You're a single search away from knowing how to do almost anything practical... Seconds of research when 20 years ago you'd be hoping in the car and driving to the library in hopes that maybe you could find the best book/pages to get you where you needed to be.
I learned lots of music stuff on the web in the 90's, but having videos is really necessary for a lot of things. Without a video it would be really hard to explain how to change cranks and so forth. It occurred to me that even 5 years before that (2005), I wouldn't have had access to that content.
One of my favorite books on cycling: http://www.amazon.com/Bicycling-Science-David-Gordon-Wilson/...
Not much practical in that, that I remember, but tons and tons of random articles on odd-ball bike stuff. One of the few books I've purchased and randomly read most of a few times. Really great book.
Do the numbers and if you can't make at least 20% on your outlay (not the total sale price, but your cash-on-cash return) then keep looking until you find something suitable.
The key challenges are less learning how to lay grout but more in buying effectively, assessing the market your customers are operating in (ie, who is going to buy it, what are their tastes, budget and needs?) and dealing with contractors who will necessarily complete work you cannot do (such as electrical).
Every house will sell with the right price attached. That should be the least of your worries. Worst of all cases is that you are halfway through, and lose time/money/energy/cash to complete the job. Then you've got a half-built house which is unsaleable to everyone but a person who can exploit the pickle you've got yourself in.
I have moved into houses and lived there while upgrading the interior and it has always been personally and financially rewarding, but this is not for everyone.
> I have moved into houses and lived there while upgrading the interior
> and it has always been personally and financially rewarding
I find that you can gain a lot of understanding with 'shiny new house/cash to buy bigger house' promise at the end.
I always keep the saw in the garage. Better for keeping excess sawdust out of the house.
Also, with flipping houses, the adage that time is money rings very very true. Each month paying a mortgage,and interest is money thrown out, and mostly lost opportunity. For example, if you can make 10k from a flip after costs, but it takes 6 months, as opposed to making 5k from a flip after costs, but with a 1 month turnaround, you can see which strategy wins out.
For selling, location will be a bigger determinant of liquidity than your ability to sell it.
If you want to do construction, I would learn on small projects as opposed to fixer-upper houses.
> I have no doubt I could do a good job with just youtube
1. Lack of respect for the skill and experience needed in basic trades: electrician/plumber/carpentry. This attitude "oh there is nothing to it, it is just blue collar work. I can watch some youtube videos and learn it in no time" is dangerous, costly and silly/arrogant. Master craftsman take a long time to learn their trade. Your inability to estimate what is needed and how long it will take and what might come up is going to be a giant problem. Experienced tradesmen have seen the 50 different ways people have screwed up plumbing/wiring/etc and has a good idea how to begin a new project and handle these screwups as they are slowly discovered. A lot of the work you will do will be do to "oh shit X is busted" moments, not "Wow, that went smoothly, X is done. Lets proceed to the next item on the outline of work I came up with originally and have not had to deviate from."
2. It takes a couple of full Xs to get the hang of doing X. Lets take something basic like rocking and taping a room. There is a guy on YT, DryWallGaul, that makes the best drywall videos I have ever seen. I have had a lot of people "teach me the trick to taping" and it never made sense and never came out well. If you watched his videos and practiced hanging sheetrock you could definitely get great walls in due time. The problem is your one year turn around house only has so many walls. I redid almost all of the walls in my house but I never got the hang of it until I hung sheetrock at a 4,000 square foot volunteer project. I went through three left hand mechanix gloves before I got proficient zipping screws into studs. (The let index finger is slowly eaten up from holding the screws) Maybe you can do a good job on the last bedroom but I promise you your first three bedrooms are going to look like homeowner harry went to war on the weekend. How many opportunities to do X/Y/Z do you think you will have in this one year house?
3. Working by yourself safely is tough.(Especially if its your first time ever doing X) Doing good work, safely, alone is tougher. Doing good work, safely, alone, for the first time and finishing in a year is impossible.
My advice is that you volunteer for habitat for humanity or something similar. Get a decent amount of experience under your belt and then rethink this plan. The nice thing about the volunteer "internship" is that you will also be able to get an idea of what tools to buy and which ones you like and you can slowly build up a tool set.
