Getting started

My last day at work was a Friday. It hit me only that evening as I said my goodbyes that I was done for the day and heading home for the very last time. I wondered how it would be not to come back on Monday as usual. I knew that I would miss my little cabin, my colleagues, all the clients I had built relationships with over the years, and the work itself.

Monday did feel strange- I didn’t have to wake up early and head out. The day was all mine and I had to figure out what to do with it. Initially, it was pleasant not to have phone calls and emails to answer or any work stress at all, but after a few days it felt rather quiet and took some getting used to. It felt good too, as I hadn’t had such a break from work in years. I would get excited about woodworking, thinking about how I would start, what I would make and so on.

I kept looking online, and found a few blogs by more experienced DIY woodworking enthusiasts in other cities. I found some that were both inspiring and informative, like the Delhi-based Indian DIY & Woodworker and the Chennai-based Woodooz, which I think had started out as a DIY woodworking blog. These helped me consider the possibility of learning woodworking on my own. There was a wealth of resources online: videos, blogs and websites (mostly from the US and Europe) that provided detailed information on woodworking, how-to guides, demo videos, tool reviews, and so much more. I particularly liked the videos offered by Paul Sellers as I found his teaching style uncomplicated, practical and easy to follow.

I decided to buy a few tools: chisels, a hammer, tape measure, a couple of saws, some wood glue and a little block plane. I bought these at local hardware shops, and the first few times I noticed a subtle bias: I wasn’t being taken seriously and I was often made to wait until all the men had been attended to. I am not sure if this was because I am a woman, or because I was hesitant and unsure about what I should buy– a little guidance from the salesmen would have been very helpful. A couple of the smaller shop keepers were more polite and eager to help, and I made these my go-to shops even though they were not as well-stocked as the larger stores.

Eventually, I began to walk into stores with a lot more confidence and ask for exactly what I wanted, as I would do some research before stepping out. If they didn’t have what I wanted, I wouldn’t linger uncertainly. By now I am a familiar face at most of my neighbourhood hardware and electrical stores, and the salespeople are far more helpful and proactive in offering suggestions etc. 

Once I had the basic tools and materials, I had an aha! moment that was both thrilling and liberating: I no longer needed a carpenter to do odd jobs around the house. If there was a picture frame to be hung on a wall, a chair leg that needed fixing, or loose bolts on the bed that needed tightening, I could do it all myself. I bought myself a Bosch drill (my only power tool), which has come in very handy. With every little success, I got the confidence to try more complex tasks and fixes, such as rigging up an low-cost DIY clothes-drying line in the laundry area.

I spent the next few weeks pottering around the house fixing stuff, reorganizing storage, refurbishing the living room, and doing all the little things I hadn’t had the time or energy to do before. Each time I wanted to fix something and didn’t have the tools or hardware, I did some research online or worked it out with common sense, and then went out to buy what I needed. Then I’d come home and get right to it, learning from my mistakes as I went along.