'Cross-training': Extracurricular Pursuits that Strengthen Your Woodworking
For me, woodworking is more than just something to do in my spare time: It's my passion. So, even when I'm not in the shop making sawdust, I find ways to make everything about woodworking. And I've found that my view of my hobby often benefits in interesting ways. Here are some ways to freshen your perspective on woodworking by venturing outside of the shop.
Get a new hobby. Other disciplines can benefit you in the shop. Want to improve your design sketches or learn more about proportion and composition? Try a beginner's drawing class at an art supply store or community center. You might also find that learning to use software, such as SketchUp or Illustrator, helps you get ideas out of your head and onto paper faster.
Or seek out a seemingly unrelated skill, such as glassmaking or sculpting, that can be incorporated into your woodworking to create unique pieces. Active learners practice thinking outside the box—a skill that can definitely be applied in the shop.
Take up a life of crime. Specifically, steal ideas from other disciplines. Pick up inspirational books in the fields of architecture, art, and graphic design. Many great craftsmen borrow ideas from other industries, and it's the crossover that makes their work unique.
Make your crime pay by containing your spree to your local library. Many libraries are interconnected, so if your branch doesn't have the book you're looking for, another branch might be able to ship it to your library for free.
Shop 'til you drop. In fact, as soon as you're done reading this article, go out and buy a new tool. Although it won't automatically make you a better woodworker, it will get you excited to get back in the shop and try out a new technique or hone an old one. A new tool often transforms immobilizing roadblocks into easy, fun tasks.
Pop some popcorn. Everybody who's anybody is making woodworking videos these days, and there's a never-ending supply on YouTube. Want to learn how to cut a dovetail? It's on YouTube. What's the best finish for a tabletop? It's on YouTube. Sometimes the overwhelming amount of online video can be paralyzing, so expand your DVD library with some premium content, as well. I get a great deal of inspiration from watching documentaries about artists and makers. Seeing the creative process of a successful artist is a great motivator and can spark an interesting idea that I cannot wait to try in my shop.
Drink a beer. Maybe not in the shop, but grab a woodworking buddy or two and find a place to hang out and talk about the craft. Sharing stories and experiences is a great way to pick up new tips and techniques. Woodworkers just love to talk about woodworking and share their knowledge. Don't have a woodworking buddy? Attend an adult ed class, or find a guild and meet some new friends.
No matter how long you've been woodworking, there's always something new to learn. Stay passionate and make something!