Up until April 2014 I was a U.S. Army Chaplain. I had to retire due to medical reasons. I also had to find new hobbies as I could no longer mountain bike, camp, or do just about anything athletically inclined. Enter wood working. And not just any wood working – traditional hand tool woodworking.
Why wood working?
Simple answer – it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. It seems easier than sculpting or pop-art. Besides wood is easier to make something out of than a 2 ton block of granite or an ’82 Buick LeSabre. The real question is why haven’t I done it sooner. I’ve tried to start it on an occasion or two over the last few decades. The problem has been money and time; it seems that there has never been enough of either.
So why traditional hand tool woodworking?
There’s two reasons for this choice. Firstly, when I was starting to be interested in woodworking Norm’s New Yankee Woodshop was popular. I watched it regularly as he ran boards over laser guided whatchamoozits and nuclear powered planers and any other number of large and expensive machines. The result was that woodworking became quite intimidating to me. I did watch The Woodwright’s Shop just about as often but somehow it never dawned on me that this type of woodworking was an option – or anything more than nostalgic. Secondly, after being blown-up, mortared, and shaken while overseas in my military career I gained a dislike for loud noises. The sounds of table saws, planers, and mortisers grate on me like nails on a chalk board. That’s not exactly in the recipe for a restful, relaxing hobby. There’s a third reason I hate to admit. Those machines scare me. I know with my lack of balance and coordination these days I’m going to take off a finger, hand, or with my bizarre luck a foot with them.
So here I go on my journey into the world of traditional woodworking. I share this with anyone who reads it not as a roadmap for you to follow but more as an example of how one knucklehead stumbles through it (and thus the nom de plum Slack the Joiner*). Maybe you can learn what not to do or at least be entertained for a moment while you ponder how someone else is doing it.
*With a nod of the cap to Shakespeare and as an antithesis of Megan Fitzpatrick’s twitter handle.