Get Woodworking Week! Don’t Let Shop “Shortcomings” Stop You

Yep, it’s Get Woodworking Week! Masterminded by Tom Iovino over at Tom’s Workbench, the idea is for folks interested but new to woodworking to get into the shop. While I’m pretty new to woodworking myself, and completed my first “true” furniture project this past year, I’ve been interested in woodworking for much longer. Prior to building that project, I found I was guilty of worrying too much if I had the right tools to do the job. I knew it too when I began thinking to myself that I was getting tired of trying to get the shop “right” before attempting something more than a DIY carpentry project, and I was just itching to actually build something that could be considered real woodworking.

It was right around this time I went to WoodExpo in Boston, and got to meet and talk to folks with real woodworking experience: Tommy MacDonald, Eli Cleveland, Mike Morton, Rob Bois, Neil Lamens, and others. When asked about what woodworking I do, the reply went along the lines of, “Well, not much yet. Still building up my shop”. Invariably, each replied in various ways not to worry so much about shop building, but get some wood and build something… anything! It was like the Nike commercials – Just Do It. They confirmed what I was thinking, and I’m thankful they did so.

So, if you find yourself wondering if you have the “just right” shop setup and “enough/right” tools to do woodworking, stop. Buy some wood and just do it.

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6 thoughts on “Get Woodworking Week! Don’t Let Shop “Shortcomings” Stop You”

  1. Jim, thanks for the mention in the blog. I took very much the opposite approach when I started woodworking, and began making tables when all I had was a router, bench-top table saw, and miter saw. Even then, I made some mistakes when buying new tools or upgrading. I think one of the down sides to all the Internet woodworking exposure now is that people feel like they need to emulate Tommy’s or Marc Spagnolo’s shop before they can get started. To put this in perspective, when I was at Woodworking in America this year, I saw Rob Cosman cut air-tight dovetails using only a hack saw, a sharpened screwdriver, and a 2×4. And I’m constantly reminded every time I see a great antique that it was built without the aid of a single electron. So don’t let the lack of a dream shop stop you from building great stuff. Excellent post, and excellent advice. Looking forward to seeing you again this year at the Wood Expo.

    1. Any time Rob! That Rob Cosman story is a good one for folks to hear. Now that I have a couple of projects under my belt, I’ve proven to myself that it can be done without an “ideal” setup. The biggest example are my benches – a workmate and an MDF topped metal based bench. Will I upgrade to a better bench? Absolutely – in time I’ll build a better bench. But in the meantime both have been useful in building my projects.

  2. Jim, I couldn’t agree more with the “just do it” attitude. I find I don’t worry so much about the shop – I mean, I do, but that’s not the blocker – but rather I tend to overanalyze what it is I am going to build. How big should it be, where will it go, oh crap that means I have to sand and finish, what would should I get, maybe I’ll start next week, etc etc. This even extends into shop furniture – I made a shop cabinet to go under my TS extension wing, and I think I’d still be wrestling with the dimensions and construction if I didn’t decide to just do it.

    I love that story about Cosman. I guess there’s a fine line between “educating” and “showing off” 🙂

    1. John, I agree that folks, myself included, can suffer from the “paralysis by analysis” at times, and we should try to keep this in check. You bring up a good point to bring the “just do it” attitude to the project itself as well. Rather than analyzing to death a particular aspect (or many aspects) of the project, it’s best to make the best decision you can in a timely fashion. If it turns out that mistakes are made, turn it into a learning experience.

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