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    Shop Manager Bill Peck: How I Got Started in Woodworking

    After retirement, FW shop manager Bill Peck got more serious about woodworking as a hobby.

    Hi, my name’s Bill Peck. About four months ago, I started a new job as the shop manager at Fine Woodworking where I maintain the shop, pack up and return tools we have tested and help the editors with anything shop related. But, it’s really only in the last five years that I got heavily into woodworking and it doesn’t feel like that long ago. Here’s how I got started.

    Woodworking’s in my blood. My grandfather was a woodworker and before that one of my ancestors had a chair shop in Shelburne, Mass. where I grew up.

    During my years working in the defense industry, I had done some woodworking on the side and always wanted to do more, so when I retired I got serious and built a woodshop in my basement.

    First projects with hand tools and a radial arm saw
    In the early years, I didn’t have many tools, just some hand tools and an old Sears radial arm saw which I bought used. Nevertheless I managed to build most of the shelves for a Montessori preschool which my wife and I started and a couple of pieces for the house.

    One was a pine pantry cabinet for the kitchen of our apartment when we were first married. After gluing up the side panels and doors I took them to the local lumber yard for planing.

    The other was a hutch for the dining area made mostly from birch veneer plywood and stained darker. We still have those and they have been recycled to different uses over the years. The hutch is now in my son’s house and the cabinet is used for storage in our basement.

    I even bought Fine Woodworking magazine on the newsstand from time to time to see what the serious woodworkers built and how they did it, but I didn’t have the time to get serious about woodworking myself.

    A dedicated woodworking shop
    Upon retirement we moved to Newtown, Conn. into a house with a large basement, which seemed like the right place for my woodshop.

    Our house is L shaped with a full basement under the main section. The L section off one end is just a half basement (or crawl space with a “rat slab’, i.e. it has a concrete floor). That end of the basement seemed like the best place for my workshop since I could use the elevated half basement floor for storage of lumber. This space was useless otherwise.

    Building my workshop and selecting the right tools were my first priority. Furniture requests were already rolling in from my wife and children.

    Buy tools on an "as needed" basis
    I started the projects before the shop was complete, so I bought equipment as needed for the projects at hand. This is a great way to do it because you aren’t stuck buying equipment you may not use.

    First fine furniture projects
    My first major project was building a cherry dining room table with two extension leaves and after that, eight chairs to go with it for my son. I then did a built-in set of cabinets and shelves for our house and a widescreen TV stand with glass door enclosed equipment bays below.

    New career in woodworking
    One day I was reading the local newspaper, the Newtown Bee, and happened to notice a help wanted ad by the Taunton Press/Fine Woodworking magazine for a part-time woodshop manager.

    I thought it sounded interesting, even though I wasn’t really looking for a job, so I applied. They asked me to bring in some pictures of my shop and my work and I ended up getting the job.

    So now I get to work in Fine Woodworking’s woodshop and to blog about my hobby! I’ll tell you more in future blogs about the different aspacts of building my workshop; layout, dust control, epoxy painted floors, lighting, equipment selection and show you some pictures.

    Next project: a heavy-duty workbench
    Then I can tell you more about my projects. In the meantime I'm heading off to the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking next week to take their Building a Workbench class and knock out a super workbench for my shop.

    I’ll write more about that each day. I look forward to hearing your stories about how you got started or are getting started in the craft.