Drywall Master: https://www.youtube.com/user/drywallgall
I can't say enough about Laurier, he is not only a skilled craftsman--which is rare enough-- but most importantly he is a good teacher.
Flipping a house is pretty challenging, depending on the market. Note that when you sell a house in many markets, there are LOTS of fees-- real estate agents, closing costs of buyers, warranties, etc. I'm selling a house in Alaska now and there are $30k in charges for the sale PLUS repairs requested by the buyer/inspector. So had I done what you were proposing, the first $30k in upgrade value I created would get wiped away (thankfully, I bought it in 2000).
As a fun aside, I am meticulous about trying to learn every little detail I can about problems that arise with both my car and my house (it drives my wife crazy). I am an extremely "unhandy" person, but I still love giving it a go.
This has led to the following two most common scenarios:
1) I fix the problem at hand after some trial and error, saving lots of money on an expensive service call (fixed a leaky sink, repaired a lawn mower, etc).
2) I make things (way) worse, thus costing a lot more money than it should (my car's exhaust system, the sewer line from our house, etc).
I'm likely sitting at a zero sum; all well worth it.
Even for skilled tradesmen, there is always the possibilty of having a job go bad and having to eat the cost of putting it right.
Some of the jobs I have tackled myself make friends stare in disbelief. I always figure 'a human made this thing, a human can fix it'.
The Ogaki tax office is perpetually flabbergasted that I can explain the timing for revenue recognition of SaaS software contracts under Japanese GAAP. It is a direct and fairly obvious consequence of clearly written rules which are in their published guidelines under the heading When To Recognize Revenue. "Just wood."
I think if you're telling yourself that nothing could go wrong, that you are not very imaginative.
the same goes with servers,
the same goes with electricity,
the same goes with car repair.
It's just wood, except that the wood was treated with something toxic and now your flowers are dead and you've got a big headache in your backyard.
Try as I might, I simply can't wrap my head around what you say. I'm a pretty imaginative guy but the thought of what could go wrong is rarely more than a speedbump along the way. I honestly don't know how I could get anything done otherwise.
Wood is usually a very forgiving material, so it's pretty friendly to experimentation.
You’ve got me wondering about startup culture. When you’re running a startup you presumably invest all your money, borrow from friends and family, get investors, expose yourself to various types of legal liability, sacrifice family time, risk your reputation, and endanger your retirement. A lot of stuff can go wrong. (Based on your garden box of doom example, I’m sure you could enumerate the risks of a startup better than I.) I wonder if people running the typical startup acknowledge the risk and deal with it, or is it mostly a “what could go wrong? / don’t think about it” kinda situation?
see above: plant a garden on my deck --> city will demolish my deck because of a pre-existing code violation --> better not do that.
that is a fear-driven decision. the mind of an entrepreneur works more like this:
i want to plant a garden --> do the research --> implement solution --> have confidence to deal with repercussions because you can --> do the research --> implement solution --> etc.
the problem with having a personality that is afraid of imaginary problems is the domain of potential problems is massive, infinite even. good luck getting anything done if you're afraid of imaginary problems.
I used to work at a computer repair shop, one of the clients came in to get their computer serviced. Turns out he was an entrepreneurial type. Jack for the power cable on the power supply had become loose and was occasionally loosing connection and shutting the power down. So he took what he had on hand and jammed it in the side of the socket to hold it in place.
Of course, what he had on hand was an uninsulated piece of copper wire. He actually lived through that mistake, so did the tech who serviced his machine. when the machine was plugged back in the wedged piece of copper bridged the power, melting the power line, destroying the surge protector, and giving everyone in the shop a heart attack.
Now you can turn to me and say "He should of known better"
yah, there's a lot of things you SHOULD know. The domain of problems is massive, maybe even infinite, so are the imaginary ones. So you have to be willing to deal with the consequences.
If you think nothing can go wrong because you had someone else do it, you're not very imaginative. All of your disastrous consequences are still possible.
You buy a poorly made planter instead of building it yourself. Or, you buy a well-made planter, but place it on a poorly made deck. Or, you decide not to risk it, and hire a contractor, who informs you that your poorly made deck needs to be removed.
