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It might be too late to do any good, but we’d still like to help out our friend Joe Brown over at Wired who asked us to pass on this question. He writes:

“My father claims to be a woodworker, but rarely ever builds anything. (He’s actually quite skilled, but he says he’s waiting for retirement, when he’ll actually have the time to work on projects. **cough cough bulls#!$ cough**). So every year I get him a woodworking-oriented Christmas present with the goal of inspiring him to get in his (awesome) shop. I’ve bought him tools, a subscription to Fine Woodworking, and last year I designed and built him a workbench. (We actually built it together, which was a ton of fun.) But this year I am out of ideas. Can you, or your readers, think of a really cool gift — tool, book, ANYTHING — that will motivate him to get his ass in the shop?”

Let us (and Joe) know in comments.

(Thanks, karen.fromthelbc, for the great cc-licensed photo!) 


8 Responses to Reader Question: Late X-Mas Present For A Woodworker?

  1. Joe says:

    Buy him some woodworking classes. I’m not sure where you live, but Woodcraft offers them in their stores, and there’s lots of smaller woodworking and furniture schools that offer classes.

    Getting him into a class will force him to pick up some tools again – hopefully it will remind him how much he likes doing it.

  2. I am retired and an avid woodworker. When I retired in 2001, my wife had an architect design a shop for me — to my specifications — and she let me buy the power tools that I had wanted for a long time. Now I spend about two-three hours per day in the shop, sometimes making furniture, but often making jigs/fixtures for my tools. (It’s a family joke: “What does Ray do in the shop?” “Oh, he makes jigs!”)

    I also spend quite a bit of time daily on http://www.woodworkinghistory.com

    My wife, bless her, doesn’t question me for not going out to the shop regularly. My son buys me tools (sometimes other things) for my shop, but doesn’t push or shame me, if it seems like I am not spending enough time out there. Wisely, I believe, he sees that it must flow naturally.

    To a non-woodworker, inactivity in the shop seems like a waste of valuable time. Not so!

    Getting yourself set up to do a project is as much psychological as anything else. You don’t just go out there and start building stuff. You have to work up to it.

    When watching a baseball game, do you notice the ritualistic gyrations the pitcher go through in preparation for making a pitch? Adjusts his cap. Kicks the dirt on the mound. Walks off the mound. Spits. Squints at the catcher.

    My analogy: baseball pitcher vs woodworker — may seem strange, but frequently, it takes a while to get started. Why? Again, all I can say, “it’s psychological!”

    In part, perhaps, it is fear, fear of failure, fear of making a bad cut in expensive wood, fear that the design isn’t just right, it could be a lot things.

    The worst thing to do though, is to shame someone into going out into the shop, just to do something. It is, I know, not as easy as that.

    This doesn’t help much, I know. How about a gift certificate at Lee Valley?

  3. mike d says:

    Buy your dad tools you’d like to borrow.

  4. Fred says:

    Maybe your day is more of a tool collector than a woodworker. Nothing wrong with that – just a different focus. If so – then some heirloom quality tool (Old Norris Plane – if your budget will stand it – or a modern Lie-Nielsen) would get him excited.

    If the problem s that he can visualize a project – but has a problem with his confidence in using tools (afraid of the tablesaw etc.) – then maybe some woodworking classes might encourage him.

  5. Brian says:

    Sometimes building jigs and fixtures is just fun, and they tend to be shorter projects. So how about a copy of “WOOD Magazine: Build Your Own Shop Jigs & Fixtures”.

    Sometimes nothing “big” gets started due to the fact that we have no idea what to build. So how about a copy of “The Big Book of Weekend Woodworking: 150 Easy Projects”. He can build stuff for the grandkids (are there grandchildren?). If they are young you could buy a copy of “Toys, Games, and Furniture: Over 30 Woodworking Projects You Can Make for Children”.

    If the grandkids are too old for these kind of toys, how about asking them if they have an interest in spending some of their Christmas break with grandpa out in his shop. (1) This will certainly motivate him, and (2) some of my favorite memories are working with my grandfather in his shop, learning how to use tools. What I wouldn’t give to have just a few of those hours back to re-live all over again. I’m pretty sure my tool obsession began right there in my grandfather’s basement wood working shop. :o)

    Forget the kids, maybe you (Joe) might be interested in spending that time with him in his shop. ;o)

    New tools are great (that’s why we read Toolmonger, right?) but what makes me happy is when the kids ask me if they can help with a project (home improvement, woodworking, automotive, etc).

    Whatever you decide, I hope you and your family have a Wonderful Christmas this year.

  6. Mike says:

    I’m sort of in the same boat as your dad. I’ve got tools, wood, and space, but no time to work on the projects I want to work on.

    How about a “gift certificate” for 8 hours of shop time, and you can work out with him what you can do to make it possible (like maybe taking on some of his chores, or committing to work down there with him so it feels like he’s not neglecting family, or whatever).

  7. Simon says:

    If a hobby is for fun, then only he can determine what is the fun part. I have about 10 different hobbies with all being neglected since I have 10 different hobbies! I would rather have a nice workspace than just one singular hobby. So I say ask him what HE wants for Christmas.

  8. Gary says:

    I plan to spend a lot more time in my shop once I retire, but thats not for another 25 years or so.

    A previous poster might be right – he may be more of a tool collector. That isn’t a bad thing – it doesn’t make him a poser or anything, but it could explain why he isn’t “producing much.”

    If he enjoys knocking around in the shop, let him be. If those pics are of his bench, he has some nice hand tools. It could be that he might like turning – it’s quite addictive.

    I’m a powertool guy, a neander and a turner. Hopefully by the time I retire, I’ll have built up a decent level of skill in all 3.

    Ask your dad what an ideal day in the shop for him would be. Not when he retires, but now. The answer will provide you some insights. If nothing else, gift certificates to Lee Valley or other stores are always a good idea.

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