Stepping Up

by | Jun 17, 2014 | 17 comments

I promised myself this year, I would find time to learn how to make things from wood. It’s been hectic, but I’ve managed to get myself addicted to picking up Richard’s tools and making a few shavings and saw cuts. The only thing I have successfully made so far is a large wooden composting box. I cobbled this together from waste wood found in and around the barns. I was suitably impressed by the speed and accuracy of my saw cuts, but with the gash wood and rusty old hard point this was only ever going to exist for fulfilling a need, and now stands slightly hidden from view, developing an appropriately unwelcoming odour.

I enjoyed every moment of that build. From realising I had a few hours spare after lunch, I scavenged round for timber and imagined up the easiest way of turning it to a usable form. That evening I was filling it to the brim with mountains of weeds and debris. Overall a very satisfying experience, but now I’m ready to make something finer, something I can be proud of.

One thing that seems to have held me back a little, other than not having enough time, has been the tooling. I’m in a pretty enviable position to have access to Richard’s knowledge and tools, and he’s more than happy for me to be helping myself. But when it comes to it, I feel somewhat on edge picking up his hand tools; I’m taking things slow and steady with delicate shavings and cuts. Great for learning techniques, but now I want to get more involved, stop tip toeing and pick up the pace, even takes things apart, learn how they work and set them up.

Richard has a very close relationship with his tools and uses them daily for putting food on the table. Good reasons to feel nervous about flinging them around. He understands, and is going to help get me started with some tools of my own, which sounds very exciting.

I’m adding a new category to the blog, following some steps on my experience with these new tools. There should be plenty of articles, and I even have plans for some videos.

More Posts From My Beginner’s Journey

[module type=e category=”woodworking-for-beginners” amount=”8″ ]

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About Helen Fisher

About Helen Fisher

Helen seeks to explore ways to live with greater joy & sustainability for both ourselves & the planet. Concepts which have led to the launch of her second business We Are Carbon. As the producer of our videos, Helen brings a unique perspective & injects life to our education ensuring it is both a pleasure to watch & easy to follow & learn from. Learn More About Helen & The English Woodworker.


  1. Eddy flynn

    well done Helen on your first solo build if that compost bin is starting to smell it means you built it right and its working when you put that free compost on your roses they will smell sweeter and look all the better for a bit of home made compost ,on the tool’s you couldn’t be in any better situation having all tha knowledge on hand most of us have to buy what we think will do the job ,welcome to the world of Making.

    • Helen

      Thanks Eddy, I feel very fortunate having Richard pick out all my tools for me. So far they’re all second hand and I wouldn’t have known where to start without him!
      I’m hoping others can pick up a few pointers when I begin looking at setting them up.

  2. Paul Chapman

    Looking forward to seeing your progress.

  3. Chris Buckingham,France

    Each build will bring more confidence, soon you will be looking for tools of your own at the next show you go to, I have to say that the better the quality tools you work with (and that usually means old tools), the easier the job is to do.

  4. Thekiltedwoodworker

    In a hobbiest shop, I would say, “Bollocks” and tell you to save some money and get comfortable with his tools.

    But a production shop is different, I expect. And, not saying that you wouldn’t take care of his tools, but a person tends to invest the MOST time, energy, thought, and care in something that is wholly and unequivocally theirs. Then you have pride for your work as well as your tools!

    Looking forwards to reading about some of your builds!

    • Helen

      Thank you, I’ve spent a good while ‘playing’ about with Richard’s tools, but just can’t bring myself to take them apart!
      I’m hoping to get a better grasp of everything once I’m setting tools up myself, and we’ll both be breathing easier once Richard’s are out of harm’s way 🙂

  5. Larry Jackson

    You couldn’t ask for a better teacher, Helen.

  6. david

    … and it all started with a compost bin. Famous last words. Wishing you the best on your journey and looking forward to the posts about it.

  7. Dave Ray

    Helen, you’ve taken the first steps on a fun journey. A great learning experience is coming your way. Get your hands dirty, keep your mind open and enjoy the trip to the max. Please let us enjoy the journey thru your eyes by keeping us informed.

  8. Emma

    Good for you, Helen. A compost bin is not to be sniffed at (literally!) There’s nothing more satisfying that making something yourself. At the moment, I have my eye on some cast iron bench ends that have been sitting in the garage for a couple of years waiting for someone to shape and fasten some slats to give them their purpose back. Maybe ‘someone’ can be me 🙂

    • Helen

      Go for it! If you’re thinking about giving the bench a try, then it sounds like you’ve got the interest to enjoy it. And I’m sure we could rustle up plenty of guidance if you get stuck, just give us a shout.
      I’ve always enjoyed making things, but spend far too much time thinking rather than doing – hopefully the compost bin will the start of things to come 🙂

  9. Kevin

    “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step”
    I don’t doubt you are feeling the same thrills many of us did when we first started. Enjoy, I look forward to seeing your future works

  10. Rich

    Thanks for showing the importance of people and their tools. When a person uses tools, they bond. It’s important that people use their own tools for the projects to reflect the perfection they want.

    Much success.

  11. Mark

    good on ya lass, well done. I would like to comment on one aspect though
    ” but now I’m ready to make something finer, something I can be proud of”
    It may not be ‘fine’ but it is a functional item which has it’s own charm. As such you have a right to be proud of your endevours. What is better, practising skills on a project you can use for years to come? Or, having an unfinished ‘fine cabinet’, abandonded because of frustration at less than ideal skills.
    No matter what the project may be, you will beome more comfortable with using tools and develope the core skills you need. I find the main thing is to finish each project you tackle. Complete it to your best ability, look at it, make a note of the mistakes and move on to yhe next. To that end it should be something you need/like or can generaly be useful. You’ll be building that break front cabinet in no time, and just think about all those compost bins, wheel barrows, feed troughs ect. each better than the last.
    The main thing is enjoy the process, if it’s not fun, we don’t learn.

    Good luck, Mark

    BTW What’s this about Richard’s new found literary skills. I hear he’s done a deal with ‘The Schwarz’ hope he’s got a long spoon! (tounge firmly in cheek)
    Seriously though, it’s already on my wish list, can’t wait. Hopefuly, nxt time we meet you both do me the honor of signing my copy. Got to ask 🙂

    • Helen

      Thanks Mark. Well noted with the book, this is another very exciting journey that we’ll be sharing. I’ll get Richard to start practising his signature, currently his own bank questions him!

  12. Kieran

    Congratulations on taking the first step, Helen. Now that you’ve built the compost bin I’m sure you’ll become addicted to crafting things (and what a teacher you have!).

    How did your sawing practice develop following your post in April? I was reminded of your earlier post when writing a similar blog post about developing sawing skills this evening (see if you are interested).

    Looking forward to reading about your journey.


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