Tales of a Hack #6: Back in the saddle (and protective glasses) again

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Blog entry by ajw1978 posted 06-05-2015 06:46 AM 1565 reads 0 times favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 5: A quick moment to say ... thanks. Part 6 of Tales of a Hack series Part 7: Professional frustration »

Hell has officially thawed out (I think) so I’m back in the “shop”—a term I still, unfortunately, have to use in the loosest possible manner. So because I’m still working outdoors, and Wisconsin in winter is not conducive to outdoor work, I’ve spent most of my off-season studying, studying and reading.

I managed to get a little play-time in just before the holidays; I braved the cold and set up a few tools to craft some toy boxes for the nephews. There were also going to be simple jewelry boxes for the nieces but … miters, folks. Miters. But the kids loved them, so everybody was happy.

Spent most of my spring in Phoenix, covering baseball, but did get a chance to check out a few woodworking shops down there and took a class on box-making. Pretty cool stuff.

But the highlight of my off-season had to be the Woodworking Show’s visit to Milwaukee. A lot of it was retail stuff I couldn’t afford or seminars that were way out of my league but I made a point to visit one of Jim Heavy’s seminars … and I wound up staying the entire day. Basic jig-making; miter saw and router tips. It was so refreshing to hear somebody as accomplished as him open by saying “I’ve never made a project I liked,” then watching as he walked though the same exact mistakes I make 47,000,000 times a day when I’m in the shop. Got some great tips, a great education and was lucky enough to chat with him after. And something as simple as a post-it note or playing card has made an incredible difference in my projects. So, so happy.

Added some new “toys,” too: battery-powered nailer (no room/need for a tank and guns), a bench sander, a sweet new tool box, a Centipede XL sawhorse (reviews on all of those to come) and my new pride and joy, a bench planer.

After all that, I managed to get some work in. A lot of easy projects inspired by Mere Mortals (three-tier planter, sofa arm rest table, etc) helped set the stage for what’s turning out to be a busy summer with my first-ever commissions which is a cool feeling to know that people want to give you money for your work … but it’s also daunting and somewhat intimidating, all at the same time.

And all of this leads up to a bit of an “Eureka” moment. After buying my planer, a friend of mine asked what the hell I was going to do with it. I explained that I’m building this, that and the other thing and also doing all kinds of repairs around the house. His response was “I pay people to do that.”

It hit me, quickly, that way too many people my age (I just turned 37, but feel like a 16 year old most days) don’t know how to use a hammer. They skipped shop in high school and didn’t listen to their parents because they figured they’d make enough money to pay somebody someday. I know this because I WAS that guy, too. So now that I realize all these new condos going up around my neighborhood are being bought by people like me, and if they’re going to pay people to do their dirty work … why not pay me? And with that thought, I walked a few blocks from my place to the local tech school, plunked down my credit card and signed up to get my carpentry degree.

It’s going to be a fun, splinter-filled, vulgarity-laden, sawdust-flying summer. And I can’t wait to get started. Hope you’re all knee deep in projects. As always, thanks for the advice, support and even the criticism. I’ve learned more on this site than I have anywhere else.

-- May the good Lord help me if I ever actually have a shop, garage or basement.

2 comments so far

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4310 days

#1 posted 06-05-2015 08:06 AM

With your desire and willingness to learn more about woodworking you are bound to reap some big benefits along the way. A well insulated shop, even if it’s real small would be a big help with those Wisconsin winters.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View NunyaBidniz's profile


129 posts in 3095 days

#2 posted 06-05-2015 12:53 PM

I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog entries and wish you the best of luck in your pursuit of a degree!

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