I have pounded tens of thousands of nails and can only recall smashing my thumb with a hammer one time. I was twelve years old and it still hurts. Or at least the memory of it does.
I first learned to build things out of wood when I was in High School by helping my two brothers frame houses. I played the little brother card and a vo-tech class to get me out of school half of every day.
However, I learned to love framing houses because of the sense of accomplishment that could be measured each day. We would start with an empty basement and a few weeks later a house silhouetted majestically against the sky.
Yet, I always envied the finish carpenters. While we framers were either baking in the Kansas sun that was so hot we didn’t care if the devil came to get us or shivering in the howling winds of winter, we were always outside in the elements. We boasted we were tougher than the finish carpenters- and probably were- but we were pretty darn jealous of them because they showed up when after the heating or the a/c was installed.
While framing is it’s own special art, you can miss some cuts by a quarter of an inch and the house won’t fall down. With finish carpenters, however, missing a cut by a quarter of an inch and you get to start the project all over again. Regardless of what sarcastic old carpenters say, there are no such things as board stretchers.
Somewhere along the line, I picked up the love of fine woodworking. This past weekend, I was able to wrap up an armoire that I started almost a year ago for my wife. I’ve got nightstands left to build and, at the rate I’m going, I’ll have them done by next July. But that’s okay. She’s patient.
Here are a few photos of the project:
One of the most important lessons that I have ever learned about woodworking besides moving my thumb before I swing the hammer is to use quality tools. I simply refuse to build anything with inferior tools.
Some time ago, I helped a friend who had a cheap saw with a bad blade. It didn’t matter how hard I tried, I could not cut a straight line with it. The project I helped him with looked like something Red Green would build on his PBS show.
It’s tempting, especially when I had people who worked for me building houses, to buy cheap tools. But I learned two things about working with quality tools whether it is a Jet table saw or a computer:
- You can’t do quality work with cheap tools no matter how skilled you are
- If you work with cheap tools, you not only settle for mediocrity, you will come to expect it
Or, like a grizzled old carpenter used to growl, “You can’t build cabinets with a buzz saw.”