I suspect it also has something to do with what another poster alluded
to - with both IT work and programming, you never have anything
tangible. I moved from a network admin/IT background to programming
because I was tired of "policeman syndrome". (bust your keister
keeping everything on an even keel, and when you don't anticipate
EVERYthing it hits the fan because you just should have been more
omnicient... IE, the only time folks notice you is when something
goes wrong) I thought that having an actual _project_ to work on with
an _end_ and _results_ would be much more satisfying. Ha! Out of
five projects in four years, ONE of them actually went to completion.
All the rest had either the external partner fail to deliver and/or
management pull the plug to "reallocate resources".
Some time in there I purchased a TS to start doing a few things on the
new house. After all, grandpa had been a
handyman/woodworker/carpenter by necessity and some of my fondest
memories of him were spending time in the shop smelling the sawdust.
Finishing my first project - a hastily conceived glider rocker for my
two-year-old gave me a heretofore untold measure of satisfaction.
(compliments to the effect of "you MADE that?!!" from friends and
relatives didn't hurt either) A second project in a "little shop that
could mark II" ( http://www.wood-workers.com/users/adb/ ) still isn't
finished, but it elicited similar remarks and (even more appealing)
proof to the SWMBO that I did have the ability to make something that
Between then and now I've left one job, moved across state lines,
lived with in-laws, found another job, sold and bought a house, and
actually have a shop now. (10x16 but it's MINE!!) Haven't had much
time to do anything other than turn around. (oh yeah, and baby #3 due
in october) I still have a 4"x4" square of the luan plywood I used
for the lill' shop oiled and finished pegged to my cubicle wall.
Every so often I'll take it down and run my fingers over it's finished
surface and reflect on how much I enjoyed building. And the deep
sense of satisfaction I received. And how I still enjoy looking at my
And then wonder why the heck I'm still sitting in the cubicle. =^)
(besides the money issue, I think it's also because I'd hate to do
woodworking as a job...and start hating it!)
Thought this post was a joke at first, but it may be one of the better ones
going on here.
I am a third generation wood worker, grandfather was a carpenter/farmer,
father was a civil servent who did wood work as hobby. I went to college
and got a degree in Industrial Eduction and then the Army and after that
worked for the Government in various jobs until I wound up in Emergency
Managemant (local version of FEMA). After 19 years of EM, one divorce and
remarriage I was having nightmares (not all the bad stuff makes the news).
Spent what free time I with various counslers and thearpests. Went back to
WW as a hobby, it helped. Wife talked me in to chucking the whole mess,
moving to a place where I was unknown and starting a WW bussiness of my own.
Not as much money, but I still eat and pay the bills with the grace and help
of God, I have fewer nightmares each year and am around to kick the Kid
(now 12) when he gets home from school. My stuff is in museums and other
places with bragging rights, but the real value is now I don't cringe when a
storm comes up or the telephone rangs and my wife knows I will be there for
I was talking with Michael Dunbar a while back about what kind of
students came to his Windsor Chair classes. He said that years ago it
was all doctors and lawyers. Now it is mostly computer folks, wanting
to make something that they can actually touch, that will last.
My position was the same as yours a few years ago. I was encouraged by
something in one of Jack Warner's woodworking columns. He wrote that
all you needed to be successful at woodworking was patience and sharp
It all works out. Enjoy the process.
email@example.com (Doug) wrote in message
I was about 34 when I started
Got mine at garage/estate sales
I prefer power.
Me too. More Business Analyst than straight coder, but that's just
I always say that if the lights went out tomorrow, my whole career
No Doug, you are not alone. Seems like we have taken up woodworking
for similar reasons. I had to laugh at your description of a "long,
slow, painful path" though because I rather enjoy the learning curve,
but then I realized that I *used* to feel that way too when I started
- I guess I just learned to slow down and enjoy. Unlike our
profession where we have to hurry up to learn new technology while it
is still viable, with woodworking things don't change as quickly so
learn at your own pace and ENJOY!
firstname.lastname@example.org (Chris) wrote in message
Has it occured to anyone else the irony that an $800 table saw will be
useful 20 years from now, while a $1500 "top of the line" PC will be
almost completely obsolete and useless in < 10? That thought brought
me up short awhile back when I was thinking of upgrading the graphics
card in my PC.
