Woodworking, l wish l knew so much more than l now know?

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by Jim Reeves posted 03-02-2010 08:24 AM 2443 reads 0 times favorited 18 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I am at a stand still with woodworking, my goal a few years ago was to start buying just the basic tools, machines. To make even simple items to sell, to help me wife, who most weeks works 8-16 hours over time every 2 weeks to make ends meet.
My health and lower back problems prevent me from putting in even a full 8 hour shift, have tried returning to work 6 times in the past 5-6 years with no success.

So l thought woodworking l can do from home when pain gets bad in lower back or my heart starts to race and not sure if heart attack is coming l could go rest laydown till back or chest pains go away.
But seems like l may not be cut for woodworking either maybe another failure.
My wife bought me a biscuit jointer, l can figure it out to getting setting right, l have tried mastering dado blades with router these and simple things a beginner should kniow but l don’t.

I really wish there were classes l could take in my area or could work with a woodworker a few days a week, to learn what l need to know to be able to reach above goals.
I in a way wish l hadn’t of started this so afraid of yet another failure for my wife to see.
Yet she is the most understanding person l know lucky to have her.
I know she would not consider me a failure, but l would, l have often wondered the past few weeks if other woodworkers have gone threw this l dought as every project l have seen on here looks so awesome.

I have not given up yet on the goal of making a bit of money even if enough to buy food to help my wife.
Wasn’t for her and her job she has had nearly 11 years, we would have sunken by now because my tiny monthly disability pension of $ 691.00 would not get us far.
If anyone reads this from my area of Trenton, Brighton, ( Quinte West ) Ontario, Canada if you know a woodworker who could teach me by working with him/her free labour sure would be great or where l could take woodworking classes not to expensive to teach me joining wood together, Dado’s, biscuit jointer use, router knowledge

I don’t understand l mastered the drywall taping trade in like 5-6 weeks did my first job learned trowel myself, my father inlaw retired after drywall business 45 years self employed he was amazed he said normally min of 6 months what l learned in 5-6 weeks then why can’t l learn these above woodworking basic’s?
I really don’t know don’t get it.

-- jim

18 comments so far

View popmandude's profile


109 posts in 4232 days

#1 posted 03-02-2010 01:00 PM

Howdy Jim. I am not a doctor by a long shot (heck I aint even a woodworker…yet), but your personal page mentioned the word depression. Keep fightin!!! Life is not a problem to be solved, it is a mystery to be lived. If its failure that bothers you, just dont do anything an you wont fail. Mistakes do not equal failure, mistakes equal learning. I have been beat down to rock bottom myself a few times. Sure aint no fun. I try to use my head, make a good plan, stick to it, an MAKE it work. If you mastered drywall finishing in 5 or 6 weeks, no further proof is needed. As far as the woodworking goes, make sure you have a firm grasp of the safety part, an the rest is trial and error. We see a lot of top notch projects posted on this sight. We do not see the long road, and many mistakes it took that person to get there. I look forward to seein some of your projects posted in the future.
Keep on cuttin

View Eagle1's profile


2066 posts in 4276 days

#2 posted 03-02-2010 01:46 PM

Hi Jim..I have to agree with Randy. I also have a lot of health issues, seizures, Ibs, High blood presure, acid reflux, depression, bowel isues. I just got home from a week in the hospital.. Needless to say I know where your coming from. As one says here on LJ’s something about walking a mile in someones shoes, Ive done that before and will keep on doing that for the rest of my life. Natuarly since I am doing things that I shoudn’t do, I just can’t sit around and do nothing. I commend you on mastering drywall finishing in 5 to 6 weeks. Ive tried to do that for years. The only advice that I have is to stick with it on learning. Thats how I learn. From making joimts to learning to making joints. I heard someone here on LJ’s that everyday he gomes to his or her’s shop. Starts the day in the shop by making, I should say learning to do the joint you want to master. Say a dovetail joint. Take 2 scrap pieces of wood and cut a joint or 2 if you want. Then go on with the other things you want to make. Just remember we all here LJ’s had to start somewhere, thats how we get better at our craft. I personally I spend a lot of time reading about the subject I want to learn about. And also there a lot of videos on the subject you want to learn.

I can only hope that you don’t give up. I believe everyone here at LJ’s Want the same for you. And we will to try to help in everway you can. If I lived close to you it would be my pleasure to be able to work with you, so we could learn together..

