The Woodworker Within

Article - September 22, 2008

I always enjoy hearing stories about how people get into woodworking. Was it mom and dad? Maybe grandpa? Or perhaps is was your old grumpy shop teacher? For me, it was growing up with a very handy step-father. We did a number of projects around the house and I frequently built projects of my own. Each project was promptly followed by a stern talking-to for not putting the tools back where I found them. As a kid, the most substantial “project” I made was a small wooden box that I eventually buried in my backyard so that I could hide my private treasures. What is it with kids and their need to have private stashes of stuff anyway?!?! So, what did I put in my secret box? A mail-order catalog with several pages dedicated to the latest GI Joe toys. To this day, I have no idea why I felt the need to hide that.

Years later when I was in college, my friends and I took up a wonderful hobby: destroying our hearing with loud music in our vehicles. So one of my first ever plywood projects was a custom speaker box for my pickup. Unfortunately, I have no pictures of it. But I do have a few shots of what could honestly be my first legitimate attempt at furniture. I was probably in my sophomore year of college, enjoying an eclectic mix of interests including lab work, girls, drumming, tattoos, piercings, and oddly enough….reptiles. I couldn’t afford a fancy commercial enclosure, so I set out on a quest to build my own. I went to Home Depot, picked up some melamine, a few furring strips, Plexiglas, and some basic hardware. I used a hand saw miter box to cut the miters and built the frame using finish nails. cage02Each enclosure had its own heat lamp and two ventilation inserts on the sides. The enclosure actually made the move to California with me a few years later, but was quickly replaced by my very generous roommate turned girlfriend turned wife, Nicole. Sadly, it eventually wound up in the apartment complex dumpster. These two low resolution pics are all that remain of the earliest signs that a woodworker lied within. I can distinctly remember thinking to myself at the time, “Why the heck CAN’T I build that?!?!”. And I like to think that the same mindset is what keeps me rolling today. I have no business being a woodworker, let alone making instructional videos on the internet!! I’m trained to work in a lab, not a wood shop! But apparently, the woodworker within won the battle for control over the direction of my life. And all I can say is thank goodness it did!

So, with that out of the way, I wanna hear from you guys about your early woodworking days. Who were you influenced by? When did you realize that a woodworker lay within? I know many of you are currently at the beginning of your woodworking journey, and I want to hear your stories too.