Anyone who has dabbled with handicraft can understand that the art of making things by hand, especially something beautiful and functional, is therapeutic, calming, and can evoke a powerful, even spiritual satisfaction.
With today’s accessibility to thousands of online project idea blogs, how-to videos, and both safer and user-friendly hand and power tools, woodworking is an excellent handicraft for either gender, from beginners to master builders. This fun hobby can also turn into a lucrative trade for those who harness their creativity and perfect aspects of the craft. Whether the desire is to make simple projects for the home, gifts for loved ones or items to sell as a new side career, here are tips, projects and resources to inspire and motivate.
Tools & Instruction
Any woodcrafter will need a basic set of power and hand tools. A lot of crafters use their 110-volt power tools with a transformer, and will also add to their workshops while overseas with new 220-volt tools from local AAFES Exchanges and hardware stores such as Germany’s Toom, OBI and Bauhaus, and Leroy Merlin in Italy, Spain, Greece, France and Portugal. You can also find used 110- and 220-volt power tools through the highly popular, local online yard sales sites and Stripes classifieds.
Germany’s tradition of processing, building and crafting wood dates back more than 1,000 years. Today, as a global leader in the industries of timber, forestry, tool making and woodcrafts, Germany offers exceptional quality woodworking tools and instruction through a variety of both local and online resources. Check out Dieter Schmid Fine Tools, Ochsenkopf and highly popular German toolmaker, Dictum, or Dick® Tools. At Dictum’s website, peruse videos or step-by-step instruction on an assortment of topics such as types of woodworking skills and creative projects. Or, shop for a multitude of tools and instructional books, many in English. You’ll also find information about upcoming workshops, taught in English, on topics about woodworking and woodcrafts. These woodshops are highly valuable; you can work in the world’s best-equipped workshop while expert woodworkers give instruction to each tool. You’ll probably want to bring home a tool or 10.
While hand tools can be quite expensive, they are also made to last a lifetime — and then some. However, with the popularity of woodworking across Europe and abundance of durable tools available, a treasure trove of vintage hand tools in perfect condition can be found at local flea markets for unbelievable prices.
U.S. military and DOD ID holders also have free access to well-equipped woodshops provided through Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) and Force Support Squadron (FSS) arts and crafts centers at most U.S. installations in Europe. On-site, skilled staff provide guidance to help beginner and novice woodworkers get familiarized with a variety of power tools, improve skills, build confidence and lower injury risk. Working with the provided tools also lets woodworkers evaluate what kind of woodworking interests you without making the investment in tools. Do you want to learn more on the techniques of carving, scrolling, building furniture, furniture restoration or sculpting and turning? This is the perfect place to start. A free safety and instruction class is required before using the facility; call the local arts and crafts center for the dates of upcoming safety classes and hours of operation. To see a short video about the woodshop on Ramstein Air Base, visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=VsCM9fJKf8s.
A variety of hardwood can be purchased at the on-base woodshops, and they can also help you locate larger amounts of lumber from local sawmills and suppliers. Smaller wood supplies, such as burl blanks, veneers and turning or carving supplies can also be found locally or through online suppliers. See the sidebar for sites.
Another fun and eco-friendly idea is to repurpose old furniture, barn wood and wooden floors into new projects. Flea markets and estate/barn sales are excellent sources to locate these types of supplies. However, the pesky woodworm is prevalent in Europe. So be sure to treat old or repurposed wood for woodworm before use; most hardware stores carry sprays and liquids applied with a brush for easy treatment.
Thousands of project plans are available with just a simple online search. We’ve also compiled a list of some of the best woodworking sites online below. And, we’ve listed some great projects below to inspire you to get started.
Display your Keepsakes – A popular gift for retiring military personnel is a meaningful, handmade cabinet or shadow box that proudly displays medals, awards, patches, coins, photos and retirement flags. But don’t just make a rectangle frame. Get creative! Some recent projects created by men in my husband’s unit: a handmade, burnished coffee table/display cabinet with photo transfers onto the wood and drawers beneath the display case; an antique steamer trunk with built-in displays in both the inside lid and top tray; and for a wine-lover who’d spent the last several years of his career in Italy and Germany, a wine barrel-turned wine cabinet with a glass display case built into the lid.
Unique shadow boxes and displays are also perfect for the European traveler. Why not display ticket stubs, trinkets and photos of captured moments in your own display cabinet? I’ve gathered quite a few ideas on my Pinterest page, so find me and check out my boards.
Try Your Hand at Turning - Learning how to turn wood with a lathe can let you create cool gifts for others, like personalized wooden toys such as tops and a baseball bat, or a set of burlwood bowls, beautiful wooden ink pens, bangle bracelets, and so much more. This woodworking technique, while intimidating (always follow safety precautions), is also gratifying, as you can produce a piece of art in little time at all. And, it’s so cool to watch the process.
Build Name-Brand Knock-offs – If you love the furniture designs at Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware, Ethan Allen and others, then take a look at our DIY Woodworking Women sidebar. These creatively savvy, tool-belt-toting moms-turned-entrepreneurs combined their love for interior design with a need to furnish their homes economically, and began designing and building their dream furniture inspired by name-brand classics. Once they started blogging about their woodworking adventures, their hobbies became highly profitable. The combination has not only created successful business ventures for these ladies, but they’ve also built some truly beautiful furniture and designed interior spaces for a fraction of the retail cost, all while inspiring thousands of women into woodworking. Their sites are very user-friendly, showing details of each project through photography and DIY video, offering downloadable plans, finishing techniques and highlighting tools used.
If these projects seem a little overwhelming, don’t fret. A number of small, simple projects to get you accustomed to woodworking can be found at www.instructables.com/id/Woodworking-Projects-for-Beginners. And, as with other creative “Crafty” articles in recent Welcome to Europe issues, I’ve compiled even more simple and easy woodworking projects at www.pinterest.com/jeanavc under Woodworking Projects and Ideas.
We love to be inspired by our readers. Send your story ideas, photos of creations and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Be safe and have fun!
Resources, Materials, Tools & DIY Videos
www.mehr-als-werkzeug.de (Dictum Tools)