement space all my own. The senior shop manager has since moved to Williamsburg to become one of their puffy-shirted carpenters, by the way. Now, with two grandsons in need of toys and their family in need of furniture, Pop Pop has become the go-to guy for ‘stuff.’” – Dan Else

Some updated their tools and technology. – Editor

“I don’t keep records of my activity, so I have to shoot from the hip, as it were. I can tell you for sure that sometime near that date I acquired my Legacy Ornamental Mill and have made some things with it that are, for me, new and unusual. Within that timeframe, I have also started using my CarveWright machine, and that brought me into a whole new world of woodworking technology. Another thing is SketchUp. Although I’m not an expert with SketchUp, I almost never start cutting wood until after I have modeled the project in 3D. So that’s a few of the things I now do that I didn’t before the millennium.” – Don Butler

“It doesn’t seem like 15 years. As a former engineer, I draw everything using a CAD program. (Turbo CAD) The most important thing that I’ve learned in the shop is ‘Do Not Make Changes on the Fly.’ If something is not right, go back to the CAD program and figure out why.” – Rich Flynn

And some didn’t. – Editor

“I would say the biggest lesson I learned is that you don’t need a shop full of power tools to be an accomplished woodworker. Thanks for many great editions of both the magazine and the newsletter.” –  Tom Fink

And some honed their skills in specific techniques, found new woods to love, and new projects to build. – Editor

“I am mostly a woodturner, and what I have learned over the past 15 years is better  sharpening. I have both a slow speed grinder and a wet wheel sharpener, and use the jigs that came with the wet wheel sharpener.” – James Yarbrough

“In the last 15 years, I feel I have become more competent in all phases of woodworking (except scrolling – I don’t do that). I took up turning, and have become primarily a turner. It’s habit-forming! I’ve gone from beginner to reasonably proficient, and even managed to sell some of my work to support my habit. It’s less than a profession and more than a hobby – its what I do.” – Barry Saltsberg

“Prior to moving to Texas in 2003, I had just started to learn to turn pens on a lathe and all my joinery projects involved oak, mahogany or walnut. Since then, however, I’ve come under the spell of Texas mesquite woodworking, which is like almost nothing else. Now I work almost exclusively in mesquite, and of course I’m a warped individual because of it! I do still turn practically anything I can get my hands on, but that also includes a large amount of mesquite. Regrets? None, although everything in my shop and most of my work clothes have either a fine layer of mesquite dust (it’s EXTREMELY fine) or brown stains from mesquite and epoxy, an essential ingredient in mesquite woodworking.” – E. J. Eiteljorge

“To tell you the truth, the things I learned were sorta backwards to the way most woodworkers ‘wood’ think (pun intended). I have so many hobbies I just couldn’t get my head around ‘learning’ how to do dovetails, mortise-and-tenon joints, and biscuit miter joint thingies. Sooo, I practiced till I was blue in the face to make REALLY clean, glued and screwed butt joints, with hidden screw holes filled with plugs. Since most of my projects revolve around storage units for my other hobbies, and not fancy furniture, I wasn’t worried about them lasting a millennium. To that end, I have learned how to drill the perfect countersunk, counterbored hole, and how to apply the right amount of glue and use clamps properly. I know this sounds mundane and all, but when you build model kits, LED circuit gadgets, airbrush space scenic, paint acrylic plaster figurines, yadda, yadda, yadda, perfecting a woodworking technique that gives me satisfaction and a nice piece, well, you learn to accept it as a ‘lesson learned’!” – Laurie Taite

“New things I have learned and got, like you, very reasonable at are shepherd’s crooks. I sometimes use wood for the handles, but mostly water buffalo horn and ram’s (domestic sheep) horn. Recently I bought a Record Power band saw and have taken to making band saw boxes of various designs. In the process, I have started to learn all about finishing projects  — something I have never been really good at —  and there are so many different ways to finish pieces it is mind-blowing. I also acquired a load of pallets and, from them, I have learned to make stools. My wife paints them (I cannot be bothered), and she does it to her taste. Mine would be rubbish, according to the boss.” – John Hope

Posted in: