This interview, with Mike40, is from January 2015
1. What is your “inspiration story” — where did your interest in woodworking all begin?
My main inspiration to take up woodworking was a segmented walnut bowl that my older brother turned in high school. As a kid I wasn’t very handy and so it wasn’t until I retired that I went out and bought a lathe to try some woodturning, still with my brother’s walnut bowl in mind. I bought my first lathe from a local hardware store. It was a real cheap Chinese lathe. I took it home, set it up and just looked at it for a week without attempting to use it. I finally decided that I would never be happy with that poorly made lathe, so I returned it and bought one for about four times the price, not to mention quite a few accessories and turning tools that I got with it. All I that was needed now was how to use it all.
2. Who is your woodworking mentor and why?
I have never had one mentor, but I have always been an avid reader and so I bought a lot of woodworking books to get started. Subscriptions to the American Woodturners Association and the fine woodwork magazines really helped. I supplemented these subscriptions with books purchased at my local tool store. To this day I continue to read a lot, but I also learn a lot, maybe nowadays mostly from the internet. All of that content comes from a host of experts and not so expert woodworkers who I feel have all been my mentors and to whom I give thanks for having both inspired and taught me what I know today.
3. Power or hand tools?
I like using both hand and power tools. There is more joy in hand tool use when they are used selectively, but power tools are wonderfully efficient and they do the boring and physically demanding work very well, especially for repetitive work. A great advantage for a 74 year old like myself.
4. What is your dream project and when do you think you will tackle the challenge?
I can’t claim to have a dream project, but I sometimes dream that I could master at least one woodworking skill. instead I continue to explore the different branches of the craft. I see a video or read an article or post on the site and it makes me curious enough to want to try it, so I have finally accepted that I will never do any one kind of work long enough to be really good at it. So I guess that I am more of a woodworking tourist than an actual woodworker.
5. What is the greatest gift that this craft gives you?
Woodworking has been a wonderful and positive pastime for me. The diversity and range of acquired skills and completed projects is what I find to be the most motivating aspect of woodworking, and perhaps just as important, there is also the social aspect, enjoying the interaction with my many woodworking friends, their work and their words.
6. What are your “words of wisdom” that you want to pass on to others, especially to beginners?
I do think most younger folks would do best to start out with hand tools, as a small inexpensive collection can do most any kind of work that the machines can do and perhaps even more. However, anyone wanting to use only hand tools had better learn how to sharpen edge tools first, or they will be sorely disappointed! If their tools won’t cleanly cut anything they are useless. Starting with machines is also great for those who can afford them and have somewhere to place them. Beginners will also need instruction. Having a mentor with the appropriate skills is good, but not essential. With the internet woodworking sites and all the good books, magazines and videos available it shouldn’t be too difficult to get started on their own.
~Mike, an American living in Norway