End Grain: My Best Tools are Made of Paper

1_1512_endgrainby Derek Olson

p. 56

Woodworking is, all at once, frustrating, elating, challenging and straightforward stupid simple. It combines the elements of design, vision, accuracy, artistic intent and manual ability like no other pursuit I’ve found.

Just in the moment you believe you’ve mastered a part of its scope, you look up from the apex you’ve achieved to see higher peaks taunting you in the distance, and you know you’re going to have to step up your game to reach them.

There are different paths to reaching those ever-rising peaks of achievement. I’ve found mine through another wood product: paper, or more correctly, books. Old books. Some woodworkers collect antique or unique tools, but it’s books for me and I believe I get infinitely more practical use from my collection.

I’m not sure when the change happened. I was never a good student and though I have always enjoyed reading, I was never interested in being studious in any school subject. I relied on an “either I get it or I don’t” attitude that didn’t always work. It’s possible none of the subjects captured my interest like woodworking does, and today I enjoy immersing myself in the study of shavings and sawdust.

This has led to a sizable and growing collection of “textbooks” on all kinds of subjects. Books on finishing and chairmaking, carving and furniture styles, historic treatises on technique and modern shop interpretations.

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From the November 2015 issue

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