If you spend any amount of time on social media you will find that woodworking videos and build guides are exceptionally popular. Videos with hundreds of thousands of views are commonplace. Popular culture has endorsed woodworking as a cool thing to do. The question I am sure many of the viewers of these videos are asking is “should I do this?” My hope is that this article, in combination with others coming soon, will help answer that question.
If I were to tell you a simple “yes” or “no,” most people would not be satisfied. Some people would probably be a little mad. So as a result I am going to provide all the information I would tell someone who expressed interest in woodworking as a hobby. I will state the facts as I see them and not try to persuade you one way or another. My goal will be to enable you to make an informed decision based on the experiences of people with a long history of working with wood.
The first and most important thing to know about woodworking is that it has certain requirements that must be met in order to participate in the hobby. Your exact circumstances will place clear and unavoidable boundaries on what you can and cannot do. I am going to assume that the reader has no special circumstances in their life to make woodworking easy. No relatives or friends with a woodworking shop and free wood, for example.
Space and noise
Where would you do your woodworking projects? What time of day or night would you be working on them? How much noise can you make? How much odor from paints and stains is acceptable? You can do woodworking projects under almost any circumstances but your conditions will dictate what you can and can’t do. If you have access to a community workshop or a storage unit where you can do work, you will have some flexibility. If, however, you are confined to an apartment your options dwindle. You can certainly build furniture in an apartment, but you will have far fewer tool choices. Most power tools are too loud and too messy for such places.
How much money do you have to spend? Tools not only cost money, but they have parts that need regular replacement. Every piece of wood costs money, and high quality wood can be quite expensive. Woodworking in general costs you money every time you sit down to do it.
Woodworking is demanding physical work. Do you have the energy to do a manual labor job after all of your other responsibilities? For many people, woodworking is a hobby they do at night after work and chores around the household. Is this realistic for you? Many people make it work, but if you are someone who finds themselves exhausted at the end of a day it may not be a good choice.
What do woodworkers do?
Although it may seem like an obvious question, it is important to really ask what a woodworker does with their time. After all that is the hobby you are trying to evaluate. What do you want to build? What will you do with it? What is the build process like and do you enjoy it. Watching shows like The New Yankee Workshop will give you an idea of a typical build process for a woodworker. There are numerous people on social media who show their build process. Some of these may rely on more modern techniques like CNC machines, others on traditional hand tools. Try to get a sense for how you will be spending your evenings and money with these videos.
A key question you should ask yourself is what you would want to do if you had a full wood shop right now. What would you build? Would you enjoy the process and the finished product? What would you do with the finished product? What would you build next? Is it worth the money to you?
This article has provided a brief overview of woodworking as a hobby and the kinds of questions you need to ask yourself when considering it. In future articles I will discuss some of the details like tool selection, budgeting, etc.