I actually find this true in other fields, or domains as well. Its not so much mystery in the more general case, but uncertainty.
For example, some people find talking to boards, or VC folks, or executive officers terrifying, because of what I call uncertainty. This sense that they're alien, or different, or not understandable. Unfortunately though, they're just people, and they often respond the same way normal people respond to things, just from a different background and set of needs / motivations.
Or, "I could start on my next project, but its so vast, and there is so much complexity. What would I even do?" But, once de-constructed, and taken in bite size pieces, each piece is knowable, and suddenly the uncertainty is gone.
Good, short piece of advice article.
It is important to learn how self limiting this can be. Don't be afraid of screwing up, look forward to it. Look forward to learning something new and getting a better internal understanding of the world around you. Your parents/friends/spouse/etc will still love you.
Anxiety and fear are powerful emotions and they can have severe impact on behaviour.
Some children do not ask for help feom teachers because they fear looking dumb, even though a teacher's role is to take questions and provide help.
Some schools recognise this fear of failure is paralysing for some people and they run programmes to overcome it. Here's an example of a good girl's school in England that runs a failure week. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-16879336
The fears involved in a vegetable patch might be:
+ I never complete projects and this is going to be another one of those
+ I don't know what I am doing and I am going to waste time and money
+ I don't know what I am doing and people will mock me
...and so on. These fears are real, but can be overcome with reasonably simple techniques.
Those techniques include saying "it's just a vegetable patch; you can't screw it up", but probably using slightly different wording.
Ask stupid questions* - you'll find many are willing to help out.
*After doing proper research, of course.
The nice thing is nowadays Bootstrap (maybe with a decent theme like Flat UI or Ace Admin) will get you 90% of the way there. Very basic design knowledge will get you the other 10%, and for anything past that you can hire a designer.
We are intelligent and capable. We should act as such.
That bed looks like it might not have been finished and sealed properly, he's definitely not using the green-hued pretreated wood. It'll probably rot by the end of the season.
I have a cedar raised garden I built 4 years ago. It rains 10 months out of the year here and it's still going strong. No indication of any rot or breaking down.
But your comment is important and shows the power of the internet though. If you went to build a garden, you wouldn't just run out and buy pressure treated wood because you know it lasts more. I'm sure you would take the time to research it at least a little bit on the internet. You'd find this out within the first 10 minutes and then go build yourself a great bed.
It's just wood.
I wouldn't eat things out of a bed made with pressure treated lumber.
A fiction writer, and a fictional character voices it, but seriously, fuck specialization. Sure I'm only a "master" of a couple domains, but familiarity (to the point of competence) in others gives me insight and ideas on how to further my work in my primary and secondary fields of interest/employment.
That doesn't mean you should be a mono-skilled person with only a bimodal work/consume life.
To be a rounded individual, you need to pick up skills in a lot of different fields, to the point of not being afraid of them. AT the very least, you'll be able to converse to a wide variety of people without feeling like a dumb schmuck.
But this really all boils down to a version of the "teach a man to fish" thing.
The problem is by not learning how to fish (think and solve problems is this example) you are at the mercy of others to do things for you.
One thing I can probably say with fair certainty is that if the shit hit the fan some of the people out there running the much aligned "lifestyle" businesses would be able to survive quite well simply because doing that requires you to have skills in many different areas as opposed to people who end up being totally reliant on info and help from others to get anywhere or get by.
I hate to have to rely on anyone else and try to learn how to do pretty much anything I can that I might have to repeat at some time in the future if I can find the time to do so. And find that fun.
I think the point being made was that a lot of things that we think of as outside our domain of expertise, and thus inaccessible, truly aren't.
It's worth attempting to construct the garden bed yourself, and you might find that it's not nearly as insurmountable of an obstacle as you'd imagined. In this particular case, treating the wood might have been part of the process of learning how to make the garden bed, as would using a saw, polishing the wood, etc.
Untreated will not last. Treated will potentially release chemicals into your soil/food, though you can line the interior of your bed with gardening plastic.
There are also slightly more expensive options for treated wood (branded EcoWood and so on) that are a good option.
