Everyday Woodworking Podcast Season 2, Episode 3
Where Do You Learn New Woodworking Skills?
Welcome to Everyday Woodworking, a podcast for smart discussions about the craft, business and love of woodworking, both as a hobby and a profession.
I’m your host, Ricky Fitzpatrick. I am a woodworker, and the owner of Apple Valley Farm, where we make handmade crafts and décor. I’ve been woodworking most of my life, and now with Everyday Woodworking, I have the opportunity to share my experience, thoughts and even my challenges with you.
And I can’t wait for you to join me right here for the next episode of Everyday Woodworking.
Hello, everyone. Welcome back to the Everyday Woodworking Podcast! You know, something happened last week, and I completely forgot to mention it. I don’t know how I did that, but did you notice that we have different music for the podcast? And a different intro?
Yeah. It’s because we’re in…Season 2!
I’m pretty stoked. We’re almost at like 30 episodes now. Dude, it’s starting to make me think that this podcast thing might just work out. (Ha)
No but really, thank you everyone for helping us be here. Our listeners are growing. People are in touch. Things are happening. It’s so cool, and if you’re listening today, then you’re a part of all that. And I’m SO grateful!
Well today, I’m actually taking a question I got from one of our listeners and just doing an entire episode around it. It’s something I get asked ALL the time and you’ll probably think at least part of my answer is totally expected. But other parts…maybe not so much.
But it’s probably a question either you’ve had…maybe for me or for another woodworker, or you’ve been asked. But regardless, it’s something that is essential to our growth and craftsmanship, so you’ll definitely want to hang out with us while we break it open.
But not yet…
We’re going to jump into all that in just a second. But before we do, let’s take a quick break.
One of the most common questions I get is some variation of “How did you learn to do this?”
And I love talking about all the cool or interesting things I’ve been able to do or people I’ve gotten to meet. But today, I specifically wanted to talk about “where I learn woodworking skills”. And that may be new skills, or my history of learning basic skills.
Either way, it’s one of those ice-breaker questions, so it comes up a lot. And hey, if you’re a beginning woodworker, or if you’re only starting to think about woodworking, then maybe this will help you find some direction for acquiring the skill set you need to start getting into the world of woodworking.
I’ve got 7 or 8 general places to fill your brain with lots of shop knowledge. So let’s get right into it!
The first place I learned any level of woodworking was just being around it, growing up. When I was in high school, my mom loved craft things and she wanted to sell at local fairs and festivals, and I was able to paint and letter, but she still needed someone to make the things to paint. So guess who got to do that!?
So my dad went to Sears, bought a band saw, a radial arm saw, a drill and a sander, and said “There they are. Don’t cut your finger off.”
Of course, one of the first things I did was cut right through the middle of a knuckle with the band saw. But it was a lesson I never forgot, and even today, that reminds me to never get my hands too close to the blade.
I was never that great at the craft of woodworking, but I learned and I got better with time. And I have to say, had my parents not made me get out there and figure things out, I probably wouldn’t be doing what I do today.
I am blessed. I’ve said it many times, but I am. And a large part of that is because of the friends I have and have had over the years. As an adult woodworker with limited knowledge in the shop, my friends keep me humble and help me grow.
Thank goodness for folks like Greg Mathis or any number of a dozen other skilled craftsmen who share tools, pass along wisdom and just let me spend time with them, in and around their shops.
Woodworking can be an inherently solitary hobby or job. And I love the alone time that I have in my work. But if you aren’t reaching out to friends in the woodworking community and benefiting from their knowledge and company, then you’re crippling yourself.
Plus, my woodworking friends are some of the best-humored, kind hearted people I know.
You may think “peers” is the same as “friends”. But you’d be wrong.
My friends are my friends. My peers may also be my friends, but not always. And my friends may just be “woodworking friends”, but not craftsman or business peers that can teach me at that level.
In short, I look at “peers” as more of my friends who happen to be in the business of woodworking, in some fashion.
Folks like David Boardman. Or Greg Stewart. These are guys who are heads and shoulders above me in the areas of experience and equipment, so they inspire me in many ways by leading by example usually.
I love stopping in Greg Stewart’s cabinet shop and just watching the guys there create and assemble things. It’s a great environment for showing me how I can evolve in certain areas.
Also in the same vein as friends and peers would be Mentors. My mentors may be only friends, or shop owners, backyard or pro or somewhere in between. But to a large degree, they’re a part of my woodworking world to foster improvement in me.
And frankly, these may not be woodworkers. They may be a truck driver. Or a pastor. Or a farmer.
