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Look What We Made: The Tale of the Rookie Woodworker


My woodworking adventure began after being introduced to the dynamo that is Ana White. A mom and self-described homemaker, Ana has inspired thousands of women through her blog to pick up a power tool and build their own furniture. This slim, petite woman states—very convincingly I might add—that if you can use a hand mixer, you can absolutely use a drill.

I decided to test her theory out.

I consider myself a handy-type of gal; I’ve installed my own curtain rods, stained my own bookcases, and hung my own shelves, but build my own furniture?!?! That seemed way too intimidating, not to mention impossible in a Manhattan apartment, especially if you don’t have a lot of power tools. But after getting a good dose of Ana’s confidence-boosting attitude and an eye-full of the impressive, attractive-looking pieces she makes, I enrolled myself in a 4-week introduction to woodworking class at Brooklyn’s DIY utopia 3rd Ward.

The great thing about 3rd Ward is that they have a large wood shop, complete with any type of saw or equipment that you could possibly need. As part of our enrollment fee, they also give each student a tool belt and kit with metal files, measuring tape, speed square, and safety glasses. And surprise, our class consisted of 2 men and 6 women. Was I the last person to hear about the women DIYer trend?

Week 1. We each pick a wood board, which we learn to chop down into smaller pieces using, what else, but the aptly named chop saw. From this single board, we are going to build a table and a mallet.

photo supplies

Week 2. The scariest-piece of equipment to me is the table saw, and I must admit our instructor Dave’s deadpan account of his uncle’s recent injury in a wood shop only makes my trepidation skyrocket. Fortunately 3rd Ward’s saw has a safety blade and after successfully completing several cuts using the table saw, my hands finally stop shaking. Whew!

photo table saw photo table saw demo

Week 3. Glue, glue, and more glue. After the wood gets cut, it is time to begin assembling the pieces. Wood glue and clamps magically transform 3 separate pieces into a tabletop. On to creating joints so the table legs attach smoothly. I handle the return to the table saw with ease. Once everything is cut, assembling the legs and brace seems pretty similar to what happens once I drag something home from Ikea.

photo tabletop

Week 4. First using a hand sander, then good old-fashioned elbow grease and sandpaper, we polish our table pieces to look seamless. There are a few oops spots where my table joins don’t meet perfectly, but hopefully they are evident only to myself.

Voila! I am insanely proud of finishing my table. I only need to decide what color varnish to put on it.

photo FINISHED table

Ana was so right. Building a piece of furniture wasn’t nearly as tough as I thought it would be, and I still get a nice sense of accomplishment every time I use it. Now, armed with Ana’s book The Handbuilt Home, and her smart advice to get my wood boards cut to size at the home improvement store (thereby avoiding the dreaded table saw), even a rookie like me is ready to tackle all sorts of other furniture projects. Next up? Possibly the expandable sewing table from the book (seen painted in pink above). It’s only 5 steps!




About the Book
The Handbuilt Home
34 Simple Stylish and Budget-Friendly Woodworking Projects for Every Room
Written by Ana White
Category: Crafts & Hobbies – Woodwork
Format: Paperback, 192 pages
On Sale: October 9, 2012
Price: $22.99
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