I spent a few days this past week working with my neighbor Richard in his very busy wood shop. Recently, after a visit, we were talking about woodworking machines. He showed me a wood shaper that he had just purchased, but it did not do the job he had hoped.
“You ought to buy it!” he says. Earlier, I had mentioned that I would like to learn how to make a raised panel door. “This is just the machine to do it” he pressed.
Our friend Nate found himself in the same spot not too long ago. “Nate” says Richard, “bring your tractor down, I have something for you.” Next thing Nate knew, he had a planer sitting in his bucket loader. “I am going to send it to the dump if you don’t take it” says Richard.
The next day Richard hints how far behind he is on Adirondack chair production, and how on these days when it is too cold to be working in the woods, we might be put to better use working in his shop. So that is how Nate and I found ourselves bartering some shop help for an almost new shaper cutter and a planer. We both so enjoy Richard’s company, stories, and of course his “happy hour”. Nate might keep working in the shop when his barter time is up. I hope Richard will be needing to send more equipment to the dump, I will be standing by to help!
I love working with wood, and spend a lot of time fiddling with it. I cut it to heat the home, evaporate maple sap for syrup, saw it up into lumber, construct buildings out of it, and on some occasions make useful art out of it.
I have never been overly confident in my own woodworking abilities. I briefly worked for my uncle as a builder when I was a teenager. The rest has been either hobby building, (tools, boxes, gifts) or necessary building, (barns, sheds, out-buildings). “Close enough” in the building I do does not cut it when you are doing finish carpentry and cabinet building (or aircraft maintenance for that matter). So it is with some trepidation that I start any woodworking project that I have not previously done.
Building adirondack chairs in my neighbor’s wood shop has been a different thought process. I am manufacturing many of the same kind of pieces over and over again (350 chairs need to be finished by the beginning of the summer). Though I am not creating a new piece of my art, I am helping to fulfill a neighbor’s ambition, while improving my skill, craft and technique. Not only is it a great way to escape the cold, it has got me inspired to start doing some more of my own projects in wood.