A few weekends ago, I was given the incredible honor of being a guest demonstrator at the Lie-Nielsen event here in Seattle. I was shocked at just how many woodworkers showed up to the event. The myth I’d been telling myself about being the only woodworker around with a specific obsession for handtools was officially busted, and I couldn’t have been happier about it. The reason being that I have often gotten stuck on a project, needed a second pair of hands, or needed the painfully obvious to be pointed out by another woodworker. Though I would have liked to, I’ve never been able to attend any formal woodworking training courses. I’m young, money’s very tight, and I have a husband who totally supports my woodwork, but understandably doesn’t want to share me or have to run our newly purchased farm without me for three months while I’m three hours away at the Port Townsend School of Woodworking. So I’m here, desperate to learn more about woodwork, and my only options are the King County Library, other local woodworkers and the internet.
Thankfully, those three have been pretty great options thus far. Instagram has been a fantastic resource that has connected me to many incredible woodworkers who I can call when I get stuck or laugh with me about my most recent failings in the shop. I’ve learned all kinds of things from sharpening hook knives to tuning my bandsaw on free youtube videos, and our local library has a pretty extensive collection of Fine Woodworking and Popular Woodworking videos that can be checked out. I learned to dovetail watching Rob Cosman’s videos over and over. That head knowledge was solidified, however, only with a lot of practice. I still consider myself to be one of the world’s slowest dovetailers, but with time and patience, I can now cut a pretty passable set. I’ve watched and re-watched as much of the Woodwright’s shop with Roy Underhill I could find. I practiced lathe work with Richard Raffan’s DVD on turning.
Lost Art Press has provided a bevy of fantastic woodworking texts and videos available for purchase- some of my favorite for the beginner are The Cabinet Maker and Joiner and The Anarchist's Toolchest.
Recently, I’ve gotten involved with the Heritage School of Woodworking, which has been a major game changer for me. Because I’ve not formally studied, I’ve skipped around wherever my interests pique. Some very important foundational theories have gotten missed, so slowly going through the very well made, helpful online content the Heritage School offers has helped me to begin to stand on a much firmer foundation with regard to woodworking knowledge and skill.
Obviously, there is no “better” alternative than doing an apprenticeship program or going to school and learning this “old fashioned skill” the “old fashioned way,” but spending my time reviewing quality online and print material followed by tons and tons of practice, interspersed with phone calls and emails to friends further along in their woodworking journey has gotten me to the point where I can confidently tackle most any project I can dream up. I still have a lot to learn and would still love some formal training at some point, but am currently very content to continue to use the resources available to me and to make as much sawdust in my shop as possible.
Check out my “Resources” Page for some other fantastic resources for learning woodwork from the comfort of your own couch.