Much can be accomplished with saw, hammer and rule, and the third of these even is not essential.
Bernard Jones, The Complete Woodworker
A recent posting on The Offcut about how many tools a person should have in their tool box has given me reason to mull over my career as a carpenter. When I was a full-time framing and finish carpenter I had close to $5000 worth of power and hand tools in the back of my ’84 Chevy pickup truck. The tools I used were tough, dependable and increased my efficiency-in the world of construction making money for the contractor was all that mattered. It was hard, brutal work, I remember the physical and verbal abuse I had to endure on the job site from my supervisor, co-workers and contractor. I put up with it because I wanted to be a carpenter and I became a cracker jack one, but when I finally did walk away from that life I was very happy. The historic preservation carpenter job I have now is very laid back, there isn’t any production work to speak of and I don’t have to supply my own tools.
If you love woodworking and love what you make you are on the right course. Be passionate about it. If you are just starting out in woodworking and are not sure what it is that you want to make, then by all means sample, sample, sample many different things, don’t be afraid to try something new. After a while you will figure out what it is you want to focus on. I grew up with traditional woodworking, it fascinated me so much that I had to explore as much of it as humanly possible. Seven, eight years ago, though, I realized that I wanted to focus on guitar making, which right now for me means just making and selling guitars.
Here is some advice I always give to beginning to intermediate woodworkers-don’t spend all your time making tools and tool chests, unless that is what you want to do and make! I know that many wood working magazines today tend to push tool, work bench and tool chest making, that doesn’t mean that you have to make those things all the time. If you want to make copies of Stickley furniture, then make copies Stickley furniture. The tools are there to help you make that chair, cabinet, violin, etc., which is the whole point of woodworking! You need to be your own influence! Read the great classic how-to woodworking books by Moxon, Asher, Nicholson, Ellis, Hayward, Jones, Hasluck and Underhill, those authors show the tried and true methods that have been passed down since the days of cruck house construction. Learn from the masters first, then go look at the stuff published by current and trendy woodworking magazines.
Some more advice-learn how to use hand tools before you learn how to use power tools. I found out that no beginning woodworker wants to hear that. No one wants to learn how to draw first, they all want to paint that masterpiece first thing.
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