(I have seven 1.2x2.4m raised beds in my garden. Bring in fresh soil otherwise you will get endless cycles of weeds - that's still one of my main problems two years in.)
Untreated pine is also a risk when it comes to termites.
But I agree with the spirit of the original. It's just a raised planting bed. Use it till it falls apart, then make another, using the lessons you learned the first time.
I am with goose, it looks like cedar. If that is pine it has been curing for a year.
2x's are commonly eastern white pine in many parts of the country (or "SPF" -- spruce/pine/fir, no promises, but not douglas fir). DF is sometimes also available, as is SYP. Both are more expensive than WP, slightly.
4x4s are always DF, in all locations that I've noticed. No doubt due to its superior straightness and strength.
Also curiously 2x3 availability (always WP, afaict) varies greatly. I've had lumberyard guys stare at me like I was crazy for asking where the 2x3s were. These weren't new kids, either.
All of these variations might be influenced by local building codes, in addition to regional distance-to-market.
As for the species in the photo... Could be cedar, but the grain looks pretty tight -- another possibility would be redwood, which is appropriate for the use, and is available at west coast lumberyards. Can't get redwood on the east coast except at specialty yards, and even they generally don't stock it.
I'm graduating from college and for my senior design project we can do almost anything. One of my professors asked me and a few of my friends to build a guitar-strummer for kids with severe cerebral palsy at a nearby school. We're all bioengineers, and I study CS. We had never built anything more complicated than a Lego.
After a few months, here's what we came up with:
It's pretty janky and it's something a mechanical engineer could whip up in a week or two. But we learned a TON building it. There's so much I don't know. I like building things on the computer because there's near-zero marginal cost and you can always start right away. Having to think through a real design and order/build parts really shed some light on getting things done beyond a mouse and keyboard.
TL;DR - Go build something. It's very empowering.
Let me give a little personal context. Back when I was a teenager coming out of high school, I was pretty averse to diving into subject matter that I didn't feel comfortable with. I had exactly the same attitude the author disparages here—that sort of "that's for experts to deal with, not me" kind of attitude.
But, out of a combined interest in both computers and general science, I ended up entering an engineering degree that was highly general for the first two years. This was the "advanced" sort of engineering stream at the university—higher course loads, more material covered faster, and in areas where I almost certainly wasn't going to be using to make a living. Like most people here, I work in software these days, but during the generalist part of the program I took everything from thermodynamics, to civil engineering, to quantum mechanics, to fluid dynamics, to vector calculus, to molecular biology, to electromagnetics, to material science, to statistics, to electrical circuits, to... you get the picture.
I was not prepared for this in the least.
A lot of people asked me, "If you already know you have an interest in computers, why are you putting yourself through this instead of going through a standard computer science or computer engineering degree?" It was a question I asked myself very often as well, to the point where I was at one point strongly considering switching out. But I'm glad I didn't, because looking back on it, the biggest thing I got out of it was not the broad scientific background—I can barely remember much of the stuff from the more esoteric courses I took—but the knowledge that I could, in fact, learn these kinds of things in a relatively quick timeframe. That these things were not eternal mysteries, not the exclusive domain of "experts", and that I could, given enough effort, understand them, at least decently enough to do my assignments and pass the course.
I tried to keep this lesson in mind moving forward, and still try to keep it today. In my last year, I signed up for a course on compilers, not because I wanted to work on compilers but because I wanted to demystify one of the last things that still seemed mysterious in my day-to-day computer work. Once I started working for a living, I read up on some basic personal finance so I could manage my money properly. Last year, I was unsatisfied with the design of my personal website, so I learned some basic color theory and typography and redesigned it myself. These days, I've been learning Chinese—something most westerners balk at doing—out of personal interest, and the feeling of walking down a street in Chinatown and suddenly realizing, "Hey, I can make out a bit of what's written on the signs now, whereas a few weeks ago it was all incomprehensible hieroglyphics" is incredibly liberating.
So this post resonates with me pretty deeply. It's just wood. You shouldn't believe that these things are beyond your grasp, because if you do it'll become a self-fulfilling prophecy. This spirit of lifelong learning is something I hope never leaves me. The day I stop learning will be the day I die.
