When I was in 6th grade, I took a summer activity workshop that focused on a different skill each day. One of the days was focused on wood shop and I made a simple toolbox that my mom still uses. I enjoyed it. I never tried woodworking in any significant way until I was in architecture school, twenty years later.
During the first week of classes, the shopmaster (who was a very kind and pleasant person) gave us a comprehensive “safety training” which consisted of three days of completely freaking me out about using any tool… ever. The three day “training” culminated in being forced to use a table saw during which the entire session focused on “kickback.” (Kickback, in case you don’t know is when the grain of the wood gets angry at the teeth of the saw and essentially uses the blade as the force to project the wood with insane force away from the blade.) The most freaky thing about the whole experience was the 2×4 sticking out of the wall behind the table saw as a warning to “pay attention” while you were using the saw.
What I learned from the training was that anytime I needed to use any tool beyond a pen or a T-square, that I should wear a black suit and look confused, and that someone would do the work for me. So, while my colleagues were learning to cut dovetail joints and cast molten metal, I struggled to put together a simple wooden box, paranoid that I’d cut a finger off, or crack my skull open with a flying 2×4.
I’ve wanted to be able to hand-cut dovetails for years, and I’m proud to say I now can! I recently took “Hand Tools Skills – Mastering Dovetailing,” a four-session class at Tools for Working Wood in Brooklyn. This is a review of that class.