In 1969, power tools arrived as part of my Christmas haul. Now, some might say that an 8-year-old should not be using a circular saw, jigsaw or power drill. Maybe – but times were different then. The Ideal Toy Company’s Powermite line of miniature power tools didn’t have enough power to do much damage (I tested the circular saw on my little brother), but it gave me hours of fun. The set came with sheets of Styrofoam and balsa, and you could cut and drill to your heart’s content.
But in coming years, while I built dozens of plastic models and flying rockets, I didn’t do any woodworking. In high school, the counselor discouraged me from taking a shop class one semester, saying “That’s for people who aren’t going to go to college” – so I missed gaining some skills I could have really used in college. I did learn how to use full-size tools, and I worked on my car, so I picked up some mechanical skills.
So a few years back, I felt confident enough to go to the home center and buy the tools and lumber I needed to build a workbench and shelves in my garage. A few hours later, I had a sturdy workbench, 7′ long and built to fit my height. Next weekend, a rolling cabinet joined the lineup. (It’s wildly overbuilt, I know now – it has a chop saw on top, but it could support an engine block …) It was fun and I was saving money.
More DIY projects followed, and I started reading woodworking magazines and books. Talk about intimidating; the projects, tools and techniques seemed far beyond my means or capabilities. (Many still are!) As I read, however, I started to learn and I actually tackled some projects I read about.
The “I Can Do That” projects in Popular Woodworking Magazine continue to be a personal favorite. I’ve built a CD/DVD rack, shelves and a Shaker-inspired step stool and more. And every step of the way, my knowledge grew – and now I’ve learned enough to know how much I don’t know. (A lot – it was my journalism skills that got me hired at PWM, definitely not my woodworking know-how.)
So if I had a time-traveling DeLorean, I’d go back a few years and give myself the “Get Started in Woodworking Collection.” It would have saved both time and money – and the occasional goof.
The set includes four books and six videos, including a video “I Can Do That” project by our new ICDT host, Chad Stanton. It’s a laptop desk – built step-by-step on-camera by Chad – that is near the top of my future projects list, (My wife has the top two slots on the list reserved).
Christopher Schwarz stars in two videos, “Build a Sturdy Workbench in Two Days with Christopher Schwarz” and “Build a Traditional Tool Chest in Two Days with Christopher Schwarz.”
“Joinery Tips and Techniques,” shows you the basic joints you should learn, while “Getting Started with Routers” teaches you tips and tricks for setting up and using this versatile tool. And “Tool Basics for Getting Started in Woodworking” features Popular Woodworking editor Megan Fitzpatrick showing you how to choose, set up and use tools to help you get started. (These are the same tools used for the “I Can Do That” projects.)
Book in the set include “I Can Do That! Woodworking Projects, 2nd edition,” with 38 furniture projects, including seating, shelving, tables and more; “The Weekend Woodworker’s Project Collection,” with 40 more projects in styles ranging from Chippendale to Contemporary and “The Big Book of Weekend Woodworking,” with 150 projects.
The collection also includes “Build it with Dad,” 22 projects you can do with your kids, and perhaps get them started down a creative path of their own. After all, Ideal stopped making the Powermite line decades ago.