How I ended up in metal shop rather than wood shop is a window to my rebellious, obstinate nature. Everyone else was taking wood shop so I took metal. It was a disaster. I didn’t like the teacher and he, dutifully, didn’t like me. I didn’t like working with cold, hard metal. I’m not particularly thin skinned but metal cut mine with ease.

My father was a painter and my mother was Irish and liked beer. Neither were useful for woodworking inspiration. Having grown up in a big city on the East Coast of the U.S. I never knew a woodworker.

Thirty-two years ago my wife, then a tole painter, wanted a piece of wood cut in a specific pattern so she could paint it. We went to the big box store and found a pine board, brought it home where she traced the pattern on the wood. My first workbench was the bed and tailgate of my little pickup truck. My first bench dog was really my Bench Kitten. My wife sat on the board while I cut to the line on the pattern. I don’t know where I got the jigsaw, but I sanded the piece and she painted it. We were happy. Yes, I know technically my wife was acting more as a clamp, but I love words and couldn’t resist playing with them. Just roll with it. Life is short.

Bench Kitten got a job at a local craft store where she began to teach classes in tole painting. She needed more wooden pieces for her projects and students. Cutting one piece of wood at a time was time consuming so I purchased a bench top band saw, cut out a few rectangular pieces of wood and taped them together. Bench Kitten traced the pattern on the top piece and I cut several at a time. Production.

One day she came home with an idea for a bookcase she would tole paint and sell. I started making bookcases and little shelves. I loved making furniture and off I went. She has left tole painting and become a fine artist. I still love woodworking.

My intention is to share my journey from woodworking with power tools to backtracking and learning how to do stuff with hand tools, the way it all started thousands of years ago. Opposite from a good gardener who may be said to have a green thumb. I have Wooden Thumbs, but I’m going to learn.

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