Let me introduce myself: “I am not a furniture maker…. yet.”
What I am though is very determined (stubborn) and passionate about becoming one.
I am a normal person with a full-time day job in IT, but who has had an interest in quality, handmade, solid wood furniture for the last 20 years.
I have read many online resources from expert furniture makers and they are wonderful and inspiring, yet I’ve not yet managed to gain much momentum with the craft due to some pervasive obstacles in my way which you may have in common with me:
I’ve had only a small space to work in, and it’s not brightly lit, or warm, or even dry for that matter. I think most beginners have to deal with quite damp conditions available in external sheds.
I have a full-time job which I commute to in a neighbouring city. My family are a lovely bunch, but the time demands of family life are in conflict with the time demands of developing mastery in a craft such as furniture making.
In almost all instances I don’t have the spare cash to purchase a piece of equipment which would save me time. And last but not least, for most of the last 25 years I have put up with the disadvantages of rented accommodation. Each location has had pros and cons, but the ability to set up a lasting and well configured workshop environment has eluded me.
Despite all this, I’ve made some progress. I did make a small coffee table as a wedding present for an inlaw using handtools, as it was the best way to provide a valuable gift with the funds I had available. After that I was commissioned by another friend to make a dining table out of recycled floor joists. Lastly, I made a large shelving unit to host a hand powered grain mill which we purchased.
All three items have survived to this day in daily use, which I find encouraging.
I aim much higher. I want, no.. need to master many classic furniture joining techniques, rather than just ‘screw things together’. I’ve done the classic newbie mistake of purchasing some text books, but not implementing the contents.
I’ve decided to rectify this by creating a chopping board using mainly hand tools. This will provide me with the core and essential skills of flattening and joining 3 pieces of wood. It’s a critical step in my journey, and should result in a usable product.
If I had a jointer and thicknesser this would be child’s play no doubt, but even if I had such tools I think there will be a lot to learn in the process of using handtools. The tools I have to work with are basic but solid including number 4 smoothing plane, a jointer, a scrub plane, and a solid workbench. I’ve attached a cheap vice on one end. I’ve drilled some bench dog holes in the top of the bench, and chopped up some thick dowel as dogs. Progress at last.
The workspace is still cold, damp and small, but I have a pair of Brave Pants I shall wear.
‘The Cave of Glory’
So, if all goes according to plan, over the next year(s) I’ll demonstrate that even if you have many roadblocks and limitations everywhere you look, you can still achieve your furniture making dreams. Follow along with my future posts and learn from my mistakes and successes, and also give me good advice from your hard earned experience. We’ll both benefit as we go.
Marty is a full time IT worker from New Zealand who is continuing a long journey to learn furniture making despite the common obstacles of limited time, money & workspace.