 As mentioned earlier here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7623418
I've always dug computers, but hadn't done anything with programming until I was 26 or so (I'm 31 now). A friend of mine had gotten a degree in journalism, and then just decided he wanted to program instead. He ended up getting a full time gig doing it. I thought, "hey, that looks cool, why not" and started teaching myself, as well. Now I have a full time gig doing full stack c# dev and I love it. It's not because I'm some kind of genius or a computer whiz. It friggin sucks trying to learn new concepts sometimes. Eventually I just realized I'm training a really effective neural network. If I fire enough information and different ways of looking at the concept through my brain matter, and make sure I understand the underlying principles, eventually it'll start making sense; soon enough it'll feel like something I always knew.
It made me feel a lot more comfortable with life. It's not even because suddenly I have a marketable skill, which is super nice, but more because I feel like I could learn just about whatever I want tomorrow if I needed to. It's really liberating.
This busy-ness sort of strikes me for two reasons: 1) contrast from the roommates I have and 2) being extrovert at heart, these things simply take time away from socializing and paying more attention to the people I'm close to. I try to find a good balance between "Tonight I think I'm gonna chip away some more on Baysian networks" vs. "Tonight I think I'll sit back and watch a movie with the roomies", but I feel like it's always a losing battle --- I'm not on par with the level of attention either thing would ideally have. The truth of the matter is, sure in this case "it's just wood" the whole project probably didn't take a huge amount of time, but for most of the examples you gave, for example, those certainly took quite a lot of your time, I'm sure.
So the question is this: is this curiosity combined with some ambition and readiness for action really a virtue? Where do you draw the line? I appreciate the obvious pros of "it's just wood", but at the same time, how do I decide when it's right to just say "I'll just pass on spending time trying to understand this, I want to put some more time in appreciating those around me."
It also helps if you can pick a topic that doesn't require large bursts of uninterrupted time, something you can read up on when you have a spare moment and are bored. Bayesian networks might not fit that mold, but things like personal finance and Chinese can—the former I learned mostly from short articles and looking up things I was unfamiliar with, and the latter is mostly involving continued repetition of the vocabulary I have to memorize, in short but frequent bursts. It can be powerful if you can make it a part of the background radiation of your life.
Lastly, I do want to mention that the two don't have to be mutually exclusive. Part of the reason I've been learning Chinese is for the sake of coming closer to those around me.
In the end, it's your life. You get to choose how you spend your time. But it's definitely not a black-and-white choice.
 Mostly from http://practicaltypography.com/ and assorted blog posts.
Maybe it is just how I was brought up (and the friends I had around me), but myself and a few of my close friends all bought our houses around the same time. We've all done most of the non-annoying work ourselves (electrical, plumbing, tiling, leveling floors/the house, replacing joists, etc). Some of this we learned from our parents or older mentors, some from one another. We also trade labor/help. (Annoying work would be things like refinishing floors, insulation, roofing, etc).
The group of friends is a mix of software people, a retired fire fighter, a geologist, etc. When we bought our houses, money wasn't there to pay someone to do the work and we liked doing such. As we've gotten older/more established, some things are worth paying not to do (a new gas line run, for instance).
The fact remains, though, most of the things one needs to deal with in a typical day/month/year domestically, you can do yourself. Sometimes the convenience to pay someone makes sense, sometimes the risk of not being comfortable (or maybe not mechanically inclined) is too great, but there are things we pass on to others to do regularly that we can probably do ourselves. Sometimes those things can be quite rewarding/fulfilling.
When I bought my house, my dad helped me with replacing all the rusted out galv with copper. He had to head out before things were done. A couple of fittings remained in tight spaces next to very old / dry wood. I did get an appraisal on finishing off some of these; having a couple of plumbers who played up the difficulty and then give a big estimate motivated me to get over my discomfort. I read up on the right way to do things and was extremely careful (and successful) in the endeavor.
Do we really live in a world where it's a profound realization that a person can screw four boards together in a rectangle to make a garden bed?
This is some real top level science fiction stuff where society seems so crippled that an average person can't think to solve the simplest problem without buying a solution. Surely it must not be true.
That frame of mind is as alien to me as it apparently is to you: I grew up around people who just made what they needed to in order to get by with minimal money. Having a professional carpenter as head of household didn't hurt either.
