I think that maybe the hardest part is the start. The start is believing in yourself that you can in fact actually do this; especially is this so if you’ve never made a piece of furniture or woodwork in your life before. That unbelief is compounded by the additional unbelief that somebody will actually pay you for work you do or indeed be able to use what you make or have it in their home as an object of beauty they might appreciate. Phew!
I vividly remember the first pieces I made of my own accord when I was a teenage apprentice – to supplement my meagre wage working for myself in the evenings and weekends. Six bench stools for my sister’s boss was no small ask. They took much longer than planned to make because they were tapered in both directions and had scalloped seats. It was all hand work simply because I didn’t have access to any machines and especially the more specialist mortising machine or a tenoner. There were 16 sets of each in the six stools. I had no bench so worked on the concrete floor at my parents front porch. I was just 16.
The thing is I was in my own zone. Though I had never made anything resembling such a thing before, I owned the tools I needed and my confidence levels were such that I didn’t know I couldn’t do it so I did it. My sister’s boss owned a Lamborghini and another expensive Maserati. He turned up at my parents council house to pick up the stools and could only pick up two at a time. It was a bit of a laugh for me to see such a wealthy man with so little common sense. White leather seats and still ever so slightly sticky polyurethane was not a good combination, but despite my warnings, he was as enthusiastic as me to see the stools in place at the repair shop he owned. As he tore off up the road I followed on my home-built bike made from parts I salvaged from the city dump near my house. I confess that the angled tenon shoulders were far from perfect, but I learned so much and the boss man was as happy as Larry. He peeled off the 13 quid pay from a wad one at a time. I’d never held so much money before. At that time I earned £4 a week for 48 hours. I was rich but it wasn’t the money that made me so. I could now earn money by what I made. This was a game changer and I knew it. Selling my first pieces made me both rich and proud. When my boys each grew, and at about the same age or even younger, they started selling workbenches and mallets, layout knives, dovetail templates and such. They made their own things, beds and tables, violins and cellos, woodworking tools too, purfling tools from steel and wood, for inlaying purfling, callipers for thicknessing and such. Now they can make whatever they need. I think that if you’ve made a cello you can make anything.
I made my first rough drafts of the living room last week. I needed a floor plan because we have not one stick of furniture for it yet. The big questions for me are will there be such things as televisions in five years time? If I make a TV stand can it be used for alternative use if I don’t have one? I confess I rarely watch TV; perhaps no more than an hour or two per year!
Anyway. I say all that to say we can do this and we are going to do it together!