Rather than woodwork the last two weekends, I had to prep the shop to be shipped off to Britain. I took apart and cleaned each tool and put a coat of Jojoba oil on prior to them all being packed up. Because I didn’t feel like breaking down the workbench, I told them that it needed to be shipped as-is. They had to build a special wooden crate just to hold it – have fun moving that beast! As with all my valuables, I took a photo (for insurance purposes) that catalogues what I own in case of damage or loss. So here’s Snakeye Woodworks in a nutshell:

Woodshop in a Nutshell

Bummer, I never did finish the table I was working on. Hopefully what I’ve done so far makes it to England ok and I can pick up work where I left off. But I’ve learned one thing from delving into the realm of hand tools in the past 3 years:

Enjoyable woodworking, like a fulfilled life, is not about the reaching the destination… it’s truly about the journey that takes you there. Sure, I love seeing the end product when I’ve finished, but I enjoy the therapy involved in creating with wood so much more. And hand tools (for me) has made it more enjoyable because I can listen to music or enjoy relative quietness while I work.

Even though I started building things from wood back in 2003, I’ve learned almost everything I now employ during the past 3 years.  Granted, I do owe a lot of gratitude to my Dad; he was always building things with his Shopsmith when I was a boy, and planted the “woodworking seed” in my head.  Unfortunately when I was a boy, I didn’t have much of an interest in it… I thought electronics were the bee’s knees back then.  Granted I still like my fair share of electronics, but I’ve come to realize that good electronics last only 10 years at best… good woodworking lasts centuries.  I’ll take the latter!

Train Table for my sonSo my learning curve started accelerating when, on a whim, I went to the military base wood shop to build a birthday present for my son.  A local Italian guy, Stefano, ran the wood shop and helped me out (perhaps initially more to keep me safe than to ensure it turned out exactly as I’d wanted it!).  It was then that I realized that I didn’t know much of the craft: the expanding and contracting of wood during the seasons, the joinery, and how to use the machines without killing yourself (you ever try to run end-grain through a jointer machine?).

I took a 7-month vacation to Afghanistan after that and, while there, had the revelation of switching to hand tools.  My wife was a little reluctant to let me spend every Saturday at the base wood shop while I was building my son’s toy table.  Hand tools were my solution to wood working at home (besides, power tools would’ve instantly blew the fuse to my house).  That quest detailed here.  After a lot of research, I came home on a mission… and I quickly enlisted the expertise of Stefano in order to stand up a home woodshop.  The first tool to obtain?  A personally-built workbench.  I executed my plan while Stefano checked everything I did.  And when Stefano was out for quite some time from back surgery, two other regulars stepped in and imparted their knowledge to help me: Mark and Mike.

Nowadays, I think the three of them look at me like I’m crazy because I’m a fervent hand-tool believer, but they still continue to mentor me and help me out… and I can actually now counter with ideas of my own to help them out.  Like in medieval times, I owe these guys a lot for taking me into apprenticeship.  They may have the last laugh here soon though… when I move to England, I will be no where near a US military base (that typically has a woodshop for use)… and British bases aren’t armed with the same morale luxuries.  I may very well have to put my money where my hand-tool-toting mouth is.

You see, I’ve been kinda cheating: I buy the wood from Stefano and use his shop’s power tools to clean, square and dimension the wood; then I take it home for the joinery and finishing with my hand tools.  I think wood purchasing will be easy enough (after all, I’m in England), but with no power tool shop available, it looks like I’ll be even cleaning and dimensioning wood by hand.  So the journey continues…

But in reflection: thanks boys, for arming me with the know-how that I use today… and giving me a memorable 3 year journey.

Mike, Mark, me and Stefano

from left to right: Mike, Mark, me and Stefano

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  • Brian Eve

    I started my woodworking in an MWR woodshop, too. God bless you, Command Sergent Major Mann!

    Good luck on your move!

  • Moose

    I’m going to miss you guys! I wish I had gotten the woodworking bug sooner and completed some projects with you. I’m looking forward to hearing all about your experiences in England and seeing how the table and chest turn out when you get the shop back up and running.