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Joint Effort... What's the Story?

In 2013 I was feeling stuck. I had been running a small furniture company since 2004. But the pieces were uninspired and the middle class market we had counted on for so long had all but disappeared.

I had ideas. I could see new pieces in my mind. I could even sketch them out.

But had no idea how to make them. My woodworking skills were limited to power tools. To bring these new designs to life I would have to spend precious shop time making jigs. And then I would need to spend limited funds on new router bits to cut special profiles. All this to build a piece I wasn't even sure my customers would like.

There had to be a way to build a new design that required less investment in time and money. Not just a rough prototype. But a beautiful finished piece.

Could I spend my time building new skills instead of building new jigs? Could I buy tools that would let me do anything instead of one specific job? How was I going to move forward?

I decided that Hand Tools were the answer.

I researched and read reviews and finally ordered my first hand plane. A Low Angle Jack from Lee Valley. Luckily they had a recommendation system in place on their site. It suggested that I might want to order "The Anarchist Tool Chest" was well. After reading the summary I decided it was just what I needed to get started.

Within minutes of unwrapping that plane I was frustrated. It was a new tool and it would barely take a cut. Then, after a turn of the knob, it would dig in and grind to a halt. Shouldn't it work right out of the box?!?

So I turned to the book. And I discovered just how much I had to learn.

So I decided to take a class. It was led by the author of the book, Christopher Schwarz. I figured I would corner him and make him tell me exactly which tools I should buy. Then I could quiz all the other students and see what they thought.

Chris was incredibly helpful. But the greatest resource I gained in taking the class turned out to be the interactions I had with the other students. Learning new skills while I was surrounded by other woodworkers allowed me to ask questions when the instructor was busy. And I discovered that I had knowledge I could share too. I even made some new friends that I keep in touch with to this day.

Since that first class, my business has gone through several changes. I was inspired by the freedom I gained when I added hand tools to my work. And I wanted to help others get over one of the major hurdles I had while getting started. So I started building workbenches. But after shipping a few dozen of them, I began to look for a way to be more helpful to my customers. I wanted to offer them an experience similar to the one I had in that first class.

So I began to offer classes. And it was great fun!

The students would show up on Sunday with brand new hand tools. Tools they had never used before. Tools they didn't even know how to set up.

We would get straight to work on building their benches. And during the week their fear would evaporate. They would learn, for the first time, what it was like to use a sharp tool. They would take their first, and then their first few hundred shavings.

Again and again they would ask some form of the same question... Why?

Why do we do it this way? Why do we use that angle? Why should we buy this tool?

These were questions I had already answered for myself. Some of them so long ago that I had forgotten how I came to the answer in the first place. So, rather than simply answering "Because," we would talk them through.

Usually my answers would hold up. But sometimes I had to change my mind.

And this was the best part of teaching.

We all learned something.

Then the pandemic came along. And I was crushed. It took a while, but I realized I had access to all the tools I needed to keep teaching. I would just have to move on line. It wouldn't be exactly the same. But it was something.

And it wasn't the same. In a way, it was better.

There was no frantic pace. We could take the time to answer all those "Why's" without having to worry about falling behind schedule.

And after that first remote class I decided I wanted to do more. I wanted to create a space where we could learn together. Where we could help each other overcome challenges and cheer each other on. Just like a "real" class.

So I built the Joint Effort.

I'm so happy you've found us. And, if you haven't already, I hope you'll consider joining in.

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