Because if you're here, you must be interested.
Like many people that get involved in crafts, my first introduction to woodworking came from my father. He wasn’t a woodworker so much as he was a do-it-yourselfer. My parents couldn’t afford to hire someone every time a light bulb needed to be changed, so any project that they could handle themselves, they did. I can still remember my very first woodworking project (other than pinewood derby cars), a picnic table and benches that my father and I built together almost 35 years ago.
I grew up in a small town in Central, NJ during a time when home economics and shop class were still common requirements in public schools. My first formal introduction to woodworking came in 1987 in middle school shop class. In 1989, The New Yankee Workshop first aired on our local PBS television station, and watching the show quickly became a weekly ritual for me.
My college years were spent studying science and engineering as I have always had a gift for the subjects and math always came easy to me. I worked in a laboratory by day and, outside of the 9 to 5 hours, when I could, I would pursue my passion for woodworking, following in the footsteps of Norm Abram. At the time, I didn’t even know what a hand plane was.
In the spring of 2001, however, my woodworking journey would veer off into a completely different direction. During a trip with my fiancé (now my wife) to Colonial Williamsburg, my thoughts on the craft would be completely turned upside down. After years of only ever seeing woodworking being done with modern machines, watching the trades people of the historic area work without the aid of electricity was completely mind blowing to me. Of course I knew it was done that way in “the olden days”, but the thought of working that way in our modern age just never occurred to me.
What intrigued me the most about our visit to Colonial Williamsburg wasn’t the furniture though. I do like 18th century furniture, but it’s because of the challenge it poses to me as a maker, not because I’m in love with the aesthetics of the style. While I’ve built several period reproductions over the years, I haven’t kept any of them because they don’t fit in with the way we like to decorate our home. Most period furniture that you see in museums and books is just too ornate for our tastes. We prefer simpler pieces for our own home.
No, what interested me the most were the simple ways in which the historic tradespeople were able to accomplish tasks that would be a major undertaking to do by machine. Instead of relying on elaborate jigs or fixtures, they would simply mark a line and then cut to that line. It didn’t matter if there were compound angles or curves, sharp inside corners, or complex carvings. There was no need to make test cuts to see if a machine was set up properly. If something didn’t fit just right, they could make a simple adjustment with a hand plane or a chisel and the piece would fit perfectly. It was an enlightening way to work.
Something else that I noticed while touring the historic workshops was just how quiet and how clean it was. No one was wearing hearing protection or dust masks. The craftspeople could have conversations with guests while they were working. The surfaces in the buildings weren’t all covered from ceiling to floor in a thick layer of dust.
After that trip, I started looking for resources to learn more about working in this way. It was then that I found books by Roy Underhill, and then found his television show. I started reading everything I could and scouring the then relatively new internet for whatever information I could find. I bought loads of antique hand tools, took them apart, cleaned them up, and put them back into service.
Eventually, I sold every power tool I owned and vowed that I would use only hand tools until I came to a point where I couldn’t do what I wanted to do with hand tools and needed a power tool to continue. But that day never came. Instead, the more that I used them, the more that I realized that there wasn’t anything that my hand tools were not capable of. So, I continued using only hand tools for my woodworking for almost 20 years.
In 2008, I started a blog called the Logan Cabinet Shoppe. The goal of that site was to share what I had learned in my first near-decade of working only by hand, and also what I was continuing to learn. In 2009, I started making videos to add to my blog. These videos, and the things I was writing became quite popular and, eventually, landed me an opportunity to do some writing for Popular Woodworking Magazine. In 2010, I started teaching classes in traditional woodworking with hand tools. Then, in 2015, my family and I left New Jersey for the Blue Ridge Mountains of Southwestern Virginia, and the Logan Cabinet Shoppe was officially decommissioned.
These days, I do use some machines and hand-held power tools in my work. As I get older, I realize that I cannot spend entire days hand planing rough lumber to finished thickness without getting a little more tired and sore than I used to. My time in the workshop is also much more limited now than it was before, so it’s nice to be able to do some of the initial milling with machines to speed up that part of the process when I can. However, because I have taken the time to learn the skills to do these tasks by hand efficiently, when I do score that 20″ wide mahogany board, I don’t have to resort to ripping it into narrower pieces, so I can pass it through my benchtop thickness planer. Instead, I look to my trusty hand planes and know that I’m not making any compromises just to accommodate the limitations of a machine.
What Is Bob Rozaieski Fine Woodworking?
Traditional Woodworking How-to
The goal of Bob Rozaieski Fine Woodworking is educating and inspiring others who are pursuing the craft of traditional woodworking. While it may take some time and practice to become fluent and efficient using hand tools, the time spent learning these skills is well worth it in the long run. If you’re just getting started on your journey to becoming a craftsman, learning to use hand tools right from the beginning will provide you with the opportunity to build a solid foundation of good techniques and work habits that will benefit you in all aspects of the craft. If you already have some experience using machines and hand-held power tools, learning to use hand tools will help you to refine your skill set and will liberate you from the limitations that many machines and power tools impose, allowing you to take your woodworking to the next level.