I studied forestry at Penn State University and then spent ten years working in the utility line clearance industry with the Asplundh Tree Expert Co. While building my house, I began to get into carpentry and woodworking, and later went to work as a finish carpenter. Eventually, I started taking on some minor woodworking jobs. I realized I needed some real shop experience, so I took a job in a stair shop building custom staircases for about five years. While there, I began to set up a shop of my own with the intention of going into business for myself, which I did in 1998. I’ve been on my own since.My typical day is usually pretty simple. I’ll spend an hour in the morning on the computer promoting my shop and looking for leads. Around 8:00 A.M. I open up the shop and work on whatever I’m doing until 4:00 or 5:00 P.M.
Jim, I belong to Charles Neil’s website and get his DVDs and watch his videos. He’s a great teacher. However, if I had to travel all the way up to Virginia I’d be out of luck. The Internet is a great asset for woodworkers. BTW, I wish the college you teach in was right here in my town. If it were I’d enroll because I know that you are a fine woodworker. Traveling somewhere to a class is an expense that I couldn’t afford in money and time.
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There is a seemingly endless selection of power tools. Variations of tools that were only seen in large cabinet shops and furniture factories can now be found at the local big box hardware stores. Prices are lower today than they have ever been in terms of real dollars. Quality can vary and old brand names don't always mean what they used to. So where do you start?
Disclaimer: I've definitely taken a route that favors hand tools. More so than say, the 'modern' approach -- and it's mostly because, having used both awesome power tools, and awesome hand tools, I find that I enjoy the process of the work more with hand tools (I can actually chat with someone while I'm using hand tools -- not so much when I'm running a circular saw, router, sander, band saw, table saw, etc.)   So, my take is going to be biased towards a more 'traditional' approach -- but the resources and people listed below are no strangers to modern tools either, and definitely make use of them when they choose.

I learned the basics from J. Arthur Johnson when I was in 7th grade shop class . . . and I’ve been self-taught ever since. I do read Fine Woodworking (I have EVERY issue) and some books that my wife and friends have given me; and of COURSE Marc’s fine blog and a few other on-line sources but I don’t feel like I have really learned how to do anything until I’ve tried and failed and then re- and re-re-tried until I’ve made it work MY way.
Even if you don’t live in a rustic log cabin, you can give your home a great cabin look by simply planking one or more walls. This is a relatively easy project that will add beauty and value to any home. Just choose the wall that you want to change, and add wooden planks which you can pick up at most home improvement stores for very little. Then stain if you want and you have a lovely cabin type wall

I decided to start my own vintage rental company, with farm tables being the main rental item. There was just one problem, I couldn’t afford to buy twenty farm tables… Which led me to my only option, I’d have to build them, except that again I didn’t know a thing about building or power tools nor did I know anyone that I felt comfortable asking to teach me. But, I figured if I could pass the CPA exam, I could figure out how to build a table on my own and learn how to use power tools.

I generally use biscuits for this (three per joint), and I have never had a joint fail (and a bookcase spending five years in an elementary school is a pretty fair test), but dadoes work great here as well. To assist with accuracy and consistency when using biscuits, mark your biscuit locations on a piece of scrap, and then use the scrap as a guide as you mill biscuit slots in each carcass member. The carcass top is attached so that it is flush with the top of the carcass sides. The carcass bottom is attached so that the top of the panel is 2-1/2″ above the floor (or the bottom of the side panel).


Tightening the nuts clamps the uprights against the shelves, holding them in place and providing shear strength (through friction) for the whole assembly. I know of an 8' tall, 12' long version of these shelves that has survived a few minor earthquakes while fully loaded with hundreds of books. Once the nuts are tightened on my smaller versions, I (all 240lbs of me) have a very hard time "racking" the shelves by pushing on one end of them in an attempt to get them to collapse: I can't.

You can do this with a dado blade, or alternatively, you can simply make two passes with a standard kerf table saw blade. I often do the “two pass method” for 1/4″ dado and rabbet cuts simply to save time, avoiding setting up a dado blade. Set up a sacrificial fence on your table saw because you will be spinning the blade right next to the fence. Set your blade height to 3/8″, and remove a width of 1/4″.


The progenitors of Chinese woodworking are considered to be Lu Ban (魯班) and his wife Lady Yun, from the Spring and Autumn period. Lu Ban is said to have introduced the plane, chalk-line, and other tools to China. His teachings were supposedly left behind in the book Lu Ban Jing (魯班經, "Manuscript of Lu Ban"). Despite this, it is believed that the text was written some 1500 years after his death. This book is filled largely with descriptions of dimensions for use in building various items such as flower pots, tables, altars, etc., and also contains extensive instructions concerning Feng Shui. It mentions almost nothing of the intricate glue-less and nail-less joinery for which Chinese furniture was so famous.
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If you have wood pallets just lying around the yard, put them to use by turning them into a great mud room bench. This bench would look fabulous on the deck or just inside the door, wherever you want to put it. When you finish putting it all together, just sand and stain it whatever color you want and you have a beautiful bench that cost you very little to create.

