I’ve heard people say that woodworking is an expensive hobby. Right now, I’d say yes and no to that suggestion as I think most woodworking enthusiasts would. It is expensive if you believe that you require all the very best of equipment, a vast library of books, and a bunch of one week intensive classes. It is expensive if you can’t decide what interests you the most as your starting point. It is expensive if you spend most of your life investigating how to use more refined methods and acquiring more optimum tools. If the latter is your path, then welcome woodworking into your life as something more important and then see how it fits for you not as hobbyist or weekend warrior, but as an artisan woodworker. That is where I’m at in terms of desiring to replicate antiques and yet embracing Woodcarving as a way to individualize my work.
If you do enough research to build a tool box, bookcases, boxes for storage, or opt to build an end table or coffee table you can find it affordable cost wise. The challenge is sorting through the information and finding a plan that works for you. The challenge is to assemble a basic set of tools through a diligent search of new and used equipment and being smart about their cost. It’s a passion where asking the right questions makes the difference. Can a used hand plane with perhaps a new plane iron give satisfactory results when compared with a more expensive new one? It can, if you educate yourself on the old hand planes and take the time to find one in acceptable condition. If you get inspired you can even create a wooden plane that will produce great results, provided you make the investment to learn how. We are truly blessed that the information is out there online and in print.
I’ll be a dinosaur here. During my Junior High and High School years, I learned a lot in what was called industrial arts/woodworking classes. Whatever I learned from my dad who was a handyman at home, I went the next level at school. Back in the late 60’s and early 70’s we weren’t allowed to build anything in school without drawing up a plan. The approved drawing gave us access to the lumber rack of oak, maple, poplar, cherry, walnut, and Honduras mahogany.
You may not have had access to a Woodworking class in school. Over the years litigation concerns drove many public schools to sell off equipment and turn shop classes into technology classes with significantly reduced use of machines. While those changes have occurred, there has been a great interest in antique furniture and reproducing those pieces. Building Shaker tables, chairs, and cabinets, Country furniture, Windsor chairs, and Arts and Crafts furniture have all been taught in through magazines, books, and classes. Woodworking shows have occurred around the country for years that bring together artists, woodworking instructors, and suppliers from around the country. Some suppliers of specialty woodworking tools often have shows or an open house to encourage people to come and check out their products.
Not only that but many famous woodworkers got their start from studying old furniture and doing demonstrations at historic sites. It proves that if you fall in love with furniture from a specific time period and spend enough time in museums, you get a following of those who appreciate reproductions of antique pieces. Part of my path in woodworking was blessed by giving demonstrations at historic sites in Upstate New York, Ohio, and now North Dakota.
There is also another important aspect to woodworking and Woodcarving, community has always been an important part of learning in the arts. I’ve lived in a bunch of places over the years and it is always wonderful to build friendships with other woodworkers. Some may be immensely talented and well paid too, but since there are so many applications it doesn’t matter. You don’t have to travel extensively because interested woodworkers might be in your congregation or in your community. If you do have to drive, it might be just a state away to find a Woodworking club or a Woodworking class. What matters is that woodworking can be either an interest or an occupation depending on the doors it opens in our lives. I continue to be amazed at the commitment clients can have to owning pieces of furniture that are diligent copies of antiques.
But I’m also amazed at how people of different abilities, can still express a sense of wonder at seeing how a simple box can be made of pine boards using hand tools. I get to demonstrate woodworking using hand tools and my audiences include youth and adults at historic sites as well as through an organization that helps the developmentally disadvantaged. They all remind me of the blessings we as woodworkers have in acquiring, tuning, and using old tools. How fortunate to own tools that are 100s of years old and yet see them complete some task in our hands. I don’t know about you, but I find that very neat as an experience and not surprisingly contagious to others.
Blessings on your woodworking and creative endeavors!