Woodworking Builds an Appreciation for Artisan Work


An interest in woodworking usually begins when a person needs something functional or practical like a bookcase for the

Rich wood finish is gorgeous on this classic, but modern book made to be a part of an impressive entry or plush living room.

Classic Bookshelves in Rich Wood

children’s room or shelves in the garage. In my case, it all started with me years ago after a cabinet maker made some desks to order for my real estate office.

You see, selling real estate is a business that leaves no tangible product even when you’ve done your job flawlessly.   I was deeply struck by the tangible nature of the beautiful work the cabinet maker left when his job was finished.  You could touch and feel it, and you could admire its beauty and functionality. You could really appreciate his work as an artist.

That was the day I not only became interested, but decided I would begin to make things out of wood too.   My grandfather had been the mill superintendent of our local lumber yard and he introduced me to woodworking with the pieces he had built for my grandmother.   My favorite was a bookcase cabinet with glass doors.  Realizing a project that intricate would come later, I settled for building some storage shelves and a work table for my outside utility room at home.

My first lesson came when my shelf plans told me I would need certain tools, which we had on hand. In addition, the shelf plans also taught me about using jigs for sawing precisely to make two things I would need… simple sawhorses. They came out very well, and I was hooked on woodworking.

The shelf plans were straightforward and soon I had two wall shelves up, and then decided I needed a counter or work area of sorts for the little utility room. I took another lesson from my office cabinet maker who had filled a similar space in my office. He made a table for our microfiche machine (remember those?), so I borrowed the idea for my narrow utility room.

The room was about six feet wide, so I bought a plain, ordinary six foot interior door at the lumber yard. I used a dark stain on it and voila, it became a 30 inch counter. The supports for my top were made as follows using 2 by 4 pieces of lumber just as my office carpenter had done.

I bought three, eight foot long 2 X 4’s. The supports were two, eight foot long 2 X 4’s each cut into two, three foot lengths with two feet left over. The third board gave me two more two foot lengths and left me with a four foot scrap length which I chose to use to make my counter have even more support in the back by the wall.

The main supports were these rectangles I built with the two foot lengths forming the base and the top as headers and footers for additional weight bearing capacity. The three foot lengths were the front and back vertical members in between. Both of these finished pieces were pushed back to the wall and secured to it for stability. These rectangles formed the base or the “legs” of the table.

For added stability, I placed my door counter top on its new supports, then got on the floor and used a pencil to mark the wall horizontally

An exploded view illustration from a set of book shelf plans

Shelf Plans Show How It Fits Together

where the bottom of the table top struck the back wall. I put screw holes in my wood, held my wood up to the line where the table top would rest and used my drill to mark the wall in two places about twelve inches from each end of my four foot long 2 X 4 scrap piece.

It was finished by preparing the wall to receive my fasteners, then attaching the scrap piece to the wall. Once the table top was set back into place, it was completely sturdy and I felt like the queen of my castle. Yes, I’m a gal who just loves woodworking. It’s really just like sewing to me, but for different patterns, tools, and materials. We haven’t lived in that house for twenty-one years, but I’d bet the work table is still there.

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