Like every guy, there has been a special place in my heart for "The New Yankee Workshop" since I was a teenager. I have the geeks from the "Woodsmith Shop:. I've marveled at Roy Underhill on "The Woodwright" and how he insists on doing everything by hand -- no power tools! I've come to like Tommy Mac and "Rough Cut" and I have a subscription to "Fine Woodworking Magazine" too. I envisioned throwing together a few reclaimed boards in 30 minutes or so using the table saw, jointer, planer, and a few well placed mortises and tenons along with some Titebond 3 (good for outdoor applications). I thought I'd just whip up a humidor, a jewelry box, a chest of drawers with perfect dovetail construction.
So, off I went to my wood shop. And then, I quickly realized that these pieces of equipment can really hurt you. Every woodworker I know has missing fingers or some war story about a close call. I play piano. I like my fingers, thank you very much. So, I hired a coach and took a few classes. We built the obligatory first projects: a checkerboard cutting board followed by a breadknife. I thought I was ready to make a mission style inspired chest of drawers.
For the next year, projects sat half started, half baked, and mostly screwed up beyond repair. I spent a few hours a week noodling around, not really accomplishing much, but it was a good distraction nonetheless. I had a few small wins when I made my wife a jewelry box that didn't suck and fixed the boys broken wooden toys (cyanoacrylate glue rules the world).
All along, I of course kept buying more advanced tools. "If I just had that new Festool Domino I could build XYZ," I thought. And so, I bought the domino, used it twice on practice boards, and haven't found a purpose for it again. There aren't many joints that require a domino in a 6" wooden airplane that needs its wing glued back together.
Here's the bottom line: woodworking is very hard. Those guys you see on TV? I call bullshit. One second they are cutting a panel using the mitre sled, the next they are dadoing perfect half lap joints. They don't show the 17 minutes it takes to change to the dado blade and they certainly don't show the 19 minutes it takes to cut the test piece to make sure the dado is set correctly.
It reminds me a little of poker on television, come to think of it. The audience at home sees the "highlight reel" -- the big bluff, the 50/50 race with QQ vs AK, the great call, the final table. They rarely get to see the 200 hands that were played the eight hours before where the studious player was taking careful notes, measuring up the opponents, carefully calculating a winning strategy, and then waiting for a chance to execute. Those "prep" hands aren't all that interesting, but that is where all the skill is. Hell, put me in Norm Abrahams shop and have his assistants set up all the machines and I can push the wood through the saw and make a perfect angled, haunched tenon too! And you can be sure that tenon will glide into the mortise with just a little bit of resistance -- the perfect fit.
I'm proud to be known as a good poker teacher. I know how much work it takes to distill the elements of the game into an easily digested video or text that can help take someones game to the next level. I have put thousands of hours into teaching -- those books don't write themselves! I labor over the set up, each word. I know that the devil is in the details. Much like woodworking.
I needed a teacher, a mentor that could help get me going. Fortunately, I found Marc Spagnuolo at thewoodwhisperer.com. Here is a guy that really knows how to teach. He shows every step in the process, not just the highlights. He gives really detailed plans. He patiently explains the traps, the problems you are likely to encounter. He doesn't pull any punches about how hard something is going to be. And he's willing to admit and show his mistakes. In short, his teaching style for woodworking is exactly what I try to do with my teaching style for poker.
I just finished building my first project -- an Adirondack chair in the style of Greene and Greene. It is built with Honduran Mahogany with Walnut accents. I couldn't resist. You can never have too many outdoor chairs, and I loved the design. I have about 50 hours and $400 in wood and various accessories into the project. After the teak oil dries, I'll be sitting on my chair, cracking a beer, and proudly telling my very patient and understanding wife, "Honey, I finally built something."