One of the most common questions I’m asked is, “How did you get into this whole building thing?” Some people assume I’ve been doing it for a while. Most people think I grew up helping my dad, which really makes me laugh. My dad is a total man’s man, and has a ton of useful skills (including woodworking, mechanics, shooting weapons, and tons more), but was a pure business man while I was growing up. We lived up in Massachusetts, and he traveled a lot for business. Mostly we just played kickball and went on hikes and stuff. Once we moved to Texas and he retired, he got more into the whole carpentry phase of his life and built a whole bunch of stuff and generally tinkered on everything. Yet all through high school and college, I just did the art thing, with some sewing and crafts thrown in.
I started with a brief flirtation with the concept of building my own furniture when I built these two IKEA inspired bookcases for my first single-gal apartment in Dallas. I planned them out, priced the lumber, and enlisted a friend to help me build them. They’re not perfect, but I still adore them. It was my first project, and I planned it all out from start to finish. And trust me, the boys that entered my dating scene were quickly intimidated by my new-found skill set. I started making all sorts of things on my own. It was a time of rebirth for me, after leaving a horribly abusive relationship and rediscovering who I was and what I could do.
It wasn’t until just over a year ago that I stumbled across Ana White’s website, which at the time was called Knock Off Wood (hence all my blog titles that start with Knocked Off: Carpentry Project Here!) I was living in an apartment in Waco with my newly minted husband, and was gearing up for a move to Lake Jackson after his graduation from school. I had this horribly flimsy Walmart platform bed that was at the end of its life. After I read a post on a favorite blog mentioning my now hero, I checked out the projects on Knock Off Wood. “Hmmm,” I thought, “I think I can do that!” The plans on the website are so easy to follow. You have a shopping list, a cut list, and then step-by-step instructions on how to put it all together. So, I found the perfect plans for the queen-sized Farmhouse Bed, and went to visit my parents. Print-out in hand, I showed my dad what I had in mind. He was totally on board, and said he even thought he had all the lumber we needed in his barn. And he did! We spent a Sunday afternoon shopping his barn, and then loaded it all up to drive over to his shop to do all the cutting.
Here’s the best part. I then loaded every single cut piece of lumber into my Honda Civic and drove it back to Waco. Yes, people. I didn’t even have an SUV, I had an economy size 4-door sedan. And I fit all that lumber in it! As soon as I got home, I was raring to go. Unfortunately, the Husbane was not. He was grumpy, and moaning about trying to put a bed together in an apartment. So I huffily said “Screw You!” and went on my merry way. Okay, that’s a total lie. I actually cried and shamed him with my words into helping me, because he was ruining this exciting new prospect with his bad attitude. Feeling like a horrible person, he apologized and took me to McCoy’s to get all the screws and hardware we needed to put this behemoth together. We put the headboard together as a team, and once I learned just how to use a power drill (it really was my first time ever!) I put the footboard together all by myself. I was so proud! Then we put on the side boards, figured out the rails and slats, and pushed the last screw in the next day. For just $16, a lot of free barnwood, and gallons of sweat and tears, we had our very first hand made bed. And I couldn’t be prouder.
After that, I caught the bug. I couldn’t be stopped! I devoured Ana’s plans, and just kept on building. Over the past year, I’ve developed more skills, and invested in more tools. I’m the one who bought our drill press, and chop saw, the Kreg Jig and grinder, not my husband. Now I’m no longer limited to following plans exactly, but modifying them or coming up with my own designs. It’s totally empowering to be able to say “I built that” and have people look at me like I’m nuts. Or to roam the aisles of Lowe’s at 8 months pregnant while picking out straight lumber.
So, I’m living proof that there’s no reason for you not to try. I was one girl, building a bed in a tiny apartment with nothing but a cordless drill to her name. The kind folks at Lowes or Home Depot (or your crafty dad, mom, cousin or friend) can make all the cuts for you if you just supply them the list. Then you can go home and get to work, no matter where you’re living! You don’t have to have a fancy shed full of tools, or a garage workshop. All you need are your two hands and the desire to build something yourself.