The end of a calendar year is always a special time for bloggers; lists of favourite albums to compile (the excellent Somewhere Else by Lydia Loveless, is my top lp of 2014 in case you were wondering), the experiences of the past 12 months to be reviewed, and lessons learnt to be catalogued.
2014 was a rich year in terms of experiences and achievements. I completed two projects off my bucket list; Laurie (my blackguard Telecaster type guitar) and the Anarchist’s Tool Chest. The subscriber list to this blog tripled, and I had over 10,000 hits in 12 months (small fry for some, but a significant increase on 2013 readership levels). There was also the Anarchist’s Tool Chest course with Chris Schwarz, and two articles published with Furniture & Cabinetmaking Magazine. Please understand, I’m not recounting this to brag (lord knows that my year was positively uneventful compared to some) but simply to collate the experiences of the past 12 months. This was a pretty good year.
But actually, something far more important than all of the above achievements and experiences happened last year. Something which I never would have expected, and 2014 is the year in which woodwork changed completely for me. Not because I learned endless new skills (although I did learn plenty of new techniques) or because my woodwork improved dramatically (although it definitely improved). But because of what I found in the course of writing this blog and attending the Anarchist’s Tool Chest course.
What did I find, you ask? In a word, community.
To be honest, when I started writing in August 2013 I didn’t really think that the internet needed another woodwork blog. And for the first few months I happily hollered into the void of the internet, not expecting the void to holler back (let’s ignore any pithy quotes by Nietzsche, OK?). Anyway, woodwork by its very nature tends to be a solitary activity, so that’s all fine. But slowly over the course of 2014 I discovered, and then became overwhelmed by, the sense of community created by makers, tool manufacturers, and writers. The willingness to share information, discuss experiences, and most importantly, to encourage and inspire each other, is life affirming and oh so valuable.
My 2014 was touched by countless people involved in the craft, and I do hope that a failure to mention anyone is not taken as a lack of gratitude. But particular mention must go to Chris Schwarz (without whom I doubt many people would be reading this blog), Paul Mayon and Derek Jones of New English Workshop, and Jamie Ward of Warwickshire College, all of whom were generous with their time and knowledge far beyond what would have been reasonable to ask of them. Also on the honour roll are Chris Kuehn of Sterling Tool Works, Mark Harrell of Bad Axe Tool Works, and Jason Thigpen of Texas Heritage Woodworks, who not only make some of the best tools going but have been incredibly enthusiastic and encouraging, and are top chaps with whom I very much want to share some beers (definitely in 2016, if not before). And by no means last, in terms of fellow bloggers, Anne of All Trades (for my money the most important hand tool blogger after Chris Schwarz). I am genuinely indebted to each of these people and am endlessly grateful for their encouragement and friendship over the past 12 months.
And you know something? When people talk about their fears of the craft dying out, I know that things are going to be ok. Not because there isn’t a lot of work to do to preserve traditional skills and the many woodwork crafts. But because under the stewardship of the people named above, not to mention the rest of the community of woodworkers, I am sure that the skills and desire to build, is safeguarded for another generation.
And so even though I am physically alone in the workshop, the events of 2014 mean that whenever I am working I know that I am connected to both the craftsmen (and women) that went before me (that all important idea of heritage) and the present day international community of woodworkers.
So what does 2015 hold in store? The year is less than a day old, and yet it is already shaping up to be a full one. First up is a new workshop, as we complete our move from the West Country to Birmingham, and I am looking forward to fitting out a new workshop to be the space I’ve been dreaming of for the past 7 years (or as close to that dream as practicable). In terms of projects, now that the Anarchist’s Tool Chest is complete, my main focus is going to be on the parlour guitar build I started writing about in early 2014. Expect to see plenty of details on this here blog as the build continues. But I am not going to neglect my journey into joinery either – with the new house comes the need for new furniture and I am planning to build the riveted strong trunk from Chris Schwarz’s Campaign Furniture book, along with a pair of Roorkee chairs from the same book. In July I will return to Warwickshire College to attend Roy Underhill’s Woodworking with Thomas Jefferson course, and you can expect the blog to feature daily updates from the class. And hopefully also more articles in print.
So plenty of things to build, skills to learn, and of saw dust to make. And a community to which I will continue to contribute in my own small way. This is going to be fun, and I hope that you, dear reader, will continue to come along for the ride.