The Making Bug

by | Mar 11, 2015 | 6 comments

As a kid I wasn’t a traditionalist, not by a long shot. I remember me and my brother banging out hundreds of hours competing on the Sega Megadrive. My earliest tool cravings weren’t for hand tools either but for the ones with power and noise. I remember my Dad had a cordless Makita when they first came out, and I loved it, and if I was really lucky he would let me have a go on his jigsaw. With that drill, jigsaw and the space of an afternoon the games I could produce for me and my brother were tremendous. Nothing motivates a small boy more than the prospect of shooting his brother, other than when the shooting is done with his very own creation – what an achievement. Rustic elastic band guns; that’s how I got bit with the making bug.

With the influences around me and my own ambitions, it didn’t take long for my bug to develop towards hand tools as I started to see their value and understand what they offered to my work. But getting started is much more about a spark of inspiration than mastering technique, so I’ve always thought the perceived speed and can-do nature of power tools to be as good a place to start as any.
You can go to a DIY store and pick up some basic power tools, furniture board and nails, have a rummage around in the garage back at home for an old hammer and you’re away. In that afternoon you could knock up something crude for the house and that’s you caught. The sense of achievement pushes your creativity and for your next project you’re edging to include some curves or a moulding, and you take another step forward on your own personal journey.

Once the making bug has you, you start looking around and taking note of furniture more. You find yourself looking at the tables while sat in a restaurant and you’re seeing things differently – you’ve become a bit of a maker, and the maker’s eye comes on only through making. You might puzzle over the intricacy of a raised panel door and very quickly realise that your stash of tools have reached their limits.
Often this is where the internet steps in; you stick in to Google “how do I…” and ‘boom’, up pops a forum and a blog. Online community has done wanders for keeping alive a real passion for hand tools and woodworking.

Nothing sparks interest quite like noise, power and progress. Whilst the kids of today are sat with their chubby mates at their computers it’s well worth noting that many will still be making, since one of the biggest selling games is MineCraft, a game where you build and create on screen. Making may well be what makes us human; the desire to make is in all of us and should be nurtured.

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About Richard Maguire

About Richard Maguire

As a professional hand tool woodworker, Richard found hand tools to be the far more efficient solution for a one man workshop. Richard runs 'The English Woodworker' as an online resource and video education for those looking for a fuss free approach to building fine furniture by hand. Learn More About Richard & The English Woodworker.


  1. Andy

    I am passing this along to my son. He has too sons, my grandchildren, and I think he would agree. Every kid loves to pound nails.

  2. Jason A. Hammond

    Something that no longer happens in most schools in the States anymore is a mandatory semester of shop class in highschool. Shop class was where a lot of us learned how to operate machinery safely and where we learned how to be creative. I know this is a hand tool blog but I would love to have that giant bandsaw we had in school.:) Love reading your stuff.

  3. Dan Noall

    I can’t wait for the weather to cooperate (soon!) so I can get back to scratching that itch. Just looking at that simple pine box in the pic is making me wring my hands with anticipation.
    Great article!

  4. DenverGeorge

    My kids were not much interested in learning about building when they were growing up. Not that I didn’t try and give them opportunities. Thought I’d try again when the grandkids got old enough. Same result. Then I started making the switch to hand tools. Tried again with my granddaughter (now 18). She loved it; she says she likes the quiet. She took to hand tools like a duck to water. Now she’s the slavedriver on days we get to work together in the shop. I have to beg her to stop for some lunch! Glad I have been able to pas along the “making” bug to at least one person in the family.

    • Richard

      That’s truly lovely to hear Denver, especially with it being your Granddaughter, that’s particularly nice.

  5. Pete Aron

    Frank Wilson, a Neurologist, makes the claim in his book “The Hand” that doing things by hand was the essential reason that Homo Sapiens became the most intelligent animal on earth, and that through evolution we’re wired to _need_ to work with our hands. Anthropologist Sherwood Washburn even suggested that, in order for human brains to evolve, our hands had to evolve _first_. So, if we’re all wanting to evolve here, pick up a Lumpy and get to work forchrissake!


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