(Before) My First Project: Getting Started

I was mulling it over, thinking I might enjoy woodworking for a couple years before I got started. I can’t remember who I mentioned it to, but they said to me that the first thing I’d need was a bench.

To the internet! I began searching. One of the first things I found was a book by Christopher Schwarz called Workbenches: From Design & Theory to Construction & Use.

I bought it, read it cover to cover several times, and salivated a lot.

I had figured that a bench was what you’d work on top of. It was essentially just a table, so you didn’t have to sit cross-legged on the floor. The book made me realize that a bench was actually a tool – the most important tool in fact that you’ll ever use. Every inch of the bench represented a conscious decision that would follow, guide and corral your work moving forward. The benches described were amazingly beautiful objects of utility.

Moments of revelation like this, when something perceived as a table you don’t mind making marks on transforms itself into a complex and sophisticated tool consciously designed to the nth degree are the sort of moments I truly enjoy.

Unfortunately I now faced a big problem: I knew what this job would look like if I did it right.

The book laid out detailed plans on how to build one of these benches, but how would it be possible without a bench to start out with? Also, it was going to cost me at least $500 in materials alone, plus as fairly decent set of tools that I didn’t have yet.

Thinking about the catch 22 of how to build a bench to learn to woodwork on before you have a bench or the skills needed to build one, and the upfront costs involved, I began to wonder whether – if I really tried – I’d maybe enjoy bird watching too. It’d get me outside more, I could stand to be a bit more active.

If you’re the sort for whom the money didn’t scare you off you could write checks large enough to provide yourself a space and purchase a bench already made and start learning. I’m coming to terms with the fact that today I qualify as middle-class, and am doing alright, but I’ve spent too much of my life pretty impoverished to approach spending money that easily (I don’t care to overcome this delusion: it’s a big part of why I’m not struggling as much financially as I used to).

I was interested. I thought I might enjoy woodworking. The book on benches revealed a lot about how things perceived as simple were in fact quite sophisticated, and I liked that too.

But I was paralyzed, because I knew how the job of building this bench ought to be done.

Rule #1 for starting out: don’t let perfect become the enemy of the good, or the so-so, or even of the mediocre. You’ve got to start somewhere.

Get out there, and do a really lousy job at something. It’s how you learn, and it’s much more enjoyable than it sounds.

I plan on describing how my bench came into existence in another post. You can see it in photos from other posts. I know some things I should do to improve it, and I’ve considered replacing it entirely. But I’m also very pleased with it, and love it, warts and all.

This entry was posted in Books, Magazines, & DVDs, Getting Started and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s