Do It Yourself was a 1960s movement that resulted in DIY shops abounding on Britain high streets and back streets to provide small quantities and tools for the weekend warrior. It was very much a man thing, of that there is no doubt and though there have been some changes, it has not been huge. Back then it was a Saturday morning thing to cycle down to the DIY shop to buy nails and glue and sheet goods cut to size by the store owner and leave with panels and sticks lashed to pedals and crossbars. In the UK it was an era when on my street of a hundred houses only three or four residents owned a car. The electric drills all had plugs and battery driven drivers were still decades away. England and Britain as a whole was perhaps two decades behind the US when it came to so-called power tools. Black and Decker had introduced its drill power and kits that fit the chuck to drive the first circular saw with a 3″ circular saw blade, a jig saw and a folded tin stand to convert the electric drill to a spring-loaded drill press. Door to door salesmen, and it was a man thing, back-packed their holdalls to the front door and persuaded adult men and women to invest in their most expensive possession, the home, by doing the work themselves with kit to match the intensions. My dad bought into it. It was not a pretty sight because there were no safety protocols anywhere to be seen. Most of my memory recall is my dad jumping, skipping and flinching with arms and legs flailing to get out of the way of flicked boards and dropped equipment including the electric drill still running and eating through what was left of the wood. Why I still believe strongly in DIY has nothing to do with my father impressing woodworking methodology on me. No. It’s more to do with my belief that anyone and everyone can enjoy my craft provided they have the desire and the proper instruction. Give me one month’s worth of days and I can teach anyone top make a tool chest like this one, a rocking chair like this one, a coffee table like this one. Invest £500 or less in the hand tools in my book and buy my book Essential Woodworking Hand Tools. You will be able to make any piece of furniture in your garage, shed, basement or spare room that you want. The workbench series is a perfectly good place for any beginning novice woodworker to get started AND YES, YOU, You can do it!
My dad had no instruction and no internet, but he had perseverance. Late into his 60s, my age now, he spent hours in his shed down the garden. There was no Men and Sheds charities then. I would that there had been, just for him. There was no YouTube and no googling this or that for him, but I picture him now with his jars of nails and vintage drill he bought back in the 1950s drilling and installing shelves and curtain rails and so many other things. they were never pretty. They were cobbled together from something else, but they were always functional. He never fulfilled the William Morris tenets about beauty and functionality and having nothing in your home that wasn’t functional and beautiful. But he was happiest when he was tinkering. I remember when I told him I had just finished making two pieces for the White House Permanent Collection and my delivering them to the West Wing. I made him a proud man.
We are on a DIY journey my friends. My garage-type/size workshop has always been key to its success and your success. Find a corner in the attic or shed and join me and others on the journey. If you could see what we have made over the last few years it would both amaze and encourage you. Not thousands of pounds/dollars worth of equipment, no fancy workshop, no fancy workbench either. A few years ago I wrote blogs naming this work we strive to do the Real Woodworking Campaign because for me I was on a campaign to reverse the effects of negative training where all cuts in woodworking came from a machine. Today 1.5 million people follow our work every month and it needs to keep growing if indeed we are to continue our success in making woodworking a Family Woodworking effort. Getting the kids involved early is a key to success. They have been left outside the workshop doors for far too long. The campaign is ever advancing but we need your continued support and encouragement. Have a great woodworking weekend.