Saturday, November 27, 2010

Retrospective On Woodworking

It's been about 6 months since I started woodworking and now it is time to take a serious look at where I want this hobby to take me. At the start, I was taking it very casually but over the past two months I've been testing myself more seriously to see how much I would enjoy doing it. I took a woodworking class and then started on a much more ambitious project of building a walnut/maple computer desk starting with rough milled lumber and taking it all the way to completion. The process has taught me a lot about woodworking, how I work and how I want to work in the future.

When I started, I researched a lot on how other woodworkers' work flow, tools, and techniques. One of the things I realized is that it is really important to understand yourself and how you work. Imitating others is a good start point, but pretty quickly I found that I work better in certain ways then others. For example, in building the workbench I researched what are important attributes for it based on other people's experience, but when I started to use the bench myself, I realize that I do things in certain ways that made me further modify the workbench to be more aligned with my workflow.

Similarly with buying tools, it's easy to pick up "tools you need for woodworking" lists from hundreds of sources and then spend $20k buying everything, but the result is likely that even though those tools are all very useful you might end up not using many of them at all because that's not your work style. One list might suggest a jack plane, but what if you discover that you're more a power tool guy? Ultimately, I found it best to follow the path of "buy it when you need it", but I fully sympathize the lure of wanting to buy those neat tools regardless of need.

Initially, I really didn't experience any frustration with woodworking since my projects were pretty basic. I had to tackle a hard project so I can experience the negative side of things in order to decide whether I like the hobby. I can honestly say that I enjoy woodworking, but don't like to be doing it under time pressure.

I love the feeling of coming up with an idea and being able to go to the garage and try it out instead of keeping it inside until I can find time to go to the shop. I don't like the saw dusts and messiness of the garage. I do like a mixture of hand tools and power tools, and more then anything else I like the feeling of being able to build something for my family.

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