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Thursday, August 14, 2014

There are certain advantages... not giving a crap.

Home Fields, by John Singer Sargent.

I think I need a hobby, and I'm leaning towards woodworking, with an eye to eventually making furniture. Seriously. The last is a long term goal, but I'm interested in just the rudiments of working with, say, oak or maple.

Anybody have suggestions/tips for starting up?


  1. Plenty of suggestions. I've been doing that for a while myself, and occasionally put up photos of some of my work over on my blog. . There are a lot of good websites out there for woodworkers of all levels. The most popular seems to be Woodworking for mere mortals. Woodgears is another.

    I could start making suggestions if you like, but first I'd like to ask for what kind of advice are you looking? Tools, materials, plans, projects for the home, the shop, etc? Woodworking can be wonderful and relaxing (and also frustrating when it doesn't *quite* work) and there is nothing quite like the feeling of saying to someone admiring your work "As a matter of fact, I did build this myself."

  2. Tools and plans for home projects, starting at "very amateur/basic" for the latter. I can probably suss out the material side of it. The shop will have to be the garage, so again I can manage that part.

  3. I'd say start with Woodworking for Mere Mortals, his stuff is pretty basic, and can be a decent leap off point.

    Tools are a source of huge debate, with everyone having their favourites and such. I tend to be a handtool user for the most part, although I try to avoid handtool vs. power tool debate.. Handtools are cheaper than their powered counterparts, and you can pick them up at garage sales, flea markets, etc. I still have a few power tools- circular saw, scroll saw, drill, table saw, router. The motor on my old jigsaw burned out a few years ago. i keep meaning to replace it but never get around to it. Same with my belt sanders.

    Tools are nice and bright and shiny, but t is important to remember they are not as important as the hand the wields them. There's a great video, here:

    The guy in the video cuts a set of dovetails using a hacksaw and a cheap chisel. His point is not that these are the right tools, but that they are the wrong tools, yet they still manage to get the job done. You can do good work with just a few tools.

    I'll have more to say on my next break.

  4. Speaking as someone who has been gathering tools and skills since he was a teenager, and who can always do with some more, it can take decades to grow a shop and skill. For what I'm about to say, remember that you don't need everything right at the beginning before you begin. Rather, begin, and acquire the tools and skills as you need them.

    Okay, basics: You need a bench, or a sawhorse, or a sturdy table, or a couple of chairs you don't care about. Some clamps, various sizes. (note: there is no such thing as too many clamps.) You need a selection of saws for ripping, cross cutting, and curved lines. You will need at least one plane, (medium size smoother or in that range) You will need some chisels. You need a hammer and a selection of screwdrivers. A drill and some bits If you want to do some turning (and turning is really fun) you need a lathe with its attendant tools. You will need some tools to look after your tools- sharpening stones, files, etc. You will need a selection of sandpaper, various grades. You absolutely must have a sharp pencil and a pencil sharpener. You will need equipment for finishing. If your starting out, paintbrushes, unless you want to use spray can finishes.

    You probably have a fair bit of these things already. That'll be good. Some you can buy second hand. Good rule of thumb is to remember that good quality second hand stuff is usually better than cheap new stuff. With your tools you need to develop not merely the skills to use them but also the skills to take care of them. A dull plane or chisel, for instance, is nothing but a useless headache, so at the very least you need to learn how to sharpen. There are videos on line that are very helpful for that.

    All of the tools I mentioned come in a wide variety of styles, variations, sizes, costs. You need to figure out what will work best for you. Don't always take the packaged solution. Take the bench, for instance. You may not need one when starting out, but eventually you will want one. There are many plans and styles. The bench you need will be one that is right for your height and your handedness. It should fit your workshop space with a few feet on either end. You should be able to reach across it easily. In short, you will either have to find exactly the right plan, or modify a plan to suit your needs.

    There have been many occasions during my time as a woodworker that have been convinced that I 'need' some tool or other for this job or that, but, for some reason (almost always money) I just couldn't get that tool, and a deadline was looming. I was forced to figure out ways to get the job done without that tool. In most cases, I never bothered to get that tool, as I had figured out how to survive without it.

