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When going through marathon training (I ran three in 2001 and hope to run another in December of this year), one thing that you should always incorporate is cross-training. Typically one day a week, do something other than running to perhaps develop supporting muscle groups, or at least to give your body a little variety.

While I’m not too sure how much it will “develop supporting muscle groups” for my woodworking, I have picked up a new hobby. Thanks to a birthday present from my parents in celebration of turning 40, I took an Open Water scuba diving course and am now a certified diver!

But while scuba diving is as much a hobby as woodworking, the two couldn’t be more different. And I don’t just mean that you can’t build furniture underwater (your coral workbench would just snap right in two). What I mean is that woodworking is a productive hobby. You can’t take up the hobby of woodworking for very long before you produce SOMETHING tangible. Of course, it may take a little longer before you produce something that will actually last, but that’s another issue. If you’re a woodworker who doesn’t have anything to show for it, then you’re really just a tool collector (another hobby).

Scuba diving is entirely unproductive. But being unproductive doesn’t mean it’s useless. It’s just that the things you get out of scuba diving are internal, entirely for you. It enriches your own personal soul, enhances your appreciation of God and his creation, and gives you some memories and perhaps stories. But other than that (unless you have an underwater camera), you have nothing really to show for it.

I think I like that this hobby is so very different from woodworking. Honestly, my time on the islands entirely wiped the Roubo from my brain. That’s good. My slate is clean, and as I start planning again, I’ll be more fresh and will be able to think more clearly.

Last month, I posted about my adventures in hand-cut veneer. I was pretty proud of myself for how well it turned out; I felt a bit like David fighting Goliath (Goliath being the giant hurdle of working without power tools) and cutting off his big fat head.

I got several very positive comments both here and over on LumberJocks. The comments made me feel like even though I am still brand new in the craft, that there are already some things I can do well. One comment in particular (from Luis) still rings in my ears:

You are an excellent sawyer!!

There are a lot of areas in woodworking where my brand new skills are quite raw – including sawing. But knowing that experienced woodworkers see promise in what I’m doing has given me more confidence in attempting new things.

Tonight I needed a thin strip of wood for my chisel box. It will be glued to the inside of the box lid and will rest against the chisel handles to keep them pinned down when the box is closed. None of my plywood was thin enough, so I said, “Guess I’ll have to just cut a strip myself!” Telling myself, I’m an excellent sawyer! I jumped right in, grabbed the only scrap left of the wood I was using for the interior, and started in on it.

When I was done, I had a strip of wood that was 3/64″ all the way down. And when I sized it up where I needed it to go, I had cut it way too thin! So I’ll have to mix and match the woods after all. Oh well, it’s just a chisel box.

But tonight was a lesson in confidence. Kaleo recently passed on advice from one of his instructors to “trust in your hand tool skills” and not to worry about screwing up. Confidence goes a long way. And so do compliments, so let’s all keep encouraging each other as we all progress in the craft!


This post was inspired by one with a nearly identical name over at Modern Woodshop. It seemed worthy of being classified as a meme, so let’s all join in and share our own personal embarrassments. If you do, be sure to credit Dave for the original idea (or comment on his site).

As for me, I don’t own all that many tools yet, so I have had fewer chances to make dumb purchases. While Dave has six tools of which he’s embarrassed, I only have three. And here they are:

3. Bevel gauge kit (via eBay). I wanted a bevel gauge. On the one hand, I didn’t want to pay out the money for a vintage Stanley; on the other hand, I was being a little too snooty galooty to go buy a new Stanley from Home Depot. I compromised by getting a kit – something I could make with my own two hands without really needing any real skill. Well something got screwed up in the assembly (go ahead, blame me) and the blade isn’t tight – even with a shim. Well, it looks nice hanging on the wall anyway.
2. Local chisels, scraper, wooden bench plane and spokeshave (okay, I’m lumping a few tools together here). These things are not embarrassing in and of themselves; what’s embarrassing is what I tried to do with them. The chisels, plane and spokeshave (Chinese made, poor quality) were as dull as any other you might get right out of the box, but I thought they were sharp and was frustrated by how poorly they functioned. And the scraper? I had read somewhere about how great scrapers were at smoothing the surface of wood, so I bought one. A paint scraper. And you know what? It didn’t really do squat to smooth my surfaces. Go figure.
1. Craftsman 14.4 volt cordless combo. This included a drill/driver, a dustbuster and a circular saw. The combo came with two batteries, and good thing! Each one held a charge for like 20 minutes it seemed. It was even worse (as you might expect) with the circular saw. Speaking of the circular saw, when I got it out of the package, the blade spun the wrong way! After searching the forums (and being berated by “real” woodworkers for buying Craftsman), I figured out that the wires were crossed between the motor and the battery receptacle. Easy enough to fix. Upon returning to Malaysia, I found that the batteries are just about entirely shot. All in all, a hideous purchase. I still have them, though I don’t use them at all anymore. My ryoba and bit brace do just fine; as for the dustvac, well I’m doing hand tool stuff now so it’s more contained and easily swept up.

Last week, I discovered The Wood Whisperer, thanks to a comment here by the whisperer himself, Marc Spagnuolo. He’s got a great web presence thing going on, with his video podcast as well as an audio podcast (Wood Talk Online) that he does with Matt Vanderlist of Matt’s Basement Workshop (also a podcast). I’ve downloaded every podcast put out by both The Wood Whisperer and Wood Talk Online, and am now playing catch-up; in the past week, I’ve listened to like 7 Wood Talk Online podcasts and have watched a handful of Wood Whisperer video podcasts!

I also just joined LumberJocks, a web community of woodworking enthusiasts. So if you’ve come to this site from there, welcome! I was shocked to receive about ten responses within an hour of me posting my profile and a little more about me over there. My profile at LumberJocks is here.

I’ve linked to The Wood Whisperer and LumberJocks over on my sidebar. Thanks for being out there on the web – people like me need sites like yours!