First, a word about shop safety.
Be sure to understand and follow all the safety instructions for your tools. You'll find them in the manual; you remember, that wad of paper that fell out of the box when you unpacked it in a fever of anticipation?
Pay Attention! I don't want to have to come over and slap you around for your own good. Medical care costs money, and worse yet occupies time you could have spent better making something. As an example of not paying attention, consider the following:- a friend that was into building miniature houses was visiting to get some help making scale furniture. She was not exactly dressed for the shop and because I was distracted I put a craft knife down in a dumb place and it rolled... and rolled... and fell off the bench and knicked her knee. It could have been a very nasty cut indeed. Heavens, it could have cut me! So, pay attention.
The Early Years
I started making things in wood when I was about eight or nine and I used to visit my grandparent's house in Gloucester. Grandpa had a neat workshop shed - or rather a very un-neat shed. It was crammed with all sorts of things fascinating to a nosy, curious and smart kid. I soon discovered the pleasures of being able to make my own playthings; boats, guns, mad vehicles, even an entire starship command deck (yeah, really. I was an SF geek even then). Nails were the big thing in my repertoire. You can make almost anything from chunks of wood and nails when you're ten or eleven!
At secondary school I was lucky to have a decent wood-working shop and teachers. I got taught the basics of joinery - all by hand because you can't have enough power tools for a class of thirty. I never did much with the skills back then but it certainly didn't hurt when I got hooked on radio-control model aircraft and motorcycle building and later at the Royal College of Art.
One item of note remains from that era, a box I made for my mother. Forty years on it looks like this;
A truly elegant design ;-)
You don’t get craftsmanship like that these days
It was the first dovetails I ever cut, and yes they’re terrible.The wood is barely palette quality pine. I don’t think it ever got any finish other than thirty years of finger oil and tobacco smoke - hence the alarming colour and staining. But it provided a safe place for a pile of my mother’s sewing accoutrements and knitting yarn scraps and goodness knows what else for thirty years and sat by the side of her chair always. I reclaimed it a couple of years ago when my step-father died as well.
I made some fairly serious furniture for the house in Winchester including several beds and a couple of sets of built-in cupboards for bedrooms as well as office furniture when I worked at home. I didn’t have much of a workshop, just a Black & Decker Workmate, a drill, circular saw and jigsaw, mostly stuff I inherited when my Grandpa died.
After moving to California in ’91 I was able to afford some more serious tools and started making somewhat more serious furniture along with small trinket boxes for gifts. I bought a Robland X-31 combination machine when I had a decent workshop at the ranch in Coulterville. When we sold the ranch I sold the X-31 rather than moving it; let somebody else have the fun!
In 2004 as we planned to move to Vancouver Island I bought a Minimax CU 300 combination machine which is similar to the X-31 in concept but in much the same way that a Mercedes S-class is similar to a Chevrolet Nova.
The latest incarnation of my shop on Vancouver Island has grown to include some pretty neat toys as I’ve been able to afford to get some more serious equipment. Mind you, I don’t seem to have a huge amount of available time to actually use them as much as I’d like. One of the more important tools I installed was a decent dust collector setup; there is an installation story here
Wander through the following pages to see more details..