Find Your Next Woodworking Project at the Library
by Jared Richards, Learning and Information Services Supervisor
I recently had to build a new mailbox post after finding the old one lying in the yard. Was it just old and rotten, or was it related to the car antenna found near the fallen timber? We may never know, but I do know that it gave me the opportunity to pull out my power tools and build a needlessly-complicated but nice-looking post out of fresh lumber. Last year, my creative pursuits were almost exclusively digital, so it’s a refreshing change of pace to build something that exists in the real world.
There is a feeling of accomplishment associated with mowing a yard or baking, but then a week passes and you’re back behind the lawn mower, or a few days go by and you’re wondering where all the cookies went. I like when that feeling isn’t as fleeting, and there’s something to be said for made objects that can last generations. An example of this is the small wooden rocking chair currently sitting in my living room. My grandpa made it for me when I was a child, and now my son will be able to enjoy it for years to come, even more so when we don’t have to prop him up with pillows and stuffed animals.
The great thing about woodworking is that it covers such a broad range of activities, from carving small objects to making furniture, or even building a house. I am fairly confident we can rule out the house for a second project, but that still leaves a lot of options.
In “Build Stuff with Wood,” author Asa Christiana is a proponent of making simple projects with power tools and materials found at your local home center. The learning curve for this is much smaller than hand tools and rough-cut lumber. This increases your chances of success, which in turn will encourage you to continue with the hobby, and maybe one day get to the point where you’re milling your own lumber and using hand chisels like a pro. I’ve added the outdoor bench from this book to my Maybe Someday I’ll Make This list.
Once you knock a few projects out and are realizing it would be much easier to work on future projects if you had a dedicated space, you should checkout “Wood Magazine: How to Build a Great Home Workshop.” This book covers everything you need to know, whether you’re working out of your basement, your garage, or even a dedicated shop. I particularly enjoy the deep dive into dust collection and lighting, possibly two of the least glamorous aspects of woodworking, but arguably the most important. We also have “Workshop Dust Control,” if you really want to keep your workshop as clean and safe as possible.
A central feature of almost any workspace is a workbench, and I did not realize how specialized they could be until I read “The Workbench Book” by Scott Landis. He starts with the evolution of the workbench and then covers various specialized workbenches that have been developed for tasks like boatbuilding, carving, and lutherie. I already knew I wanted a workbench, but now I really want one, so I also checked out “How to Make Workbenches & Shop Storage Solutions.” This book features aspirational workbenches, as well as more realistic carts and tables, and includes detailed instructions, full pictures, and even cut diagrams for the projects.
One final aspect of woodworking that I really enjoy is the level of creativity and freedom to completely customize the project you want to make to suit your needs. For example, in “The Handbuilt Home” by Ana White, there are plans for a recycling console that would be great for my kitchen. But my kitchen is also small and lacks counter space, so I can combine that project with the folding work table project from “How to Make Workbenches & Shop Storage Solutions” and add casters and a back that folds out into a table that can be used for food prep. It looks great in my head.
When I get a wild hare and fall down the rabbit hole of a new hobby, I tend to start by window shopping all the possibilities on the internet. More often than not, this sates my interest and I move onto something else. But every now and then my interest survives the warren that is the internet, and I find myself at the library, trying to check out more books than I can carry. It’s a fun challenge.