back, my wife and I drove from Dublin to the beautiful Connemara
peninsula in western Ireland to interview the director of the
Letterfrack School of Furniture Design. While we were visiting, we got
in the habit of stopping at village pubs for lunch, dinner, an evening's
entertainment, or whenever I needed to lay low after terrorizing the
natives by driving the wrong way around the round-abouts.
I remember one pub in particular,
just outside of Galway. It had three hearths, all with peat fires
smoldering. Everyone came with their dogs, who dozed and scratched under
the tables. Chickens stood watch at the front door, hoping the barkeeper
would relax the rules and let them in so they could annoy the dogs.
There was lots of music, some of it very good, some of it very
enthusiastic. Lots of talk. And lots and lots of laughter.
When I planned this
woodworking forum, I thought back to that pub. This is what it
should be like to visit; you should feel "at home."
Our Purpose Here
Of course, I have something of a grander purpose
in mind. It's unfortunate, but with the steady demise of shop programs
in public schools and a cultural bias that people who use tools
are not nearly as smart or important as those who use computers, it's
become very difficult for aspiring craftsmen to learn their craft.
Woodworking is a highly-developed art form with over 5000 years of
history and its practitioners have amassed a huge wealth of information.
If this craft is to survive another century without losing a good
portion of that treasure, it will be thanks to the Internet and forums
such as this.
This is why I have focused
this web site and the topics of most of our
Sawdust Sessions on the core
knowledge necessary to be a proficient woodworker. You can
find this fundamental wisdom elsewhere on the web, but I'm aware of no
other site that has organized it and has made it as easy to access as
the Workshop Companion.
That said, this is a
learning forum. Or a teaching forum, if you have
something to share. They are really the same thing; any good teacher
will tell you that teaching is first and foremost an intense learning
experience. If you want to get a start in woodworking, or you want to
learn more about a specific area of woodworking, this is the place to
come for information. I'll handle the inquiries if no one else steps
forward, but you'll soon find that forums like these attract patient,
generous, and experienced craftsmen who take joy and satisfaction in
sharing what they've learned.
A Few Rules
So what we have here is a friendly community of
craftsmen that comes together to share experience and wisdom. My role in
this forum is something between a barkeeper and a school principal. As
such, I have set down a few common-sense rules:
Treat your fellow
participants with good manners and good humor.
Anyone found without manners, humor, or taking themselves too
seriously will be required to click
No flaming, no
trashing, no contempt of any sort. Please respect the
infinite variety of containers that woodworkers come in, the odd
assortment of tools and ideas that they collect, and – above all
– their feelings.
No swearing or taking
any deity's name in vain. The English language is wonderfully
colorful without having to resort to clichés.
Keep your mind open;
there is no such thing as a "best tool" or the "right
technique." When tempted to issue edicts and generalizations,
please remember the words of Will Rogers, "It ain't what we
don't know that's going to hurt us; it's what we know for sure
that just ain't so."
no advertising, no marketing, no notices for sale or trade. The
purpose of this forum is to learn how to use tools, not sell
from this forum does you a favor, pay it back or pay it
And that's it. Sign up or sign in, pick a
category, and join a discussion. Consult the map below to see how far
your fellow craftsmen have traveled. Don't mind the dogs and try to keep the
chickens out. Just make yourself at home.
– All things workshop; workbenches, vises, shop furniture, storage
systems, hardware bins, lumber racks, dust collection, shop
lighting, ventilation, general shop safety, workshop design and
– How to get woodworking done; selecting lumber, jointing, planing,
sawing, routing, joinery, shaping, molding, bending, veneering,
lamination, scrolling, carving, sanding, scraping, smoothing,
gluing, clamping, assembly, staining, finishing, and any other
method you can think of.
– New tools, old tools, power tools, hand tools, traditional tools,
weird tools, homemade tools – how well tools work, how to make them
work better, how to make them do more, where to purchase tools, what
to look for when you buy, adding accessories, making jigs and
Wood & Materials
– The stuff we work with; hardwoods, softwoods, sawyering, drying,
salvaging, preserving, recycling, fasteners, hardware, clockworks,
pen parts, luthiers’ supplies, plywood, sheet materials, ready-made
parts and trim, veneer, laminates, abrasives, glue, and finishes.
Maintenance & Repair
– Keeping tools in good working order; alignment, adjustment,
maintenance, sharpening, repair, restoration, replacing parts,
modifications, upgrades, preventing and removing rust and corrosion.
– Designs for craftsmen and the results of craftsmanship; sketches,
project plans, completed projects, furniture, built-ins, cabinetry,
boxes, turnings, scrollwork, inlay, intarsia, carvings, finish
carpentry, boats, airplanes, musical instruments, toys, outdoor
structures, and anything else made from wood with precisian and
– News, observations, editorials, speculation, bragging, whoppers,
good humor, good-natured complaints, good-natured rebuttals, good
books, good videos, good web sites, testimonials, congratulations,
birthday wishes, get well wishes, just plain good wishes, farewells,
Images of Ireland courtesy of Flickr.