It really is just wood. And fasteners. Also fasteners.
Personally, I disagree with your point about multipliers. The engineers that multiply aren't the superstar engineers. They're the ones in the background. They make parts to share with others. They care about architecture and doing things the right way. They do the work that will never, ever make them look like a superstar, because all it does is help other people make widgets. But without it, everyone would have had to make their own solution - or worse, kicked the can down the road. These people, humble or quiet as they are, are increasing the productivity of everyone else on their level.
Examples of this kind of work: Improving task management systems, making GUI libraries for the entire team to use, etc.
Granted this is not my first rodeo with woodwork, but the thought of getting a store-bought one-size-fits-all desk was never even considered. I even got to spend many hours in the workshop with my Dad, intermittently discussing the design, tools and approaches with life in general and hearing stories from a time gone by. It's immensely satisfying.
And people see it and go 'wow, how do you even build something like that?' Well, first you start with a pile of wood and a design on a piece of paper... trust me, it's a doddle compared with writing code.
How is this any different than buying a component instead of building one yourself. Just because it'll be slightly cheaper, better etc.
I get it if you are after the fun and I totally agree no need to be afraid, it's just wood.
However why bother if you just want to get results. Just spend $300 on craiglist or something and someone will make it for you, and will be better than yours.
I also do understand in early years of life / career it's good to learn many things without going too deep, but later in life it's pretty much not worth it unless you want to switch to something new, or just to have fun (than it's just hobby).
If you just want to get results there are better ways.
Plus knowing where the fuse box is, of course...
It might be just wood, but then people are just lazy.
The other day I was helping my wife assemble something for a school project for the kids. While I am not a woodworker (and have never taken a course, read books or watched videos) I am able just using common sense to put something together and figure it out and have a workable problem solving piece of wood object .
My wife insisted on telling me what the guy at the Home Depot and the instructions said we needed as far as size of screws or wood but I saw it differently, visually, as far as what would hold the wood together to solve the problem. It was much easier for me that way. Later I described that we probably would want to counter sink the screws as well and did that by simply taking a larger drill bit and drilling a bit after a pilot hole.
After starting this I decided to do a youtube search out of curiosity and found video in great detail and somewhat lengthily describing how to counter sink a screw in wood and how there was a special bit just to do that. While that amount of info and detail might be needed by a professional making furniture (and actually I don't even think that is the case if you are good you can usually make do with much less) my approach worked fine and I saved time by not having to remember all these excess details that really (imo) weren't needed.
I sometimes wonder if people who have grown up in the youtube era (or the era of having everything a click away) are somehow going to be disadvantaged by not having to spend much time thinking of solutions to problems and making mistakes and learning from them. 
 An example of this would be the jigs I built for a battery backup system I did many years ago using heavy industrial batteries. I need a pad to rest the 150lb batteries on as well as a dolly to move the batteries. I just winged it and built something that ended up working pretty well out of 2x4's. Much easier than following instructions actually. I also built the wiring between batteries by going to an auto parts store and a bunch of other things to make a workable battery backup system for way less than a traditional UPS. Would run the equipment for about 24 hours (6 150lb industrial batteries in parallel hooked up to an inverter and line conditioner. Figured that one out, tested worked for about 8 to 10 years and never had any down time).
 Today when you need to know syntax you do a search and the answer is there. Back in olden days you had a book or two and maybe a manual and you could iterate for hours trying to figure out which command line option (using Unix as the example here) actually did what you needed.
> While that amount of info and detail might be needed by a professional
> making furniture (and actually I don't even think that is the case
> if you are good you can usually make do with much less) my approach
> worked fine and I saved time by not having to remember all these excess
> details that really (imo) weren't needed.
I wasn't doing quality joinery. It was part of a school project for children.
"If you think you saved time taking the bit out, putting it down somewhere safe/accessible, swapping the bigger one in"
I have 3 drills. So I didn't have to swap any bits at all.
I have plenty of tools. I just didn't have a countersink bit. I also took into account the quality needed for what I was building. It wasn't furniture.