"Wow", thought I, "$150 for a geforce<whatever> - they've come down!!
Gotta get me one of those"
And then I thought "hmm...graphics card that'll be obsolete in 2
years, or a new router, drill, plane that I'll use for the next 5-10+.
It was a quite a paradigm shift when I realized how a $200 gizmo seems
a bargin when it used to be $600, and then figured the money's useful
life when invested in woodworking.
(Gizmoholism. Now _that's_ an expensive hobby!!)
I append to my earlier post. I like woodworking not just to hold
something tangible, but to invest in tools and skills that won't be
rendered "almost completely useless" in 5 years.
From reading all the other replies, I'd say that you, me, and everyone
else is pretty much in the same company. That is, most all of the
replies are from people in the IT industry who spend most of their work
time with a computer, pounding out something through the keyboard and
seeing this electronic box do what they want (or, what they think they
told the computer to do. As a programmer I know all too well that what
the computer actually does and what you want it to do can be two very
I'm a craftsman, and that's what I tell anyone who asks. I love creating
things, or learning how things work by tearing into 'em and putting it
all back together (I picked up a '78 Trans-Am and am in this very
process - it's a bit of a basketcase, but it's better than when I got it
and I'm learning a hell of a lot). I'm most happy when I can create
something and use it/feel it/show it off, it's also great to see other
people's reactions since they can fully appreciate something concrete
more so than something they experience through cyberspace.
As for getting started in woodworking, well I guess I can say that I was
born into it. My Dad had started a couple years before I was born, and
one of the first things he made was a wooden snake toy for me - I've
still got it, 27 years later. While it is a hobby for me, it's also a
release - a way to escape from the electronic world and relax as I
admire the figure of an exotic board, or that sharp pain complements of
an unseen splinter. Being a craftsman lets me see what I make and
understand it with my hands, instead of "seeing" what it is in my mind
and thinking about how it works.
Man, great stories! It's always good to read this kind of stuff. Now
I know I'm not off on some tangent that doesn't make any sense!
I know I'll enjoy the learning curve more once I have a general idea
of what I'm doing. Right now I'm mortising the legs of my workbench
base, but it seems like it's taking forever. I suspect it just takes
time, and certainly practice helps, but I'm probably feeling impatient
because I just want my bench done. The recent heat hasn't helped,
either (I'm building in my garage).
Anyway, thanks for taking the time to respond. It really helped to
hear all the stories.
I'm sort of like you, but I think I took it even further than you did. I
*should* have been a code monkey. I'm a year younger than you. You know
how it was back then. Prime time, man. We grew up with computers, lived
on BBSes, and all figured we were on the cutting edge of the future,
because we were computer savvy people in an age when most people had no
idea how to use one. All my friends got CS degrees, and moved on (and
moved way the hell away) while I got a BA in foreign languages with
absolutely not one shred of job potential here or anywhere else.
I've been a manual labororer of one sort or another ever since. No jobs in
my field, and I had to eat. I had no luck selling myself as a computer guy
without paper, and I never could bring myself to go back and get the paper.
I find in the face of it all that the root of all this is an unconsious but
nevertheless intentional choice. The prospect of working with computers
professionally would just take all the joy out of it for me. Professional
uses for these things suck, and I've never met a happy programmer either.
In fact, all my big money moved-far-away friends are absolutely miserable.
One of them I presume to be dead by his own hand, though he might have just
gone total recluse.
Anyway, a little further along in life, I find I have more in common with
the people here who talk about the importance of shop classes, and with the
farmers I've come to know in the years since, than I do with most
"professional" people I've encountered in my lifetime. I myself never
stepped foot in the "redneck wing" of my high school, because I was "too
good" for that kind of future, but I've really changed, and I quite regret
that I missed out on the opportunity to get some experience with such
things much earlier in life.
I'd desperately like to quit being a truck driver, but what I'd _like_ to do
with my life is become a mechanical problem solver. Not a car mechanic or
anything like that, but someone who has to figure out how to get things
going with baling wire and bubble gum in the nick of time. I'm too much of
a math retard to even daydream about engineering, but if I could figure out
some way to get paid for "improvisational" engineering, I'd be a happy man.
