Why I woodwork.

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Blog entry by jamsomito posted 02-02-2019 02:32 PM 617 reads 0 times favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch

As I sit here with my wife waiting for our 3rd son to decide it’s time to officially join the family, I find myself in a bit of a state of reflection on things. I decided to pass the time writing up a bit about how I found the craft and why it has become an important part of my life. I am just a hobbyist woodworker. This in no way affects my livelihood or financial well-being of myself or my family. Although at some point I suppose it could, it is not a priority. I wouldn’t be myself without the ability to take on extra projects and create something.

I’ve always been a tinkerer, and I get fairly vested in my hobbies. I like learning new things and trying them for myself. As a kid, I would play with Lego and K’nex to no end. I was particularly bad at designing my own things, but the joy of constructing anything, with or without step-by-step instructions, and the process of making mistakes, learning from them, and improving upon previous designs gave a sense of accomplishment that was hard to find doing other things. Of course I tried all the sports and hung out with my friends as every child should, I wasn’t much good at many things besides math and science class, and so I kept being drawn to my hobbies for enjoyment and release. It’s not too much different today with the stresses of work and kids.

For a while I was pretty absorbed by technology. I’m a pretty firm believer that a good videogame is akin to a good book, and so for a while I built custom PC’s for gaming. I tried to turn that into a hobby by learning all about the hardware and technical details, and even tried my hand at some web design and programming. But ultimately, it became an empty ambition. Most of the products I made on a PC were either already done better by someone else, or yielded this ethereal thing that lived on the PC and did nothing in the real world or for the people I cared about most. I was the go-to for “tech support” in the family, which felt good to be needed for something but honestly became quite the chore over time. So, the focus became the hardware itself. I tried water cooling, which was really fun, and doing my research for parts with the most bang for the buck. I overclocked parts and pushed them to the limit.

But for what? So I could boot up the PC a fraction of a second faster, or yield a 10% improvement in rendering framerates, or dump a bunch of cash simply to make a “cool” looking rig to plop on your desk? I have to admit, one worthy cause was distributed computing efforts such as [email protected] and the like where everyone competes and donates their processing power to crunching cutting-edge research to help cure things like Alzheimers, etc. That was fulfilling, but required a ton of know-how, keeping up-to-date with program changes, and a lot of power, for again, something that was digitally shipped off and you’d never see again. While I hold the position that videogames are a good thing, in the end, too much is just a time waste not dissimilar to binge watching netflix on the couch for hours on end. It is unproductive and self-absorbing.

Even the community around this stuff is abrasive because of it – take a look at the comments on any youtube video, look at the crass discussions on any of the technology forums, or even browse through some of the “influencers’” social media accounts and you will quickly find the materialistic, self-centered nature of most if it. It’s all about more, more, more. Not to mention the obsolescence of parts within only a few years necessitating constant injection of money. And everything has become so commonplace and mainstream that there’s little creativity left to be had. The whole thing is draining, and I burned out.

At this point I had finally moved into a house with room for some woodworking equipment. I had built some stuff here and there because it was fun, but never really had the space to do much of it. I made a box with only a swiss army knife, later I made some speaker stands and a few racks of shelves using a circular saw and a drill. I didn’t really know what I was doing but the pieces served their purposes. I caught the bug, as they say, and eventually it led to today.

I also have a family connection to the craft. My dad is a big inspiration of mine. He has an interesting background with a math and physics double bachelor degree, then went to the Chicago Institute of Art to be an oil painting portrait artist, and eventually found himself as a sole proprietor of a small construction and carpentry business. I made a couple small projects with him in his shop growing up that I still remember. He also has lent me more hand-me-down tools than I deserve, which has seriously spearheaded the development of my shop and my skills. I feel, in a way, that I’m continuing his legacy a bit by exploring and perpetuating the craft on my own. I don’t discount his interest in the visual arts as something that helped shape my own either. During my school years I was an active participant in the performing arts and grew my appreciation for all types of art as an essential element of all of us as human beings. I think it’s these deep roots that keep me coming back to woodworking as an expression of that core attribute. Creating something with your hands and all of the imperfections and unexacting qualities that brings to make something unique – a testament of every step of the the time, skill, methods, thought, and dedication it takes to bring something from raw materials to finished product – adds an intrinsic value not present in store-bought items. It makes something tangible, that you can hold in your hands, feel, pass on to others, and serve real-world purposes whether that be functional or thought-provoking. The act of creating has a real power that is hard to find or express in other ways.

I particularly like how every piece has all of this effort and love (not to sound cliche or fru-fru) put into it for a very specific purpose. I can help meet the needs of my family with, say, a bookshelf, or just make something as a token of appreciation for someone in need to show there are people that care about them. It’s a way to continue developing myself into a better person with wider interests and abilities. The end goals of woodworking are numerous, and I would be lacking so many aspects of my life – learning, developing, persevering, honing, caring, problem-solving, expressing, giving, motivation, and joy just to name a few – without it. It’s really a breath of fresh air from the often times materialistic and abrasive society we live in today (not that it’s all bad). This is something that has set in slowly over the course of my life, but has become a part of who I am, and I suspect it’s something I’ll be doing long into the future.

2 comments so far

View splintergroup's profile


2831 posts in 1706 days

#1 posted 02-02-2019 03:39 PM

  • Clap, clap, clap, clap *

Well stated 8^)

View NormG's profile


6441 posts in 3488 days

#2 posted 02-02-2019 05:59 PM

Wonderful adventure you have had

-- Norman - I never never make a mistake, I just change the design.

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