First project, last project
It probably won’t surprise you that when I was a graduate student studying philosophy that I had very little money. That was hard, because my wife and I were married right before I started grad school, and I always wanted to give my her nice gifts for Christmas, her birthday, and just for the fun of it. But I couldn’t buy any.
That’s how I came to find myself in the home center about a month before our second Christmas together. I bought a toolbox handsaw, a cheap chisel, a coping saw, and several 12-in.-wide pine boards. My wife likes to garden, and I wanted to make her a box (I call it a caddy when I’m trying to glorify it) to store her tools in. My dad’s a contractor and I grew up making tree forts, decks, sheds, skateboard ramps, and even did some light home construction. But I had never made a piece of furniture. So I had no clue what I was doing. I wanted to cut joints for some reason and ended up making some very simple box joints. I got the box done, but just barely. I glued it up at my folks’ house down in the FLA. The joints lacked uniformity so much that the box only fit together one way. My dad called it a puzzle box. I suppose it is, but it’s still together.
I thought about that box recently, because we were in my shop shooting an upcoming video workshop that features a garden bench I recently designed. I thought it would be cool to see the two projects alongside one another. So here they are. My skills have come a long way and the garden bench is a much finer piece than the box, but I look at the box and I can see all the heart and love that went into it. I also can’t forget that it was that box that sparked my passion for woodworking. I can say, in all honesty, that it is what set me on the path to where I am now: at Fine Woodworking. So I’m proud of that box.
I just remembered this: I made it in secret in the freezing cold attic above our apartment. That was a crazy first shop. I used a metal step stool for a bench and had no clamps at all. I’m still in the cold during the winter, but I’ve got a great bench and plenty of clamps!
Why not tell me about your first project, and post it in the gallery?
From simple box to curvaceous bench. In the foreground is my first woodworking project, a garden box for my wife. On the left is a garden bench I just completed, and on the right is my workbench, recently featured in a video workshop.
A better look at the bench. Here's a better shot of the bench. It was much more complicated to make than the box in the foreground.