What they instill in me is a growing sense of value or responsibility. I draw on them for help in handling situations with money or time management or prioritizing. Or…woodworking.
If you don’t have a mentor in your life, find one. Or many. Maybe it’s your older neighbor. Or a previous employer. Hey, maybe your dad. But every woodworker…heck, every one of us period, needs a mentor in their corner.
Alright. That’s half of our list. The first 4 are what I call the “soft teaching” methods. We’re going to get into the more “direct methods” for our next 4. But before we do, let’s take a quick break. We’ll be right back…
OK, moving on to the more “practical” avenues for picking up skills.
Today, YouTube videos are the number one method for learning a new skill. Whether it’s routing a dovetail joint. Maybe it’s removing a particular finish safely. Maybe it’s about making charcuterie boards. Or maybe you just need help in selecting a paint brush..
Whatever it is, YouTube probably has some guy on there to tell you how to do it. Heck, we’ve got over 200 videos on our Apple Valley Farm channel right now, showing you how we do everything from planting a garden to building a set of cornhole boards.
YouTube is, IMO, indispensable in our modern world. You may wind up accessing a 100 year-old plan or description, but you can pull it up via a 3 minute video on your phone.
When my granddaddy passed away, one of the first things I wanted to keep was his collection of dozens of old Popular Mechanics and Mechanix Illustrated magazines from the 50’s. Timeless articles, plans, advice and stories.
No matter how much time passes or how tools and techniques may evolve, the basics are still the basics and they never change.
Today, I have my own magazine subscriptions. They’re digital and I read them on my phone and my laptop, but they’re full of invaluable information that will make me a better, smarter, more knowledgeable woodworker.
Obviously, we all browse the web. A lot. I mean, aside from the YouTube searches we do, just general search engine results will help us do, learn or improve just about anything we need to.
While I’m personally a fan of learning through videos, I still read a ton of blogs or look for great podcasts.
Terms like “woodworking”, “woodworking plans” and “woodworking how to” are not only some of Google’s most popular search terms, but they seem to be insulated from seasonal and social trends and spikes. They’re always popular. They’re always being used to find great information for folks like us.
Trial and Error
Finally, a method for learning new skills (and basic skills) is something that sort of circles back around to my first method. And that’s learning through trial and error, or “learning by doing”.
It’s a trait that seems to be waning as the years pass. And of course, every older person feels like the next generation is just chock full of slackers…but we really do seem to have almost lost the willingness to just try something and then let the results be our teacher.
I mean how did I learn to swim? My dad threw me in the lake and I had to swim or sink! It’s amazing what we can do when we have to. And it’s amazing what we can learn when we put our brain in “discovery mode”.
You have to lose the idea that a failure is failure. A failure is just a lesson in how not to do something. Then you draw on other experiences, logic and common sense, and try something else. And if that fails, then you back up, readjust, and try again.
If you aren’t making use of Trial & Error, then you’re learning process is going to be painfully slow and one-dimensional. Learn to break a few eggs, and you just might discover you can make a pretty good omelet.
And that’s my list of how I’ve personally learned what little bit of woodworking knowledge I have. And, how you can start or expand your own skill set. These are things that I’ve done, I do and I’ll continue to do.
And if you have any other methods to add, let me know.
Or if you have any questions for me or other comments on what we talked about today, then definitely send ‘em to me.
One of the best places to share your thoughts or questions is on our new Facebook Group. Just search for Everyday Woodworking on the Facebook app and join us there or I’ll leave a link to the group in our show notes.
A last couple of things, before we go…wherever you enjoyed this episode, please take a second and leave us a great review and spread the word to your friends about us. And of course we would love it if you subscribed to us and became a regular listener.
Also, we try to post a video of each Podcast Episode on our Apple Valley Farm (our woodworking business) YouTube Channel. So if YouTube is your thing, then definitely look us up and like, comment and subscribe to us there as well.
Finally, your support helps make it possible for Everyday Woodworking to continue to be on the air. So we’d love it if you blessed us with your financial support through our friends at Patreon. Monthly support starts at just $5. Thank you in advance for your help! - https://www.patreon.com/everydaywoodworking
And that is it for now. Again, thank you so much for being here. We hope you enjoyed this. Have a great day, and we’ll look forward to seeing you next time…right here, on Everyday Woodworking.
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We also couldn’t make the Everyday Woodworking podcast happen without a LOT of help from our friends behind the scenes.
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The music for our Season Two podcast intro and outro is from the song Blue Vibes, by guitarist Michael Kobrin, courtesy of Pixabay. - https://pixabay.com/music/modern-blues-blues-vibes-100-bpm-michael-kobrin-3780/
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