In this edition of my journey I would like to write a bit about where I am in my woodworking in terms of what I am busy with and how I want to approach it from a philosophical point of view. My approach is clearly changing as the years go by so I thought it would be good to document it from time to time, in order to look back and put it all in perspective somewhere down the line.
For the past 2 years I have been busy setting up a functional workshop and I estimate that this phase of predominantly working on the shop (rather than making furniture) will take at least another 2-3 years. It might well sound ridiculous to other woodworkers, but woodworking is a leisure pastime for me and I do not have that much of it. I do not have to produce heaps of stuff to enjoy the process and the last thing I want is to feel pressured to get a heap of stuff done similar to my day job.
Therefore I am progressing slowly and trying to consciously savor the time in the shop purely for being there rather than what I produce while I am there. I know a lot of people say one should try to build furniture as much as possible while in the shop, but I enjoy the challenge of building and restoring tools as much, if not more. When I feel that my shop is setup in a way that would make the next step (of building furniture) enjoyable, I will move on.
What I am finding is that the process of building tools and shop structures is giving me an opportunity to hone my skills on stuff that is less important to get perfect, which is not what I want to do while building furniture. The issue here is that although I have always known that woodwork is my thing, I have not been able to do much due to the career path I have chosen. Therefore I am a real novice and has no proper training to fall back on. It is only now that I am starting to read and learn about the finer points of this wonderful craft. This is another reason why I am happy to spend another 2 years working on the shop, as the learning curve in terms of practical skills takes time and my shop time is limited. Another advantage of going about it this way is that I am able to figure out what type of bench and other paraphernalia works for me before jumping into the fray of proper cabinet making.
If we then move on to how I want to approach the phase of building predominantly furniture. My philosophical stance has a lot to do with how I feel about the wood I work with. As I explained in “My journey 3” I feel a certain responsibility to produce timeless pieces, whether that is tools or furniture, out of sheer respect for the forest, it’s history and how it ties up with the history of my own ancestors. This might sound a bit fluffy, but I do not feel the need to justify myself in this respect.
In terms of the above, it is much easier to produce a timeless piece while building tools as I will be able to use and enjoy the tool more often than a piece of furniture. I also see these tools as heirlooms that could stay in the family for a long time after I pass on and so attain that timeless status in another way. Since reading lots of old (mostly late 19th century) woodwork books it is surprising how little has changed in terms of the design and use of especially handtools. Hence my view of this pursuit as a shortcut towards timeless products. If you are interested in getting hold of these old books, go to the library page on this website and you will find two links to websites where one can download heaps of these books for free.
In the meantime I am trying to read and learn as much as possible about design to prepare for the next phase which will be far more challenging.