As projects increase in size and scale, there is usually a desire to get a larger table saw, a miter saw, add a small jointer, a router and maybe a belt sander. Eventually, things get out of hand and you are seen at every tool sale, and spend more time online looking at the few remaining tools for which you have not yet found a project that will justify their purchase.
The worst part of the job for me is dealing with legal matters and paperwork. There may not be a lot, and hiring an accountant and lawyer removes much of the burden, but it still seems like I’m filling out a form or making a phone call at least once a week to deal with red-tape. Even something as simple as setting up to buy from a new supplier can require filling out and submitting a tax document. We did have to spend a half hour unloading a wood delivery in freezing rain once, which was a terrible experience, but still not as bad as the constant need to fill IRS forms.

As projects increase in size and scale, there is usually a desire to get a larger table saw, a miter saw, add a small jointer, a router and maybe a belt sander. Eventually, things get out of hand and you are seen at every tool sale, and spend more time online looking at the few remaining tools for which you have not yet found a project that will justify their purchase.
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Then, beginning several decades ago, shop classes began to be removed from secondary curriculums. With the decrease in educational funding, and increasing emphasis on standardized testing, schools began to cull electives, institute stricter graduation requirements, and focus more on college prep academics and the subjects necessary for passing state exams. There wasn’t money or time to maintain tools and sawdust-filled workshops, and one by one school districts dropped their shop classes, figuring that students who wished to pursue trade skills could do so later at a vocational college.
My basic advice is to develop lots of connections with people. Most branches of woodworking are hard to sell without knowing the right people – especially when targeting the luxury furnishings or corporate markets. I started down this path with the idea that I might own my own shop but forgot about that once I’d accepted employment in the field. Since I was satisfied working for others, I didn’t bother making the connections, and now I’m so busy it’s hard to get away from the shop long enough to do so. That’s not the end of the world, as we’re still pulling in plenty of work. It just took longer to get there than it should have. For those considering a self-employed woodworking career, it’s a good idea to meet individuals who associate with the types of people that are likely to become future clients. Word-of-mouth is still a powerful form of marketing even in this age of internet.

I studied forestry at Penn State University and then spent ten years working in the utility line clearance industry with the Asplundh Tree Expert Co. While building my house, I began to get into carpentry and woodworking, and later went to work as a finish carpenter. Eventually, I started taking on some minor woodworking jobs. I realized I needed some real shop experience, so I took a job in a stair shop building custom staircases for about five years. While there, I began to set up a shop of my own with the intention of going into business for myself, which I did in 1998. I’ve been on my own since.My typical day is usually pretty simple. I’ll spend an hour in the morning on the computer promoting my shop and looking for leads. Around 8:00 A.M. I open up the shop and work on whatever I’m doing until 4:00 or 5:00 P.M.
The Lead Instructor for the course is Aled Lewis. You can see Fine Woodworking's video about Aled here. For each project, Aled is joined by a co-teacher who specializes in the relevant skills. The following list is subject to change. Most of the instructors have websites which you can visit for more extensive views of their work. See the list of instructors here.
This time I surprised one of my favorite dice games and took it outside. I made a set of wooden dice in just a few hours, and instead of sitting in the room and doing nothing, we are taking our dice game out into the yard. With this set of wooden dice, dice games are becoming our favorite backyard game. Check out the step by step tutorial below so you can make your own.
The worst part of the job for me is dealing with legal matters and paperwork. There may not be a lot, and hiring an accountant and lawyer removes much of the burden, but it still seems like I’m filling out a form or making a phone call at least once a week to deal with red-tape. Even something as simple as setting up to buy from a new supplier can require filling out and submitting a tax document. We did have to spend a half hour unloading a wood delivery in freezing rain once, which was a terrible experience, but still not as bad as the constant need to fill IRS forms.

Teds Woodworking is a big collection of woodworking plans and all of these are well organized and categorized so that you find what you are looking for fast. These woodworking plans include bed plans, table and chair plans, furniture plans, shed plans, bird house plans and many more. Each of these woodworking plans come with full comprehensive instructions as well as diagrams. You will be able to see, what it is you want to do. The program also includes 150 training videos, so you can see and learn how things should be done. You will be able to see the complete pieces that you need to build and learn how to fit them together. The diagrams are used by many individuals as they go through each part of the process.
Once you’ve mastered the basics, then check out magazines like Fine Woodworking, Woodcraft, etc. Visit your local woodworking store (like Woodcraft or Rockler) and browse the book / plans section. What I like is these stores normally have people with woodworking expertise and can answer most of your questions whether they be basic or advanced. They also offer monthly workshops at an affordable price.

Another fine example of remodelling furniture and re-using what already exists in the house.  The bookcase involves using your old kitchen cabinets, and building new shelves on top of them. The final product can also be used as an entertainment unit, housing a television, books and things of your interest along with ample storage to keep other utility objects.
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