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Today, many teens are being inspired to pick up hammers, nails and saws to tackle building projects such as chairs, cabinets and even helping their families remodel their houses.

In a 2003 survey of teens ages 13 to 17 conducted by Lowe's and Ipsos-Insight, over 40 percent said they have plans to remodel their bedrooms (sometimes with the help of their parents).

Almost as many said they have completed a home improvement project by themselves. This might mean painting a wall or building a chair.

Many recreational carpenters are drawn to the hobby because they like working with their hands and they enjoy the personal satisfaction that comes from completing a project.

George Vondriska writes for American Woodworker Magazine and runs a woodworking school in Wisconsin. He believes the appeal comes from seeing something through to completion.

"Many of my students have jobs where they never see the end result," he says. "They love woodworking because there is a distinct starting and stopping point."

He also says that with woodworking, both the journey and the destination are enjoyable. "There's a lot of physical and mental activity involved. For many, this is a chance to get out of a chair and do some real work with their hands, and they like how that feels."

So what can you build?

Houses, chairs, decks, name it. Most of Vondriska's students plan on building new kitchen cabinets or other large items in their house.

Louise Langsner teaches carpentry in Marshall, North Carolina. She says woodworkers can create unique and pleasing environments or objects that are a reflection of their own sense of beauty. The kinds of projects that she and her husband teach in their classes all make use of hand tools.

"We make many kinds of chairs, simple but elegant cabinets and boxes, carved wooden bowls and spoons, and other specialized craft items of wood. Other areas of woodworking include cabinetry, furniture restoration, reproduction woodwork, custom designed furniture, woodturning and more."

Langsner says many women are involved in woodworking, though far fewer than men. She also believes it is much easier for women to find places to learn now.

"We offer a course each year called Woodworking for Women, taught by a local woman who has her own business making custom furniture. She wants to teach this class partly because she experienced a degree of difficulty breaking into a male-dominated career 25 years ago."

There are many people who start out in carpentry for fun and decide to make a living out of it. Langsner says that careers in woodworking include everything from making wood sculpture and wooden craft items to home-building, custom cabinetry and furniture-making chair making, restoration and reproduction furniture.

But first, you should watch and learn. "Work for someone else first!" says Vondriska. "Make mistakes while you're on their clock. Watch how they run the business."

Getting Started

There are quite a few easy ways to get started in carpentry or woodworking.

"A good way to get started in woodworking is to take classes offered by a local high school shop or a technical college or a craft school such as ours," says Langsner.

"There are also many good how-to books and instructional videos and woodworking publications available."

"Take classes at the high school level to see if you have a genuine interest," says Vondriska.

"If so, spend summers working for a company in a related field. Even a job at a lumber yard will help you start to learn the language and materials."

Simple projects require only wood, a hammer and nails. Extensive projects can set you back quite a bit. It all depends on the quality of wood, the extent of the project and the type of tools you choose to use.

"Setting up a shop is expensive, and it doesn't pay to scrimp on tool quality," says Vondriska. "Look at tool reviews for buying advice, save your money, buy the absolute best you can afford and you'll have it forever."

Langsner says it can get expensive if you use power tools and expensive types of wood. "However, hand tools are much less expensive, and it is possible to get wood for very little or free if you do a kind of woodworking called 'green woodworking,' which uses wood directly from the tree.

"In this case, the tree is split into sections and parts for something like a chair are shaped from the green wood. Salvaged wood is also an option."


American Association of Wood Turners
3499 Lexington Ave. N., Ste 103
Shoreview , MN   55126

Woodworkers' Guild of Georgia

Minnesota Woodworkers Guild
16974 Wilderness Trail S.E.
Prior Lake , MN   55372


American Woodworker

Offers forums for woodworkers to talk to each other

101 Woodworking Tips and Techniques
The answers are all here

Woodworker's Central
Includes a section with searchable tips on avoiding accidents

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