I have spoken quite a bit to anyone that cared to listen about how easily frustrated you can get trying to learn this craft on your own.
I’ve gone on about how what is out there on television, in magazines, and online really assumes someone has some knowledge already, and how there’s a need for material that makes this craft accessible to people that are curious and want to find out if it’s something they’ll enjoy.
Heck, it’s essential for the future of the craft.
Here’s what I wish someone had told me, no later than the second time I went on about this:
“Shut up already and quit your whining. Go buy The Essential Woodworker by Robert Wearing.”
Somewhere yesterday I ran across another accolade for this book, decided I’d heard enough good things, and bought it. I’ve only had time to read through the first twenty pages or so at this point, but it appears to be everything I’ve been complaining about not being available for solo hobbyists.
From the introduction:
This is really a pre-textbook. It is aimed mainly at those working alone. The apprentice has the guidance of a master craftsman, while the college student has tutors. Keen amateurs, often working in total isolation, lack this advantage.
Just a bit further on:
It is not sufficient to watch a craftsman planing and then to attempt to copy him. He is not just standing beside a plane and moving it back and forth. It is necessary to realize that he is doing much more than that. If the craftsman is not there to ask, the beginner needs to be given a description of what he is doing and what it feels like.
If you’ve decided that you’re interested in woodworking, after a scant twenty pages I can already say with confidence: go buy this book. If you’re still a beginner and don’t feel like you know what you’re doing all the time yet: go buy this book.
I imagine it would be a great refresher for someone more experienced, but that’s beyond my purview.
I spend a lot of time in front of computer screens, so I purchased the digital (pdf) copy for $12. The physical book is $25. Just go get it.
In twenty pages I’ve already had a number of things made crystal clear that I hadn’t a clue about before.
Again, the book is The Essential Woodworker by Robert Wearing. It’s available from the fine folks over at Lost Art Press. I’ve purchased a handful of things from them so far, and have yet to be disappointed – or really anything short of impressed – with a purchase.