Why You Do Woodworking
One of the commenters on our last eZine was reminiscing about how and why he got into woodworking – and we posed the question to you. Here’s what you told us about why you do woodworking. – Editor
“My first attempt at doing anything with wood was when I was 64 years old. Facing retirement, I knew I had to find something that would fill the hours I would have available. Driving down one of our main roads, I spotted a sign that proudly proclaimed ‘Woodworking machines on Sale.’ I stopped, went inside and walked out an hour or so later having bought a table saw, a router table, a band saw and a disk sander. When these were delivered a week later, I set them up in my garage and, over the next week or two, in my spare time as I was still working, I made two small side tables.
“I was then inspired by two programs on TV: David Marks in WoodWorks and another one on making guitars that was being aired at the time. I now consider myself an intermediate standard woodworker and have made a number of guitars, a violin and numerous tables and cabinets. For some, I have won prizes and some, I hide away far from the view of any visitors.
“I took up woodworking on a whim and have turned it into my new passion. My wife calls it my ‘mistress.’ It is a great pastime and I would not swap it for anything!” – Steve Maritz
“I was in my late 20s when I started. I was terrible. But I kept at it and found that woodworking made me happy. A shop can be a fortress of solitude when you want to be away from everything, or a fun-filled place teaching others the joys of woodworking. My wife is a travel nurse, so we have two of just about everything in tools so I can rent a place to play, er I mean work, in wherever we are. Woodworking keeps me sane. I love it.” – Dave Gandy
“I am a retired business executive who has ‘dabbled’ with woodworking for years, but had neither the time nor a dedicated place to do it. Shortly prior to retiring, I built a 22′ x 26′ workshop, never realizing just how much time I would find myself spending in it. I absolutely love the solitude that I am able to enjoy there with a hot cup of coffee, the smell of fresh sawn or fresh planed wood and the sounds of classical music as I work on my latest project, of which there is never a shortage. Woodworking gives me a way to express my ‘artsy’ side through designing and building furniture for my kids and grandkids, and making ‘wood art’ on my lathe. I believe that the things I make will become family heirlooms that will last well beyond my lifetime, which is quite heartwarming. Each piece (either furniture or lathe work) is signed and dated, plus having the name of the person for whom it was made. I can’t imagine retirement without my woodshop!” – Calvin Shaw
“Working with the hands is a great break from working with the mind (which is what I spend most of my time doing). And progress toward a goal is a lot more visible in woodworking than when pushing bits around in a computer.” – Joseph Kesselman
An Extra Mile for Beauty
Also in the last issue, Rob asked if you take extra steps in your woodworking simply for the sake of beauty. Here’s what you had to say about that. – Editor
“Yes, I do take extra time for a better finish. I also go out of my way to get the better or extraordinary wood for projects. Although I live in Tennessee, if I am planning a project from red oak, walnut, or cherry, I prefer to purchase this from a sawmill in Ohio, close to where I lived 20 or so years ago. (Yes, I have faced up to the fact that I am old, 70 to be exact.)
“I have made a few trips to St. Louis, 350 miles away, just to purchase a better piece of cocobolo. I wanted a live edge with sapwood and heartwood for tables requested by my daughters. I also have the problem of purchasing a great looking board when I find it. I have several of these in my attic waiting for a project.
“Do I sand more? Absolutely. Some people have a dislike for this process, but why go to the trouble to make something out of extraordinary wood if you are not going to do an extraordinary job of finishing it? I actually don’t mind it. This involves sanding to at least 320-grit.
“When it comes to finishing, I go the extra steps of wet sanding, 800-grit after the first coat, 1,000-grit between coats and 1,200 before applying the final wax. This includes 3-4 coats on the inside, then, depending upon the project, 4-10 coats of wipe-on poly. Then another wet sanding and a final coat of paste wax to finish it off. This will give it the velvet feel that I have never found on purchased furniture. I usually spend at least a full week on just the finish.” – John Schelby
“I admire all craftsmen who have pursued the crafts to the nth degree.” – Paul Pickett
He Votes for Rasps Over Floats
Finally, one our questions in last issue’s Q&A section dealt with the difference between floats and rasps. In this reader’s experience, floats aren’t for woodworking. – Editor
“I inherited several floats from my dad. He was a toolmaker by trade. I didn’t know what they were, so I looked it up. As far as I know, floats were used extensively for trimming babbet bearing surfaces. My dad never worked in wood, but he did pour and work bearing surfaces during his career. I have tried using the floats on wood but with little success.” – Paul Eriksen