Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Hello Mother Earth!

Lots of traffic from Mother Earth News today, which threw me for a loop, until I saw that Lloyd Khan had reposted a letter I sent him.  It wasn't written as a standalone blog post, and is not all that clear upon re-reading, so let me welcome all of you with a little summary of what this is about:

Woodworking has interested me since I first encountered it as a kid.  My grandfather and great uncle both had awesome shops.  My father had the interest, but we never had a good shop space available.  I'd mostly shelved my interest or reduced it to reading and watching Roy Underhill until we moved out to Coastal Oregon and finally had some space available in an outbuilding.

I then started taking my shop design seriously, and noticed a common phenomenon: the more complex your tools are, the more supporting accessories you need, the more problems need solutions (noise, dust collection, etc) and the snowball rapidly gets out of control.  There were two pivotal moments for me: the first was when thinking out loud about jointers (the machine) to a friend, he said "why not spend that money on a jointer plane (the hand tool) instead?" and the second was an episode of The Woodwright's Shop, which is referenced in Lloyd's blog post . You can view that episode on the PBS site.  I started to read all I could by Roy Underhill and Chris Schwarz, and the rest is history.  Literally.  I started reading woodworking history.  Its a slippery slope, like all good things.

To save you a lot of trouble, here's my digest:  As the Industrial Revolution gave way to the Great Depression, and then the Great Rebuilding of the post WWII era, people forgot how to make items from wood without electric tools.  There have always been some old timers, duck decoy carvers, traditional chairmakers, and museum restoration experts, but much of the common knowledge is gone forever.  It seems to have reached a low spot in the 80s and 90s, but for a complex mix of reasons, there has been a revival.  Old tools that were literally a dime a dozen are now quite hard to come by.  Collectors and users have both sucked the market dry.  There is a thriving business now for artisinal toolmakers who make reproductions of historically accurate tools or (to my thinking, even better) improvements on them.

This is where I come in.  I wanted to be part of this, and I wanted to make sure that this craft remains possible for my daughter in case she decides it's something more than quaint.  I'd also like to take full advantage of the fact that my family lives in a forest, and do something with the wood which loggers leave behind as waste.  These all conspired to hatch the Joiner's Apprentice experience, which is probably best understood by looking at my Kickstarter project page.

Needless to say, the fundraising went very well, and I have been having a blast digging in and working on the projects that Thomas the Apprentice did in 1839.  I've had lots of surprises, difficulties, epiphanies, and revelations.  I look forward to more of all.  This blog will hopefully convey the best and worst of these.

So thanks for taking a look, and if you have any questions or comments, please let me know.  I will talk endlessly about this stuff to all who are interested, but am not used to meeting people who are.

With that, I remain your loyal apprentice.



  1. visitor from ran prieur's site ranprieur.com, sounds lieka great blog, if i had only time to read one of these woodworking blogs, as serious beginner, where should i start?

  2. It really depends what you are after: inspiration, instruction, history? One of my favorites are the videos at http://www.logancabinetshoppe.com/podcast.html. Bob steps through basic and advanced techniques in a way that is very easy to follow, and he has a great sense of simplicity. He tells you how to get away by doing a lot with very little, in a tiny workshop, while remaining historically accurate and almost entirely hand-powered. He doesn't update often, but I would probably suggest digging through his archives for a great intro to the craft.

  3. I'd second logancabinetshoppe. Bob shows things in a way that makes sense for a hand tool woodworker. And *seeing* the videos can make a big difference compared to just reading about it. I've learned more taking one or two classes than in years of forum and blog reading, and more from seeing techniques than anything else.

  4. thanks! i've read so much inspiring things, doing is what i would love to do lol, the only thing stopping me from doing really is understanding how i'm going to pay for tools and supplies! D

    will check out the website!

  5. elhnad: give this a read



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