-- Tim, Missouri ....Inside every older person is a younger person wondering what the heck happened

View Randy's profile


397 posts in 4659 days

#3 posted 03-02-2010 01:56 PM

Jim, I have been at this for about two years and i have had no formal training. Everything i have learned has been primariy from trial and error and online resources. I have worked on several projects, a few of them i am proud of but most i am not. With each project I learn something new and i am slowly starting to feel as if i some what know what i am doing. There is so much to learn about wood working and the projects you are viewing are created by people who have spent a big part of their lives developing these skills. Keep at it and things will slowly fall into place. Be sure to know your tools and know how to safely use them. Dont take short cuts and dont use your tools in a way that they are not intended to be used. The flip side of this and im sorry if i sound like im trying to discourage you, i think it is very hard to make money woodworking. It is a very expensive endevour and unless you are mass producing i dont see how any one makes money. This is mainly do to the amount of time that goes into a project. Some others who have more experience than myself may think differently and they may be right. I live no where close to you, but if you have any specific questions i would be more than happy to try to help. Dont give up, and hang in there.

-- RKWoods

View velo_tom's profile


123 posts in 4228 days

#4 posted 03-02-2010 02:05 PM

Jim, I’m new to woodworking and have some similar learning on my own problems that you are experiencing. I have found a great variety of helpful training videos are available. I learned to use a biscuit joiner by watching Frank Klausz video called “Biscuit Joinery Build A Bookcase”. Frank has other videos that I have bought that also teach basic wood working skills including a “Hand Tools” video that teaches how to rejuvenate flea market tools. There are quite a number of router videos out there too.

I don’t have a jointer or planer for truing up boards so use hand planes for this task. The Jim Kingshott video called, “Bench Planes” covers this basic skill. Perhaps another good source of information would be “Basic Box Making” by Doug Stowe (DVD and Book). Cost of materials for projects would not be high, length of projects not so long, and things you wish to sell are easily transportable. Then there are also a great number of woodworking how-to recordings available free on YouTube.

At some point though you have to just grab the tools and go to work. Mistakes will occur, there is no way to learn new complicated skills without making mistakes. Accept the mistakes as part of learning. Good Luck and keep trying.

-- There's no such thing as mistakes, just design changes.

View Randy's profile


397 posts in 4659 days

#5 posted 03-02-2010 02:05 PM

Jim, i viewed your project page after i made the above post. Your post is a little misleading, i think you are off to a great start. The table looks great as does the other projects. Maybe the problem is more that you didnt realize how much work went into a project and how hard it would be to sale. If i sold anything that i made for what i thought it was worth i would get paid around 50 cents an hour. This is probably because after two years and alot of work i am still a newby. I think its a great hobby and i would love to do it as a profession i just know i would go bankrupt really fast.

-- RKWoods

View Dennis Fletcher's profile

Dennis Fletcher

467 posts in 4266 days

#6 posted 03-02-2010 02:23 PM


I was able to design a house before I even knew people did it for a living, but I couldn’t “draft”. I had the talent, but until I had formal education, nothing was workable.

Looking at your projects, your gifted. You have talent, but, according to your post, you believe you need education.

Can I suggest that you get books and videos on different tools and projects. Sometimes a project shows you how to use different tools and enables you to get a little farther in your work.

Don’t give up, especially if you enjoy it.

Read A1Jim’s bio, he is self-taught. He picked up books and videos and learned from there. He didn’t get it all at once, it took time. Allow this to take time, knowing that you have the talent.

--, Making design and application one. †

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 4321 days

#7 posted 03-02-2010 02:40 PM


I can tell you that before I started woodworking, I was thinking “I would like to make my own furniture…” One month after I started, I was thinking “I would like to make a square board…” After a project is completed, if it is not as good as I hoped but better than I feared, I am doing ok. There is no finish line to this hobby, there is only the journey. You might want to pick up a one volume resource that explains the basic tools, what they do, and how to use them. Youtube has plenty of woodworking tutorials out there and you can also do an online search, tool by tool, of the uses and techniques of each.

I think you might be putting too much pressure on yourself which hinders some of the learning. When you go into the shop, try to start out thinking of it as a hobby and not a money making venture. Just try to work on a project to completion without thinking of the marketability of it right off the bat. It sounds like you have a very loving wife, and while you might feel that you have little to offer, I am sure she knows that you have much to give. If you concentrate on the project, the skills will come.

