I'm with Eric. I'm mostly self-taught, myself. Early on, I got a copy of
John L. Fierer's "Cabinetmaking and Millwork". It's an industiral-arts
text that used? to be popular in vocational school woodworking classes.
Covers a lot of the basics fairly well, but is oriented toward power-tool
woodworking, in a career-preparation sort of way for those who were
headed into the furniture industry. Still, I find myself referring to it
time to time to refresh my memory on something.
There's a world of other books out there - Tage Frid's books are good,
oriented more toward fine furniture woodworking. Spend a bit of time
at a bookstore or library, glance through some books, pick the ones
that speak to you at this point in time. You can always go back and
get others as your skill level improves.
But, most of all, get some boards and make some sawdust! It's fun!
Medical bills aren't so much the concern for me, it's more a matter of
keeping my fingers. Insurance can't bring them back. The spectre of a
modified appendage might prevent it from actually coming true. No it's
not rocket science, but I don't know any rocket scientist woodworkers,
and I don't go to a NASA newsgroup for woodworking info. Fear for your
safety with these tools is a healthy thing, and I don't see wisdom or
responsibility in discouraging that.
The problem that I have is that I don't know this person and neither do you.
Many people are incredibly intelligent yet can't walk and chew bubble gum at
the same time. The worse thing is that many of these people don't even know
it. Would you want someone like this using your saw or jointer? Then there
are others that are just not into reading or don't comprehend what is
written all that well, especially if they have no experience in something to
relate it to. Is this person like this, who knows. Do you let strangers
come into your shop and play with your saws being that they are so safe and
easy to use? My primary suggestion for taking a class was to get some
exposure to it before dumping money into tools that he may never use or
If at first you don't succeed, you're not cut out for skydiving
"Mike G" < firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote in message
I don't think that anyone would disagree that, should a decent course be
available, classes are the best way to go. No one, including myself ever
True I don't know all about the guy but lets look at what we do know, he has
managed to reach the age of thirty and he is smart enough to at least ask if
it is possible. What else do we have to know. Contrary to what some of a
political persuasion may think you can't save everyone from themselves and,
in my opinion, really shouldn't try, but that is another story that I am not
going to get involved in.
The basic question was simple. "Can I learn woodworking at home alone".. The
answer is just as simple, of course you can. If you want to throw in, and I
did, that it may be more expeditious to take a course fine but that doesn't
have any bearing on the initial question and answer.
To be truthful I feel far easier replying in the affirmative to that
question then I do with the posters who start out with, "what tools should I
get". These are the ones that have apparently not even considered cracking a
book on the subject and are looking for some instant gratification.
Dilatant's These are the ones that aren't going to take time to consider
options and uses, the ones that fill the classifieds with "Hardly used
woodworking equipment for sale", bless their little hearts, when they find
out it isn't as easy as Norm makes it look in a half hour and requires some
But I digress, yes, if a course is available by all means take it. However
if there isn't you can teach yourself and any medium smart and prudent
person can do it.
And those that are available can be worse than awful; they can be
dangerous. A cabinet-making HS night course in a suburban town I had
was a prime example.
On night 1, he invited those of us who wanted to could visit Home
Depot with him after the class. Well, I did. He went into rapture
about the fine choice of materials available especially the plywood
selection for cainet-making.
On night 2, the "instructor" showed how a table saw is used.
He recommended those who haven't yet bought a table saw to look at the
Ryobi BT300 as it was much better designed than these old ones --
which was an early Unisaw.
Next he showed us how to rip a board.
The blade and fence were askew enough to start raising the 4' board he
was trying to rip. As he leaned over the saw blade and pushed hard on
the board with his woefully designed push stick, he advised,
"Sometimes you have to use a little force." At least, that's what I
think he said. It was tough to hear from underneath the nearest work
bench I used as a shelter.
Night 3 started with is helping one of us to plane a beautiful 5 foot
hunk of maple. Needless to say, the planer, which hadn't had a blade
change since the Taft administration, put several deep gouges down the
board's length. "Oh, the blades just need to be honed," he said as he
asked one of us to pass him the bastard file on the wall.
I never found out how the class ended.
LMAO!!! This reminds me of the time I was trying to help some widow woman
jump start her car, and Biff Knowzalot came by, elbowed me out of the way,
and ignored all my warnings about sparks and hydrogen gas. Spark spark,
spark spark... I hid behind a car two cars over.
No kaboom, lucky for the widow woman. Maybe a face full of battery acid
would have taught Biff Knowzalot a thing or two though.
And FWIW on the school/no school question, I can appreciate the horror of
everything you just said without ever having taken a lesson.
Michael McIntyre ---- Silvan < email@example.com>
Linux fanatic, and certified Geek; registered Linux user #243621
Yes, you can. Get Tage Frid's book. Subscribe to WW magazines (Fine
Woodworking and Popular Woodworking are my two favorites). Watch Norm and
David Marks. Watch Bruce Johnson, too, as an example of how NOT to do
things. (If Bruce says something that you think doesn't sound just right,
post here and we will be glad to bash him). Watch the woodright's shop if
you get that. Eat, sleep, breathe woodworking.
I started out by rehabbing a trashed house. Started collecting tools. Then
went the furniture making route. I have always worked by myself. I have
made a lot of mistakes, but I try to use traditional techniques (Dovetail,
M&T, etc.) and things are starting to come out pretty good. I have been
serious for about 4 years now. I did buy a low end table saw to start and
replaced it with a cabinet saw this year. I waited on a jointer until I
could afford an 8" (Learned how to use a Steve Knight jointer plane). I
found a refurbished planer and splurged on a delta bandsaw at Lowes. My
wife is very understanding, and also the biggest beneficiary.
Once you are sure that you want to make this a lifetime thing, follow the
cry once theory and buy the best tools you can afford.
Sure you can. I've been doing this for the last year. My stuff is
still not professional quality, but it's becoming reasonable amateur
stuff. I'm at the stage where all of my friends and relatives want me
to build them something or other :-)
My advice (for what it's worth):
1. Read a lot. Go to the library, whatever, and collect backissues
of Fine Woodworking, etc, or collections of books that describe
techniques. My first was the Fine Woodworking six volume set. Also
look at some books on joinery (I like the ones by Rogowski and the one
2. Never ever cut a corner on safety. Read all the safety procedures
and worry about safety before anything else. You won't care if you
goof and miscut a piece of wood, you just don't want to get hurt.
3. Don't buy a whole bunch of tools at first. Buy them only as you
really need them. You can practice a lot of joinery just with a
handplane, a set of chisels, and some marking tools, and a handsaw.
Get some reasonably good ones since you'll always use them, even when
you have more machines. Handwork is good practice, teaches you about
the wood's properties, etc. I started practicing with handcut
dovetails, and doing mortises and tenons, etc. You'll eventually want
power tools for the preparation of stock -- hand-jointing and planing
gets old pretty fast.
4. Start with some moderate sized hardwood projects, with something
like red oak that's reasonably inexpensive. Expect to make a few
goofs. Nobody else will notice your mistakes as much as you will, and
most people who aren't woodworkers won't see the mistakes at all.
Each time you build a piece it will be better than the last,
especially when you're still in the beginning stages. After a year or
so and a dozen projects, each of my projects is still much better than
Nate Perkins (Ft Collins, CO)
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