You want to start out in woodworking, or you’ve taken the first few steps. Whether that’s with hand tools or machines and you think you must have all things in place before you get started seriously. You know, 20 by 20 workshop, that perfect workbench everyone raves about, shelves and cupboards stuffed and stacked with the finest of all tools and equipment. That’s when life begins, and you will become your own lifestyle woodworker. Maybe retirement is just around the corner. Five years to go and that big retirement cheque, the bonus called time to do what you want, collecting tools and knowledge for when you can make the transition from one world to another. Trouble is with all of that waiting you might just be wasting the very best of time waiting for more of an illusion. Becoming a woodworker doesn’t at all depend on any of these things, you might just think it does. I think it was Benjamin Franklin who said it best with, “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” Get started while you have youth on your side no matter your age. Enthusiasm, aspiration, inspiration, know nothing of age and ideal circumstances. Procrastination is not in our vocabulary. There is no time to waste.
Any place of transition is a difficult place to be. Just when you start to feel settled in, you find yourself discomfited. On the other side of the lenses, when a video goes out, and I watch it, I look pretty cool. By that I don’t really mean cool as great looking but that I am quite relaxed. What I am learning is not to stay in one place for too long otherwise I won’t be ready for a change.
In the late 1980s early 90s, I began soul-searching because of holding a class on beginning woodworking. I’ve talked about this before somewhere. It led to the successful passage where I opened up teaching workshops for thousands of students. In all of my doings though, when the greatest growth took place was in the testing of things; in the constraints and struggles even where I felt I had the very least control was where I personally grew the most. And there in my greatest growing spurts I would see others growing alongside me. That increase meant growing pains. You know, not the expanding of an empire but straining to see how what you were doing created life for others you cared about or something you cared about. In my different working environments, most of which a created to suit me my workshops have ranged from 6 feet by eight feet and on up in size. At one time I worked in my creative workspace of 40 foot by 80 foot. It was massive. Today I find myself yet again in a more cramped and confined environment. I find myself with fewer than ever tools than ever before to go with it. You might think Paul’s looking pretty cool today when you watch this or that video. Well, I do feel it’s what I should be doing. I also feel in some ways it’s self-inflicted too. But it’s also what I want. My actual workspace is 11 feet long and 9 feet deep. The ceiling is trussed and starts at 7’6″. Not a lot different than my home garage workspace where the garage is bigger but I’m constrained to the same footprint. The thing I have found is that most of my very best woodworking, my most creative work, the generation of my best ideas and designs, my blogs too, come when I am the most constrained; the most uncomfortable in many ways.
That’s why I don’t want you to feel sorry for me. When I had my 40 x 80 space I worked in an area of about 11 feet by 9 feet by 7’6″. It has evolved for me and I have discovered that it’s in the smaller places that I work the best. So all of you out there, at the tail end of the kitchen, in the box room upstairs, or sharing with the appliances, kids bikes, lawnmower and wheelbarrow in the garage or shed, remember this is where you will grow the most. Never ever think that you need to wait for the ideal workbench or the bigger space. You’ll waste time. Work wood wherever you can and whenever you can. We amateur woodworkers will work wood if someone ties our hands and feet together and some leaves a pocket knife and a lump of pine on the top shelf. Go work wood!
Over the coming blogs I want to share more from my struggling toward success rather than the ideals. It will help you to see more of my vision for the future of our joint efforts in woodworking. You will see a few shifts, twist and turns I have taken along the way and see why I made them and how I got to where I am now in shifting the status quo of woodworking to encompass woodworkers on every continent.