    Whenever possible, I recommend building your own tools. Planes, clamps and some saws can be easily built and are decent starter projects. Woodgears and also offer plans for more advanced jigs and tools. In building them yourself you are saving money both in procuring the tool, but also in maintaining it. You won't have to go out and buy expensive replacement parts or hire a professional to repair your tool. You will be the expert on the tool. Furthermore, you can modify the tools you build to fit your size and your space, and to fit more comfortably in your hand, rather than getting something made for some mythical average person.

    If you have time and are not working on anything specific, get some scrap wood and practice a skill so you may strengthen a weakness. For instance, spend a week leaning how to cut dovetails.

    Lastly, for the moment, when it comes to getting started, the only thing to do is to get started. Go online or to your library, find a design for a birdhouse, shelf or toy that you like, print it off, get some wood off a busted up pallet, and start making sawdust. Make lots of mistakes, learn from the mistakes, and keep on going.

    I hope I managed to say something helpful in here.

  5. I keep looking at woodworking...and then reading what all is actually involved in accumulating tools, stock, and the trial and error. Very discouraging.

    For hobbies these days, I'm trying my hand at charcuterie and salumi again along with playing lots of old school Dungeons & Dragons with my kids.

  6. Thanks, Bear--very much appreciated!

  7. Flambeaux:

    Yep, I have the D&D covered: I'm running my kids through low level modules right now. First was "Keep," then a rather clever adventure from the early 80s in Dragon Magazine, and now, "The Village of Hommlet." Since I have the T1-4 supermodule version, I'm working them towards that. But they won't be ready to clean out Zuggtmoy's temple right away, (All of them are level 3 or 4) so I'm mulling stuff for them to do after they take down the moathouse in "Hommlet."

  8. I spent a couple of years running A Random Walk Through Castle Greyhawk, using the random dungeon tables in the back of the AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide.

    I've got a little module some friends of mine published called "The Vile Worm of the Eldritch Oak" that I ran them through a few weeks back. They're probably heading into Quasqueton next.

    For my grown-up group (Tuesday nights through G+) I'm running a modified B2 as the initial base. They'll be welcome to move towards Homlett if they want but, you're right, it can be a meat-grinder for really low-levels.

    Shoot me an email if there is anything you're looking for or if you just want to conspire. :)

    And good luck on the carpentry. I can do framing and rough work. It's the finish carpentry and serious joinery that I keep intending to do and then deciding that working with pork is more my speed. :D

  9. Bear,
    Thanks for that very comprehensive and encouraging response to Dale. I found it very helpful.

  10. "I spent a couple of years running A Random Walk Through Castle Greyhawk, using the random dungeon tables in the back of the AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide."

    Oh, sweet! I actually own "Greyhawk Ruins," which if it is not TSR's biggest dungeon crawl ever, has to be in the top three. But while it's rated from Levels 2-15, I'm even more leery of that one than Hommlet. The kids also have a taste for high fantasy, so I'm considering a jaunt into Spelljammer country or Al Qadim (they love the Arabian Nights, too).

    While I hate to get into the Edition Wars, I have to admit I'm a big partisan of 2e--there's really no end to the roleplaying possibilities there.

    1. I played tons of 2e but haven't touched it since the late-1990s. I took a hiatus from gaming after trying 3rd Edition in the early 2000s. It coincided with grad school and starting the family.

      In the mid-2000s I came back after my wife insisted I needed a hobby. But I didn't like 3.x and I didn't have any of my 2e stuff.

      So I found my way into the so-called Old School Renaissance and the Knights & Knaves Alehouse forum. Met a couple of TLM-attending Trads through there (although I haven't talked with them in a few years). I've been playing OD&D and 1e AD&D almost exclusively since.

      I'm not a big fan of edition wars, either. Very much a "Your Mileage May Vary" since it's not a matter of faith or morals. Besides, who am I to judge? ;)