The Hobby of Woodworking

John Keats wrote:
A thing of beauty is a joy forever, Its loveliness increases, it will never pass into nothingness.



A hobby may be thought of as a favorite avocation or secondary occupation, or a diversion of attention from one’s normal daily occupation or vocation. Woodworking is an absorbing and fascinating hobby, which is not only a diversion but a means of cultivating skill and creating worthwhile products. Most of us appreciate the beauty of growing trees. For many, there is in addition to this appreciation, an urge to “get inside” of the rough bark of a tree and work with its wood. Craftsmen and hobbyists have long found wood a satisfying and convenient medium of expression for useful and artistic ends. The uniqueness of each piece of wood, as to grain, figure, and color makes it a tempting material the possibilities of which seem never exhausted. A woodworker’s or hobbyist’s interest inevitably grows, not only in a desire to produce better things but to experience the use of different kinds of wood. American woods alone have great potentialities, with the added advantage that many beautiful and workable species of them are readily accessible to anyone who takes up woodworking.

The legends of trees and the facts about their geographic origins and locations add zest to one’s experience in working with woods. Imagine the pleasure of making a desk name plate from Prairie or Wild Crab Apple, found in the northeastern States; an electric table lamp from Southern Waxmyrtle, found in the southeastern States, in conjunction with Pawpaw, American Smoketree (Yellowwood) and Cum Bumelia or Gum Elastic found in the central States; a bud vase from Elderberry or Cascara Buckthorn, found in the northwestern States; a fruit bowl from Tamarisk and Pacific Madrona, found in the southwestern States; or a pair of salt and pepper shakers from the Lilac found in most of our States.

Our early American hardwoods were first utilized by handicraft methods. Today, while many craftsmen still Choose this method, the use of power as well as hand tools characterizes most modern woodworking. As a result, a woodworking hobby provides the added interest in developing proficiency in the use of tools, in addition to the element of creativeness and ingenuity in planning and executing designs and articles in wood. Woodworking machinery and tools, in fact, offer a great opportunity to many individuals who wish to create worthwhile articles of wood, yet would be limited in their ability to do so with only simple hand methods.

Fortunately, American woods in abundance and tools to work with are at hand for the energetic hobbyist.

Improved Tools and Machinery

During the last decade a tremendous development has taken place in the production of woodworking machinery for the home workshop. It is no longer the exclusive privilege of the well-to-do to be able to acquire the various woodworking machines necessary for the operation of a well equipped home workshop. All types of woodworking machines can now be obtained in all price ranges. These machines have been tremendously important in the utilization of spare time and the development of hobbies, especially for professional people. Manual training has also become an increasingly important part of our public school systems, many of which have training centers well equipped with all types of woodworking machinery and tools. Men and women of all ages are taking advantage of these facilities.

Woodworking machines, of course, do not entirely replace hand tools, but they make it possible to widen the range of projects adaptable to the home workshop. Work can be done with greater precision and speed and often greater satisfaction. After gaining reasonable proficiency in the use of common carpenter hand tools, the natural desire is to expand the home workshop to include one or more of the woodworking machines.The circular saw, band saw, jig saw, lathe, planer, shaper, jointer, drill press, sander and other similar power machines are now available in all price ranges.

Use of American Woods

While the lumber in the common dry goods box or orange crate may be good starting material for the home craftsman, he soon will desire better and more attractive woods. There are a number of commercial concerns dealing exclusively in the distribution of rare and beautiful cabinet woods for the home wood craftsman. However, it is surprising to find that the list of American commercial cabinet woods is comparatively limited. Aside from black walnut, maple, cherry, poplar and perhaps a dozen or so other species, the emphasis is predominantly on foreign woods. There are few, if any, commercial concerns handling fine cabinet woods, who make a specialty of providing a wide selection of beautiful native woods which may be utilized by the home craftsman. Yet, within the limits of the continental United States may be found a very wide variety of fine woods with exquisite color, grains, and markings. In fact, they are, with very few exceptions, as beautiful as most foreign woods now used in this country. A large number of these American Woods have not been put on the commercial market, mainly because the trees are not found in commercial forest stands in sufficient quantity to make it profitable to cut and season them especially for the lumber trade. Many of these woods, however, have been cut for veneer uses, which accounts for the fact that a very much larger number of American woods are available in veneer stock.


  • Shelley E. Schoonover (American Woods) 1951 (Watling & Co. ) Santa Monica, CA 


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Page last modified on Friday August 30, 2019 09:14:44 PDT by John Morris.