Good luck to you,


-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

View patron's profile


13722 posts in 4553 days

#8 posted 03-02-2010 03:13 PM

jim , don’t give up the ship !

or the unknown .

i have been a professional (?) carpenter / woodworker for 45 years .
i have had gallery shows, magazine articles , countless markets and wood shows ,

i have never sold one single thing !

my heart goes out to you ,
i know the anguish .

i work in my shop alone ,
and live alone too .

care to see all the mistakes ?

until i found LJ’s ,
and all the wonderful people here ,
i figured that my days were written .

i was wrong !

it’s not about winning ,
or getting any prizes .

God gave me THIS life ,
i am very great full .
it’s not what i planed ,
even this is too much at times .

yesterday i worked on a lumber rack ,
today i will work on it some more .
tomorrow i may or not get out of bed ?

ask all the questions ,
share all your journey ,
laugh at your mistakes !

we can help ,
we are YOU ,
and WE care !

p.s. – keep the wife ,
i would trade all of my sawdust for one like yours !

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6875 posts in 5191 days

#9 posted 03-02-2010 03:26 PM

Hi Jim;

Many of us woodworkers are self taught, myself included. Except I had employee’s I learned an awful lot from along the way. One fellow, Bruce Driscol, probably taught me whole lot more than he knows. (I wrote that, just in case he ever reads this, but there is a lot of truth to it).

Anyway, woodworking is a very broad topic. I would suggest that you pick basics and master those. One after the other. You know, wax on, wax off.

If you do this, along with reading all you can get your hands on, you will be on your way.

I built a website a few years ago, nothing to buy or join, but close to four hundred pages of woodworking tips and procedures.

I hope this helps.


-- by Lee A. Jesberger

View Dave Pearce's profile

Dave Pearce

108 posts in 4884 days

#10 posted 03-02-2010 06:59 PM


I don’t think Biscuit jointers and Dado stacks are necessarily beginners level woodworking. Both require a decent amount of setup (a good tablesaw, for one!) and some experience, so I think you’re being a little too harsh on yourself. I know plenty of people who tend to use pocket screws and dowels for joints, rarely ever getting into dadoes, rabbets, tenons, biscuits (or dovetails) and the like. Getting good performance from those types of joints requires test cuts, patience, more test cuts, and more than a few pieces of scrap to practice on. You have to get to know your equipment as well. Three turns on the blade height adjustment on your table saw does not equal three turns on your friends table saw.

It’s great to learn from an instructor, but since you’re on a budget, try the local library first. There’s plenty of how-to books, and they’ll show you 100 different ways to do the same things. Pick a few and stick with it, you’ll get there. By the way, most libraries are interconnected, and can bring other titles in from the main branch. If you don’t see it on the shelf ask a librarian for a catalog listing. More than likely they’ve got many more books than just what’s on display.

I’ve taken a few classes, and they’ve been beneficial, but don’t discount books and tutorials. I’ve learned as much or more just simply sitting down with a few good books for a couple of evenings.

And as far as learning something like woodworking in 5-6 weeks, like you did with drywall finishing, well, you were probably younger, enthusiastic, and healthy. And then again, did you learn traditional plaster finishing in those 5-6 weeks as well? How about horse hair plaster restoration? Specialized stipling and faux finishing? Texturing? Maybe you were a whiz kid and picked it all up and once, I don’t know, but I do know woodworking is more than just one kind of skill. Building a decent bookcase (which I see you’ve done – nice job by the way!) is a combination of quite a few different skills, for instance. There’s tons of facets to woodworking. It’s more complicated than a single skill, and usually requires time and experience. All of which you’ll get as you progress.

I know from experience, If you’re not feeling well, that’s a big obstacle to learning. It’s hard to concentrate if your body is distracting you with it’s own issues. There’s plenty of evidence to suggest people learn better and faster when they feel good. It’s been three years since I begain to learn serious woodworking, and some days it seems like I just started. But reading and understanding is just one part of it. Practice is how the skill is built. Practice, over and over again until it’s perfect.

Hang in there, the skills will come and you’ll surprise yourself one day.


View NBeener's profile


4816 posts in 4386 days

#11 posted 03-02-2010 07:09 PM


As always, you’ve gotten a LOT of wisdom from the other LumberJocks.

My $0.02:

I’ve been declared permanently disabled, have a MESS of stuff wrong with my eyes, sinuses that were ruined by the same drops that burned up my eyes, AND a dysfunctional immune system.

