For the past few years, I've developed a bit of a fascination with woodworking.
Like any craft, it is pretty neat to see an everyday object - like a pile of wood - turn into something interesting. It would probably be even neater if I were the one working with that everyday object.
Now that I have a garage, a workbench and a handful of tools, I decided that I am finally ready to give woodworking a try ... and it is harder than I thought it would be.
I guess I don't know what I was expecting. I understand any craft takes years of practice, but the coffee table I made in 10th-grade shop class - which is holding up nicely some 12 years later, thank you very much - told me getting back into the hobby would be like riding a bike.
That assumption, my friends, has thus far proven inaccurate.
Sure, shop class was relatively easy, because my school provided all the materials and high-end power tools one may need. I have most of the basics - a drill, a circular saw, a handful of clamps and things like that - but it hasn't taken me long to realize how much more smoothly things would go with some better tools.
I'm sure there are some seasoned craftsmen who scoff at my desire for more power tools, and if they have pointers, I would encourage them to email me.
The biggest struggle in my woodworking life at the moment, though, is simply keeping the darn wood from warping. You would think that wouldn't be too difficult, right?
I recently dug out my miter saw and tried a nice, easy, rookie project: a set of tree branch coasters made from a maple tree my neighbor cut down. Let's just say it was a good thing I was working with a 4-foot piece of wood to make six coasters that are a half-inch thick. For some reason, I needed most of it, but I actually made coasters so I'm chalking it up as a win.
On a happier note, a friend of mine - a skilled woodworker in his own right - bought himself a new lathe and offered me his old one along with a bunch of chisels. For those who are unaware, a lathe rotates a piece of wood for you to chisel in order to create rounded, symmetrical things like spindles, table legs, bowls and many others.
For me, woodturning is one of the most hypnotic things to watch. Someone with some skill as a woodturner can cut through a block of wood like butter to make beautiful and intricate designs, so getting a free lathe was pretty exciting.
However, since it needs to be bolted down to some surface, it will take up the entirety of my workbench, and I'm not exactly ready to sacrifice all of my workspace.
Also, I've tried woodturning a bit, and it is certainly not hypnotic when I do it - far from it, really. Needless to say, I'm looking forward to setting that up, but for now it sits on the shelf and I am getting no practice in.
The list of other tools I could use is just about unending, and they range from somewhat costly to obscenely expensive. On top of that, getting serious about the hobby will require an endless supply of wood, sandpaper, finishing products and other little things.
I'm sure my wife is really wishing I would find a cheaper hobby right about now.
However, getting into this hobby has done exactly what I had hoped it would - I'm out of the house more. My free time can now be used in a semi-productive manner, and one day I just may have some furniture or knick-knacks to show for it.
With limited tools and a limited budget, there is a decent chance I'll keep complaining about my new hobby for a while, but the truth is I'm having a lot of fun and I'll continue to get better at it.
For now, though, I would settle for keeping my lumber from warping.