How Did I Get Into Wood Working?

How Did I Get Into Wood Working?

I am often asked, “How do you know how to do what you do? Did you have training?”.  Well the simple answer is… I am basically self-taught.  As such, I am a major proponent of shop class in public schools or at least activities that allow children to work with their hands while learning critical problem solving.  While some children have parents who work in the trades and can pick up these valuable skills at home most do not.  If they are like me, they will have to learn via other avenues.  My career in woodworking (LOL) began as a young child in scouts.  We made a very simple letter holder - really nothing more than three 1/4" pieces of wood glued together in a "U" Shape.  As you can see my mom still uses it some 30+ years later :) 

Childhood Mail Holder

Like most parents, my mom won’t part with it.  I was also lucky enough to attend a junior high school that offered an industrial arts class (1/2 year wood shop / 1/2 year photography).  There we completed several projects.  My most advanced project was a full-size floor standing trophy case (modified from gun cabinet plans).  My school actually nominated the trophy case for state and it was taken down to the state finals - but I didn't win :(.    However, the item that still sits very proudly on my fireplace mantle is the clock I made for my mom in 8th grade. 

8th Grade Mantle Clock

Guess that was the beginning of my clock making!      

As a teenager I wanted to be an engineer and have always been fascinated by architecture. During high school I took classes like CAD-CAM, drafting, interior design, graphic arts, etc. Although I ended up majoring in resort management while attending college and my career path took me in a different direction, my education gave me a basic skill level and confidence to work with my hands. As an adult, I continued using the skills I had learned to do a lot of the renovation on my 1880's home.  So, when life took yet another turn a few years ago it resulted in the creation of The Riverside Woodshop.  It was a natural progression for me at the time and combines all the hobbies I have always loved: designing, creating and building.

          So, for those of you whose children have an opportunity to take shop classes please encourage them to do so. Not only do they teach valuable skills, but they can build a world of self-confidence.  Both will stay with them for life.  A great example of this is the story of fixing my mom’s sink.  I was 16 and she had just moved into her condo.  The bathroom sink wasn’t working.  So, with all the confidence of a teenager I borrowed a pipe wrench from my friend’s dad and set out to replace the pipe.  Of course, my mom doubted my ability but my answer to her was, “it’s broke so what’s the worse that happens… I break it a little more and then we call a plumber”.  To this day I still live by that philosophy!!  Some of my best creations have resulted from a screw-up followed by creativity and redesign.     

Hope you have enjoyed reading a little about how I acquired my passion for creating the home décor items you see.  Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Etsy or our own website…

Brad Shirley, Owner of The Riverside Woodshop.

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