By Christina VanGinkel
Woodworking as a hobby can encompass many different things. From refinishing items, to building a piece of furniture from the ground up, to creating smaller decorative items and toys. I first become interested in woodworking during the eighties when I worked for a company that manufactured decorative wood products for the retail market.
The company employed just a handful of people, most who would come into work one day a week, pick up their supplies, and take them home to do the actual work which mostly consisted of painting and assembling the wood components into Amish themed miniature scenes and Christmas decor. The following week, they would bring back the work they had completed and pick up more for the coming week. A few employees, myself included, also worked in the shop, cutting the wooden pieces. We also did some assembly on site, and most of us who worked in the shop took work home much the same as the part time employees who worked exclusively from home.
There is some aspect of taking a plain wooden board, and with the help of a few tools, such as a saw and sander, and turning it into something of shape that can have a use either decorative or useful, that is addictive. Like many other hobbies, woodworking draws on some inner human aspect of survival, for without the use of wood, consider where modern man might be today. The prospect of taking someone else's work too, that has survived its original use, but is now in need of some revamping, and being able to restore it to its former or some new glory, is also fascinating. Ask anyone who has sanded away several years worth of paint or stain from an old chair, reupholstered the seat, and re-glued the joints, the pride they have the first time someone comments on the restored antique chair.
If woodworking interests you, but you are not sure about working with tools that are both noisy and intimidating, then consider a few smaller projects first, to test the waters of this fascinating hobby first. Choose a project that you can accomplish with basic hand tools, leaving the projects that will require the use of power tools until you are a bit more comfortable with the whole aspect of woodworking in general. You may find that working with the simplest of tools is all you will ever want to do, or you may crave the need for power and before you know it, be the proud owner of every woodworking power tool known to humanity!
Some simple projects that you might consider trying could be assembling a pre-cut dollhouse that will need some minor sanding and cutting, a shelf that needs to be refinished, or a simple birdhouse that you cut and assemble from scratch. The key to choosing a project for a beginner is to look for those that will not harm anyone if they were to fail. For example, avoid making a weight bearing set of bunk beds, which could cause harm to anyone sleeping in them if the assembly were to have errors.
Also, be sure to read up as much as you can on the proper tools and the use of them, and the hobby of woodworking itself. If you know a woodworker, ask them if they would be willing to offer you a few lessons on their beloved hobby. Many colleges and adult education centers also offer classes on woodworking for the beginner to the advanced. There is much to be learned from any of these choices.
Exploring the avenues of such a hobby can be almost as much fun as the hobby itself, as you find out all of the amazing things that can be made of wood, or how restoring something can breathe a completely new life into an old piece. If you are still in the contemplation phase, wondering if woodworking is something that might be of interest to you, then browse online for sites related to this interesting hobby that often becomes a way of life for those who partake in it. Be sure to check out a few books on the subject, such as Getting Started in Woodworking: Skill-Building Projects that Teach the Basics, by Aime Fraser, or The Complete Manual of Woodworking, by Albert Jackson and David Day.