As has become tradition, I thought it would kick off another year of blogging (the eighth year of Over the Wireless!) with a brief review of the past twelve months. January offers a good opportunity to review and reflect on what came before, and to think about what comes next.
First, the most important aspect of any yearly-round up has to be the traditional list of favourite music releases. My top five new releases of 2019 (in order) were:
1. “Ghosteen” by Nick Cave & The Badseeds;
2. “Sunset Kids” by Jesse Malin;
3. “It’s Real” by Ex Hex;
4. “Human Question” by The Yawpers; and
5. “Western Stars” by Bruce Springsteen.
Closer to the workbench, 2019 saw nine of my articles in print (my first for Mortise & Tenon, one for Popular Woodworking, and seven for Furniture & Cabinetmaking), including my first multi-part project series with the Roubo bench build series in F&C. The readership of the blog continued to grow, and I had my best year in terms of readership with 51,400 views (plus those who read through an aggregator and/ or the WordPress reader service). I’m still baffled that folk read what I write, but I am very grateful to everyone who has stopped by to read a post, and leave a comment.
The highlight of the year was without a doubt teaching the Anarchist’s Tool Chest class at Lost Art Press in September. A great bunch of students, as well as spending time with Chris and Megan, made for a very memorable trip, and I’m definitely looking for more teaching opportunities. In other Lost Art Press related news, Chris announced The Book Book last January, and that project will be my focus for the coming year (and beyond). There was also the Midlands Woodworking Show with Classic Hand Tools (and my good buddy Richard Wile) which was a lot of fun and an opportunity to re-connect with the community.
In terms of actual woodworking, most of 2019 was consumed with the Roubo bench build, which was functional if not complete by the end of the year. I am working on completing the bench, and hope to have it done by the end of February (which will mark 12 months of solid work on the project). This was a bucket-list project, so I was pleased to finally make the time and space to work on it. The pace and scale of the project was a real change to anything I’d ever built before, which was very refreshing. I also built an 18th century style Welsh Stick Chair (for Mortise and Tenon), and finished the Apprentice’s Stick Chair. So while I didn’t complete many projects, what I did build feel personally significant.
That all sounds like a pretty good year, and it was. There was also a lengthy period when I asked myself why I was working wood, and whether I should continue writing and making. I’m glad I persevered through that period of uncertainty. It is (I think) natural to have moments of self doubt in any endeavour, and the idea of not working with my hands feels about as natural as giving up breathing. Sometimes you need to knuckle through, and sometimes you need to take a break and rest up. Last year I knuckled through, and it worked – as I mentioned above, the change in pace and scale of the Roubo bench build provided much needed refreshment.
And what does 2020 hold in store? My main priorities are finishing off the Roubo bench, and getting stuck into the research for The Book Book. My next research trip is in less than a week’s time, and I will be looking at some very significant historic libraries, which will be an important step in charting the development of the humble bookcase. Expect an update on the blog soon. I try not to predict what projects I’ll be building in any year, because I seem to be incapable of accurate predictions. That being said, I really want to build a boarded bookcase from the Anarchist’s Design Book for my study (I started gluing up panels at the end of 2018 but then got diverted onto other things), and I have components for another stick chair ready and waiting. So those are likely to be my first post-Roubo projects.