• Andy Rawls

Q & A About Woodworking

I recently answered some questions for a young man's class project. I thought they might helpful or at least insightful for those who are interested!

Why do you think woodworking is important?

In a broad sense, woodworking is important because so many of the things we use on a daily basis are made from wood.  To me personally, it's important because I have a passion for it, I feel like it's something that I was made to do.  

Why did you start woodworking?

As a kid, I always enjoyed building things and always felt like I had a natural ability to make things.   When I was growing up it was easy to find a few 2x4s and use my dad's tools to make things like skate ramps.  As I got older and started building furniture I took a class with Paul Sellers on hand tools, I would pin this class as the starting point for my love of furniture making and the reason why I started on the path to becoming a woodworker.   


What’s your favorite thing about woodworking?

This has changed for me over the years, when I first started I loved seeing a completed project and the satisfaction of knowing I built it.  As I've grown older and spent the last 10 years in the shop on a daily basis I think what I enjoy the most is having the discipline and patience to continue to grow and learn as a furniture maker, hopefully, this makes sense!  I guess I don't want to just be content with where I'm at as a woodworker, but always trying to learn more. I've learned to enjoy the journey even when I get things wrong.   

If someone wanted to start woodworking what would be some advice you would give them?

The most important advice is to be ready to work and pay your dues.  This is a hard craft and it takes time to learn it, don't expect to buy some tools, do a few google searches and become a woodworker.  I see a lot of this and its a disservice to the craft.  My journey started with that class I took under Paul Sellers, that was in 2004, I didn't start my business until 2011.  In that time I worked under several craftsmen and learned so much.  There was frustration and a few times I almost shut it down but I'm so thankful I pushed through the hard times.  I'm not saying you have to take this same path, there are several ways to learn this craft but be sure you find someone to mentor and teach you.  There are schools that have amazing programs that teach all aspects of furniture making.   Everybody's path is different just be sure you take the time to truly learn the craft, then one day you can pass it on to someone else.

What are the ten most important tools to have in your shop? 

Ok, this is a tough one!  Part of me wants to break it down into two categories, machines and hand tools, but I'll just pick between both.  I've listed them below in no particular order...

1. Layout tools - combination square and marking gauge

2. Jointer

3. Planer

4. Bandsaw

5. Router

6. 4 1/2 smoothing plane

7. Set of bench chisels (1/4,3/8,1/2,3/4,1)

8. Dovetails saw and Tenon saw

9. Spokeshave

10.Block Plane

What is the most important tool for you?

I am going to break this down into two categories - machines and hand tools.

Machine - this is a toss-up between the bandsaw or plunge router.  Both of these tools are so versatile and you can do so many tasks with them.  If I had to choose just one I would take the bandsaw.   

Hand tool - my Stanely 4 1/2 smoother is my favorite and most used hand plane.  I reach for it every day and have two of them tuned and sharp up at all times.

What is your favorite thing you have made?

Probably my favorite build was my daughter's crib. I built it about 4.5 years ago, and since, my son Johnny has slept in it and our third child Judson will be sleeping in it any day now. (Pictured as cover photo) 

How did you get where you are today? 

I think I really lucked out to have multiple mentors to learn under.  I worked in Kentucky as an apprentice under Brian Boggs and spent three years making custom doors under a very talented craftsman in Boerne.  That combined with the classes I took under Paul Sellers and Frank Strazza was a huge factor in my development as a woodworker.  I was also very determined to get my own shop, that determination helped me get through the day to day grind of learning how to build furniture. 


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