If I were smarter, I’d probably find another hobby, instead of this one ;-)

But here’s what I learned—not from a technical standpoint, but a practical one:

1) I can only work when I can work. It’s not very often, sadly.

2) I buy “cull” lumber when I can. “Cull” is a nice way of saying crap. Crap the store can’t sell. Near me, it’s about a half a buck per piece. If I could find lumber in a dumpster, I would.

When I need to figure out how to use MY new Porter-Cable 557 biscuit joiner or MY dado stack or MY mortising machine …. I reach into my stack of crap wood. I have enough crap wood that I can try and try and try and try, and KEEP trying until I get it.

It NEVER makes me sad when I ruin the END of a $0.51 piece of lumber. I cut it off and move on.

It DOES make me sad when I ruin a few bucks worth of mahogany, though, so …. I try not to touch it until I feel confident in my skills, and capable in my body.

I don’t mean—in ANY way—to talk you out of finding a mentor, a teacher, a school, or another way to learn. I’m just hoping to provide you with another option.

Take care of yourself, huh? It’s tough to have been born inside of faulty bodies…..

-- -- Neil

View Bob47's profile


19 posts in 4651 days

#12 posted 04-07-2010 11:43 AM

Most of the people you see or hear about that seem to be successful have failed many times before you hear about their great success. Like Randy said learning comes from the mistakes we make along the way. As for wood working its an art that is to be enjoyed not mastered. There are lots of good books in your library that could help you and maybe there are clubs in your area – we have them here. Seek out some guys in your area that love woodworking, most of us love to talk about woodworking and WE ALL can learn from each other.
Last, you are only a failure when you quite trying!
Good luck and God bless you and your family.

View Bob47's profile


19 posts in 4651 days

#13 posted 04-07-2010 11:46 AM

I just looked at the table you made, WOW, great job. There are a lot of guys that would love to be able to create something that good.

View lilredweldingrod's profile


2496 posts in 4319 days

#14 posted 04-12-2010 04:02 AM

Never be afraid to fail. When I first tried to go into business for myself, The very first trip out, I wound up in the hospital off and on for 3 1/4 years, pipe fell on me; lost my truck and house too. When I got back on my feet, I tried again. Working 20 hours a day, 7 days a week and not eating right, I crashed.(physically) Lost everything AGAIN.
After I got rested up and got my strength back, I started another business. This time I was in the right spot at the right time. And I did all of this with a wife and kids. Every time I failed, I learned. Not one time did I feel that I was a failure.
You are not a failure, you are just someone in search of your niche. Health problems only hold us back a bit. The only truth I ever learned from a movie was in Clint Eastwoods Dirty Harry. A man’s gotta know his limitations. Know your limitations. Don’t bite off too big of a hunk. And chew it well.
God gave each of us a special talent, Some sing, sone draw, some paint, some are exceptional parents. What do you do or want to do, do real well. Practice, practice and laugh at yourself and your mistakes as you carry them out back to burn. Then try again. There is only one failure…The man that says, “I can’t.” He just defeated himself. Just remember; maybe today you aren’t happy with your results. So what, try again tomorrow. You will see your improvement right befor your eyes. If you hit a block, get on LJ and ask. You will get from 10 to 1000 suggestions. I guarntee it. You aren’t Superman, you are just another Joe like us.

All ways trying. Always learning. Always getting better at it. Never saying Uncle.

Your fellow LJer, crippled and disabled in body, but not in spirit or mind. Your LJ Buddy, Rand

PS…Your table is much better than any thing I have ever done in wood. Better be careful or I’ll catch up.

View Dark_Lightning's profile


4806 posts in 4321 days

#15 posted 04-12-2010 04:33 AM

Jim, I’ve destroyed some seriously nice wood on the way to making some “decent” stuff. Don’t give up! You’ve got one of the best resources for learning how to do it right here on LJs! I had a question about BLO and this was one of the first places the internet turned up. I joined immediately- this is a really nice group of people! I’ve already learned more here than I have in many years. Pump these guys (including me, I’ll answer any question you pose to the best of my ability, but use a PM, I can’t follow too many threads; my work takes me away from home 12 hours a day). Just ask- I can’t imagine anyone dissing you for asking a reasonable question here. This is one site that I can say I truly enjoy joining.

-- Steven.......Random Orbital Nailer

showing 1 through 15 of 18 comments

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics