I started fooling around with woodworking when I was a kid, took it up as a hobby in graduate school, but didn’t take it seriously until I was pushing thirty. Probably it’s in the blood; my great-grandfather built houses.
I build everything from solid wood, almost entirely with hand tools and traditional joinery techniques. No plywood, no routers. Hand tools made sense at first for someone with little money and less space; now I simply prefer them. Hand tools let the wood talk back and keep me paying attention to the craft, and there’s real satisfaction in knowing that I’m inheriting (if frequently struggling to be worthy of) a centuries-old tradition. What’s more, as my daughter (then eight) explained in the diagram above, hand tools are a more sustainable way of working.
You can read some of what I’ve written about woodworking and craft on my personal website.
My workbench, an English-style bench with no vise but a lot of clever and flexible contraptions for workholding (nearly all invented by someone else, a long long time ago). On the floor is a sawbench. And no, if I had really been in the middle of a project when I took this picture it wouldn’t have looked nearly this good.
I also do some upholstery, on both old and original pieces. Reupholstering a large chair typically includes complete stripping and rebuilding, including retying springs, building up layers of padding, and ultimately recovering and applying trim. Secondhand side chairs (like the one shown here) often require a new seat frame. For small projects, I use mostly traditional methods and materials: a webbed seat, (artificial) horsehair, and cotton batting provide the support and comfort.