Junk Yard Wars is my favorite show, and most of the fun projects I've done
lately have involved making something without spending any money for
materials. My junkyard trebuchet, for example. A piece of railroad track,
the axle and bearings from a salvaged Nordic Trac, the top from an old end
table, 2x4 and plywood scraps left over from some project or other... I
wish I could figure out a way to apply this kind of thing toward earning my
I do love to make things, to have tangible things at the end of the day, and
I can relate to your feelings there. My best programming years were when
DOS was king, so you can imagine just how well-respected my skills are
today. All those hours were for nothing more solid than dust in the wind,
and anything I do today is heading for the same fate. It's hard to get
excited about choosing between another rewrite or letting a project fade
away. If I build a plant stand or a hutch or something instead, it will
still be around for my kids to fight over when I turn to dust in the wind
Michael McIntyre ---- Silvan < email@example.com>
Linux fanatic, and certified Geek; registered Linux user #243621
My father encouraged me to take vocational agriculture in school, so I
missed out on any woodworking instruction. However, when I got married, we
needed a cabinet for our stereo equipment. I used white pine for a simple
open shelf unit. I was teaching English in high school, and the shop
teacher helped me build a walnut speaker enclosure. Then I built a
checkerboard, or at least started one. It cost me the tips of five fingers.
But a year later, I was back in the shop building a maple china hutch. Then
I built an 18x24 addition to our home, complete with kitchen cabinets, a
fireplace and built-in entertainment center. A friend asked me to build
cabinets in her utility room, so I did. From then on, there was a
never-ending list of customers for cabinets during summer vacations from
school. When my grandchildren arrived, I built wood toys for them -- and
discovered a market for toys "like I had when I was a kid." No more going
to other people's houses to work -- I could build in my shop at any hour of
the day or night and sell the toys to shops or directly at craft fairs.
When I retired in '94, I built more toys and went to more craft fairs. My
wife took on the task of sanding and finishing. We really enjoyed the
travel and the people we met. Didn't make as much money as I did building
cabinets, but it was lots more fun. About 60% or our present sales are to
return customers. Since my surgery for prostate cancer two years ago, I
have slowed down considerably, but I'm still making sawdust. Just finished
a large red oak cabinet for videos and DVDs for our home and a ten-foot wide
entertainment center for a neighbor, and our stock of walnut, maple, cherry
and oak toys [trains, pull toys, trucks, etc.] is ready for the fall craft
season. We have discontinued the summer shows because of the heat. My
biggest problem has been "too many tools, too little room." And finding
enough time to build projects for myself.
I started as a computer programmer in 1971. I wrote programs, designed
systems, and spent over 20 years as a computer consultant, traveling much of
the US, Canada and Europe. Then a funny thing started happening around the
middle of the 1990's. I was working with fewer and fewer Americans. Most
of the people I was working with were Indians, in this country on visa's. I
have nothing bad to say about these folks. They were different than me,
but, just like me, they were trying to make a buck. I do, however take
issue with those who would export skills that can be handled better by the
locals. In January 2000, I was layed off and have not been able to find a
suitable job in the industry. There's not too much market for a 54 year old
Unlike many in this forum, I enjoyed being a code monkey. Even though I
knew that the code I was creating would be out-dated over time, I always
got a thrill out of creating things that didn't previously exist. And
besides, I got frequent call-backs to update systems I had created as
available technology changed.
Woodworking has probably saved my sanity, what little of it I have. The
skill sets are different. Writing code, it was usually my task to make
things work faster and more efficient. Woodworking takes more skill and
more finesse and, because I'm still a newbie, the frustration level is
about the same. The main difference is in the financial compensation. I
still feed my family, but gone are the days of financial liquidity. I work
three jobs, web design, Home Depot associate, and furniture builder. In
the past 2+ years I have not put on a tie, sat in a cubicle or had to fight
traffic. I'd love to get a job creating computer systems to solve business
problems, but as time goes on and I become more unemployable in this field,
I find that the desire is starting to wane. I'm having fun creating things
that regular people can use. Most of them do stop to smell the stain and to
run their fingers over a well routed corner. Life's not too much different
for me, except that I deal with a much better class of people.
Triple Creek Web Design
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