Reader Histories

Reader Histories

Last week, Rob asked you to share how you got started on your woodworking journey, and many of you responded! We’ll post a selection this week and some next week. – Editor

“I got started at a young age, learning woodworking skills in a neighbor’s small shop as a teenager. That combined with early drafting work, a short career as a professional model maker and an interest in all woodworking disciplines were useful ingredients that led me to woodworking later in life. I stopped woodworking for a while, then got back into it making toys and arts and crafts from wood. I like to create a wide variety of woodcraft projects ranging from craft fair novelties, wooden toys, scroll-sawn portraits, intarsia, fretwork, ornaments, baskets, boxes, folk art items, puzzles and 3D compound scroll saw items. I’m a member of the Diablo Woodworkers Club in Contra Costa County.” – Stan Caldwell

“I’ve been woodworking since 1963. As a matter of fact, I was in shop class the day JFK was shot. That was the seventh grade. I’ve had some form of a shop ever since. Sometimes just a closet on the side of the house and once, a 2,000-square-foot dream shop. I now have about 500 square feet at my daughter’s house. I’ve made everything from toilet seats for an airplane modification plant to dining tables and rocking chairs. It’s my passion and will be until I can no longer safely work in my shop.” – Joe Oates

“I got into woodworking over 50 years ago when I bought and moved onto a wooden gaff-rigged cutter built in Durban, South Africa, in 1932. She took a lot of work to keep her shipshape. But the first thing you do on a boat is throw away your square and level! Since then I have built our home here on St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands, I continue to work with woods in my home shop. Hard to resist tools, so I have a lot. Woodworking brings me a lot of joy. Love your magazine!” – Rafe Boulon

“My father and grandfather were both in the lumber business. I was blessed to get to spend a lot of time with them in the business. I assume they were expecting me to join them one day, however I talked with my dad and told him I felt called to go to college and prepare to be an industrial arts teacher. He respected my choice, and so I went to Eastern Kentucky University and earned both B.S. and M.A. degrees in industrial education. I taught woodworking at middle school, high school and college level. Upon retirement I continued in my woodworking shop and have been very active in craft shows and fairs. I have also become very interested and involved in reclaiming American chestnut wood.” – Tom Nichols

“I grew up with three uncles and five cousins who were trade carpenters. One uncle and two cousins had a construction company, started in 1947. My uncle would pick me up on Saturday mornings and we would go to the construction sites and do clean-up work to make a few bucks. He would occasionally let me build partition walls and other small pieces. By the time I was 16, I knew enough to frame a house complete with the rough-in wiring and plumbing. Another uncle was a cabinetmaker with a complete shop in his backyard. When I started building things, he told me I would never be any more than a wood butcher. By the way, he was the head of the local carpenter’s union accreditation department, so he would know. But if he were alive, I think I might surprise him with some of my projects.” – Dan F.

‘My interest in woodworking was fired by shop class in 1960. The class all made individual plaques of a horse’s silhouette rearing back and up on his hind legs. Mine hung on the wall at home even when I came home from Vietnam nine years later. I was reminded of how I enjoyed making the horse’s silhouette every time I saw it. When I retired in 2009 I purchased some basic tools and started my woodworking. Thirteen years later, I have a fully equipped wood shop and have built several small candle holders to large pieces of design and build furniture. I love woodworking. I still do the small candle holders. I’ll die with a chisel or hand plane in my hands.” – Bill Self

“I started as a freshman in high school in 1961. Loved it but got away from it during my 20 years Air Force but once I retired in 1986, it was time to start back up again. Even though I’ve moved a few times since retirement, I always found room for a wood shop. I just moved to the north Georgia mountains and was fortunate that my basement was 3/4 finished. It is now my ‘go to place’.” – Gary Mast

“I started because I wanted to build an airplane on a budget. A few small tools, a set of blueprints, and purchasing wood product a little at a time. After several years and trying to also build some things for my house, I realized the airplane was getting in the way. I could spend a week on the airplane and not see much progress, where I could spend a week on a home project and see a beautiful piece of furniture. Eventually the airplane was moved into storage, then at a later date sold. Since then, a couple of moves, and a huge expansion of tools and experience, I am enjoying my shop greatly. As a side note, I eventually was able to make aviation my career and last year retired with almost 40 years, and over 6000 hours.” – Kim Randall

“I built our home when I was in my late 20s, so I knew how to butcher wood but I had a hankerin’ to learn how to finesse it. I retired at age 50 and moved up to a lake in northern Montana where I found a couple of fellows who did high end work. I offered to work one day a week for free if they would let me hang out and learn. They hadn’t ever had anyone else in their shop and weren’t very keen on the idea. It took several months, but I finally wore them down. We became fast friends and I worked with them every Tuesday for 5 years!” – Gary Tague

“I needed something, a hobby I guess, that would allow me to decompress from my management job. I chose woodworking since it also allowed me to make things for my family. Since my first coffee table effort (made from dimensional lumber and glass), I’ve been hooked. I think I’ve attempted nearly everything in the past 45 years. Some successful, some not so much. I’m not so much into hand tools as I am into power tools, but who knows…I have a few years left I think.” – Paul Leenerts

“I think I fell in love with woodworking, especially the lathe, in 9th Grade wood shop (1954). I built a photo darkroom in my basement in college – plywood, flashing metal and 2x4s. Never did get any good at building furniture – and it showed. It has been quite sporadic since because of job changes and locations – until settling in Indianapolis (1995) when I could start reacquiring equipment and putting stuff on wheels. My focus has been mostly with learning various segmented turning approaches while experimenting with various kinds of trees’ branch parts.” – Ned Moore

“I’ve puttered around making things since I was a wee lad that had to take everything apart to see what was inside. Consequently, I had to learn how to fix everything I broke. Not having a lot of money growing up also meant making your toys, e.g., boats, carts, guns, bow and arrow, playhouse/fort, roller coaster. My frugality continues to this day. Why buy it when I can make an acceptable, customized alternative. Now that I’m a bit older I have time to play more and many projects are for fun and secondarily keep me busy.” – Chris Jenkins

“I grew up in southeast Texas, and was in highschool in the early 60’s. Back then, schools offered courses like woodworking. That’s where I discovered woodworking. First project was a bookcase headboard bed. Second year, I made a double dresser to go with it. After college and the Air Force, I decided to get back into it. My first shop was very small with a Craftsman 9 inch table saw and a few hand tools. Finally, I was able to build a larger shop and equip it with some descent tools. Now, I spend way too much time out there (according to my wife).” – Joe Gault

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