I do not understand how/why you are making statements about professional woodworking. It does not seem like you have any idea about what it takes to keep a professional shop in business. It was hard enough during the boom and now that a lot of that custom work has dried up it is even harder. There is a reason why one jackrabbit bit is $45: Clipping one drill to your belt and grabbing the other is a waste of time AND it is not consistent. Wasting time like that is deadly for a professional shop even the places that can charge a premium for "artisanal/handcrafted" work.
There are a handful of shops that do have to worry about assembly line production speeds, but they have names like Sam Maloof attached to them. And lets face it Maloof did not win a Genius Grant double fisting Dewalts.
> I have three drills
I mean, you're not building a four-lane bridge here. If it can hold dirt for a growing season you're all set.
In High School, I really enjoyed shop class... after graduation, I bought random small tools and handled some household work, but always had some mental block about going out and buying wood and big tools to build the things I really wanted to tackle. The first project I wanted to take on was to build a replica of the picnic table my grandfather built about 90 years ago. I remember sitting with him at that table many afternoons, planning projects, talking about cars, life, etc. So, this table means a lot to me and even though I've taken care of it, the years have caught up and it is rotting away.
I built a Sketchup model of the table in its exact form, then I made a copy and started making minor upgrades (I think he'd approve). Here's the original table along with one of the benches, along with what the updated version is going to look like:
There _is_ a certain process and inherent knowledge that people who shop for things like wood, tools, supplies, etc., just inherently know that seem like huge hurdles for nerds like us. It's "just wood" just like it's "just typing" for us. When we're rude to a n00b, think about what "old timer" thinks of you going into his parts store or lumber yard in your khakis asking about stuff you don't know about. MOST of them are encouraging and want to share their knowledge, but it's really up to us as newbies to take initiative and learn how things work.
I had an opportunity last month to buy some shop tools (table, radial arm, band saw, sanding equipment), so I decided to finally give it a real shot.
First, I got the equipment set up and watched dozens of youtube videos about each piece of equipment - from keeping them clean and working well to calibrating every possible alignment & went to work making sure they were all perfect.
Next, I bought a set of precision rulers, protractors, etc., and made some practice cuts on scrap wood I had in the house/garage/etc.
Finally, it was time to buy wood. I must have watched 25 youtube videos about not just buying wood, but learning about the various cuts and ratings of wood. All very interesting, and I felt like I could at least identify a good bit of lumber from the bad, and it helped to catch up on some of the terminology & etiquette of the lumberyard. To make a long part of the story short - if you walk into a Lowes or any real lumber yard wearing shop-looking clothes and are carrying a notebook & pen, nobody's going to bother you. You can spend all the time you want looking over the selection, noting prices, etc. Seriously, this was a major milestone for me to realize. I ALWAYS feel rushed when I'm in a store... there was something different and nice about taking time to pick through and find the wood I thought was going to be great. Of course, if you do this, don't make a mess and put everything back the way you found it.
Another hurdle was that I didn't think (at first) I could fit lumber in my car. I drive a crossover and discovered that the passenger seat folds flat, leaving plenty of room for 8' lumber. I can fit 10' in diagonally if I let it touch the dash. You might be surprised what you can fit in your car when you fold the seats down & give it a measure.
Anyway, with the wood all loaded up, I got home and started planning my cuts. I printed the sketchup model and started documenting everything - making notes of how I can get the most of each board, figuring out which order I should tackle them in, how I'd arrange the mounting bits, etc. Honestly, I probably spent 5 minutes planning for every 30 seconds of cutting. I don't know if that's normal, but it was actually kindof exciting to make some cuts, get out the protractor, and find that I was dead on with what the model said I should be.
I wrote WAY more than I expected. This particular post and topic really hit me though. Here are some more pics of the work - I have most of the table completed and ready for assembly. The benches are finished & ready to be sealed, though. They came out pretty well, especially for my first project.
