Each and every week, I take the time to read the comments that my readers make about my woodworking blog. First of all I want to them for taking the time to comment, I really appreciate all of the comments and suggestions. This past week there was a comment from a gentleman, who expressed a desire to get into woodworking. As a guy who is passionate about woodworking, I want to welcome him to the fold. And I want to offer him all of the advice and encouragement possible in his endeavors.
Over this past weekend I happened to spend some time in the shop of another woodworker, and he and I got to talking about the problems that a new woodworker faces. The more we talked, the more we became convinced that many new woodworker actually make it harder on themselves to become a successful woodworker than necessary. Now I know that you are not going to let me get away with making a statement like that without some explanation.
There are normally two ways that a person moves into woodworking. The first group of people is those who grew up in an environment that included woodworking. These are the guys and gals whose father, grandfather, or other relative or neighbor was involved in woodworking. And as time went on, they either inherited their woodworking tools from these folks, or because woodworkers are an opinionated group, had already learned the importance of having quality tools. My comments do not apply to this group.
They do however apply to a second group of new woodworkers. This is the group that includes those who one day decide for whatever reason that they want to become a woodworker. Maybe it’s because they have just moved into a new home and see many projects that they could take on, if only they were into woodworking. Whatever the motivation, I feel that there is absolutely nothing wrong with that idea; in fact I think it’s great. But what often happens next is the problem.
The new woodworker is faced with a dilemma. As we all know, to do woodworking he or she needs to invest some hard money into the tools that woodworking requires. But not being 100% sure that they will really enjoy woodworking they hesitate to spend the money to purchase quality tools. And this I feel is where they set themselves up for failure.
When starting out, most novice woodworkers will normally opt for the smaller, lighter less expensive tool, be it a tablesaw, miter saw or whatever tool is needed to supplement their workshop. In their thinking, it doesn’t make sense to spend the money on an expensive tool when they are not sure that they will really like doing woodworking. And I can understand that line of thinking. But when they try to make that precise cut with this tool, the results are often less than perfect.
Well there could be a multitude of reasons, the woodworker didn’t set the tool up correctly, or the blade/bit was dull, the wood wasn’t secured correctly or maybe just maybe the tool was not capable of making the desired cut. But since this occurred with a novice woodworker, there is a very strong possibility that the woodworker will blame their own skills rather than seeing that the problem maybe with the tool.
At this juncture, one of two things can happen, the woodworker can take the time to diagnose the problem and realize that the tool, not they are at fault. Or they can simply give up woodworking, because they feel that they just can’t do it. That they don’t possess the skills needed to be a good woodworker. And this is really too bad. Yes, I know about the old adage that a craftsman doesn’t blame his tools. But there are times that the tool is the real culprit.
Getting back to the guy who wants to get into woodworking, my advice would be to avoid the cheap tools. I am not advocating buying the most expensive tool. I am advocating buying the best tool. Take the time to research the tools completely. Look at any one of the multitude of woodworking blogs for their reviews or comments on tools. I know for certainty that any woodworker who is unhappy with the performance of a tool will make sure that anyone who will listen knows their feeling about that tool. Likewise, if they have had a good experience with a particular tool, they will let you know that as well.
Just to clarify, my comments about taking the time to find the best tool, based on all factors not just price, applies to all tools. A cheaply built hand tool can cause just as many headaches for the woodworker an equally poor power tool.
If you try woodworking and find that it just isn’t your thing, that’s okay. Woodworking isn’t for everyone. I just don’t want anyone to quit trying woodworking because they have bad tools.