Also, don't forget...they're just trees. You can get them milled yourself and get your own wood. My brother in law saw an old oak tree get cut down for a new factory. It had a nice, solid straight log. He approached them (they were going to chip it) and asked that, if he had it removed within 24 hours, could he have it? They said yes, and were happy. He got a truck to pick it up, and delivered to his house. He then got a portable sawmill contractor (these are a framed saw that sit around the log and mill it in place, rather than feeding the log through a stationary mill). They then stacked the green wood in the yard (correctly spaced for airing) and covered it with a tarp and an old sheet of roofing iron. A couple of years later it was good to go. About 10-15% was warped and useless but he got lots - and I mean lots - of fantastic oak all cut too sizes he wanted. From this he worked (and is still working) on building furniture - sideboards, table, a 'piece' chair, as well as trimming for his mantelpiece and a lot of other things. He could have sold the surplus for a healthy profit, but instead chooses to keep some and give away others to people who are interested.
If you enjoy the process of choosing the right pieces, you'd love the process of actually selecting a tree and then turning that into long-lasting, quality furniture that will outlast you.
EDIT: On that point, some timber is near-impossible to obtain now because of logging restrictions. However, sometimes individual trees are cleared from urban areas that would never be allowed to be removed from a forest. If you learn what the trees look like you might get lucky one day.
Make contact with your city arborist. They know/pick when the nice old trees are getting cut down and if you get lucky you might be the only one who has inquired about reclaiming the wood.
Forestry service is pushing reclaiming/recycling municipal wood as a enviromental win and a local jobs win: http://www.na.fs.fed.us/Spfo/pubs/misc/utilizingmunitrees/in... http://www.na.fs.fed.us/pubs/tps/recycle/recycling_trees.pdf
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See the missing corner.
Could you explain the reasoning?
More importantly, it is just wood, go try it yourself. If you don't have the saw blade on a SAK/leatherman and a piece of scrap wood try scissors and a spaghetti box or a couple of pieces cardboard taped together. "Learning" something from a comment by that ornery dude on HN is not the same thing as seeing it in practice.
The radial arm saw doesn't get enough love, probably because it has space planning requirements that table saws can bypass on account of their portability.
I have both, and use them all the time, but the radial arm saw is by far my preference.
Also often-ignored but fully worthwhile: decent dust collection. Not a shop vac.
Nice work there. It gets faster, but the pleasure is in the doing.
No, the radial arm saw does not get enough love because it is dangerous when used for anything but cross cuts and straight angled cuts, both of which are easily handled by a miter saw, which is safer and more versatile.
I used one for years and was happy when I finally gave it away. A sliding miter saw and a table saw are a safer combination, for sure.
Wholly agree with the dust collection. You can actually get far with a shop vac if you add a cyclone type pre-filter bin to it.
Up to about 15 years ago, people had to just accept not knowing things that are now easy to find on the Internet. If, to use one of the OP's examples, you had to fix a light switch, you had to call someone who knew, or figure it out through (expensive and sometimes dangerous) trial and error.
As humans, we're actually becoming much more knowledgable as time progresses. Calculus used to be approached in the 3rd or 4th year of an undergraduate math major; now, people get their first exposure in high school, if not before. The average quality of knowledge among people who've "seen calculus" is probably lower, but the bulk number is much higher, and the curve seems to be improving on the whole distribution.
I'm actually pretty curious to see what attitudes people born around now (who'll have had iPads or similar products for 15 years by age 18) end up having to education and knowledge. We came of age in a time when it was usual to tolerate not knowing a great deal of stuff. They have a lot more access. Are they going to have a great deal more confidence, or will they succumb instead to apathy as they take it for granted?
When you were barely in pre-school I learned on my own how to fly a gas style rc helicopter (a 60 size which is big) back when if you crashed it you had to rebuild it. And you did crash it. Now I have an electric heli that I can fly in my outer office and it can crash into the wall and not even get damaged.  The ability to learn like that is amazing. It's almost to easy. The gas heli would chew itself up when it crashed. It was also very expensive (about $2,000 in 80's dollars).
Anyway my fear of losing an advantage was not really correct. Things did change. But today the game seems to be "to much information" and deciding what to learn and what opportunities to take advantage of both business and mental.
I won't even get into how dating has changed since prior to the internet.
 (Not to mention all the how to videos on the entire subject in addition to electric (didn't exist back then) and greatly falling prices).
 Add: And of course all the gyros and electronics that today practically fly the craft themselves didn't exist. I did have one gyro for the tail but you typically self corrected that with the stick anyway on takeoff.