Good Tools Can Become Your Best Friends - Colin Wood's Story

We asked amateur woodworking and DIY enthusiast Colin Wood to tell us the story of how he went from destesting working with tools to being an accomplished wood working renovator. Here's his story.

How times have changed since I was at school? I've always been fascinated by all
things mechanical but starting at the secondary modern school aged 11 in 1958 I was
introduced to two hours per week woodworking.

The very first lesson in woodworking the teacher introduced us lads to his three favourite toys these being straps of assorted widths made from heavy conveyor belting.

Right from the start I knew we wouldn't get along and when I left that school four years later I knew little of woodworking but detested the teacher and couldn't stand woodworking; I was in the top class so being bottom of this class in woodworking meant I was also bottom of the school in woodworking.

In 1976 I married a wonderful girl named Bronwyn setting up home together with a new huge mortgage on a stone built semi detached house. The building society
withheld 200 of the mortgage until the rotten timber in the bay window had been replaced with sound timber.

With no money to spare and unable to borrow any moremoney I decided to have a go myself at replacing the rotten timber knowing myknowledge of woodworking to be virtually nil.

We visited a local DIY store and I bought planed softwood. The rotten timber was
confined to inset timber frames holding the glass; just three of the frames needed
replacing so I set about in our spare bedroom working on a rickety kitchen table with
very few hand tools and cut four mortise and tenon joints for each frame.

The glass was leaded and we couldn't afford new glass so painstakingly the old glass was removed without breaking it and with the old rotten frames chopped out the new
frames went in without difficulty; the glass was puttied in and all then painted; the
building society inspector passed off the work and the money was then released.

This might seem long winded and yes it is but from this humble beginning I quicklycaught on that I wasn't thick; I just had the wrong woodworking teacher.

I then bought a single speed Black & Decker drill and still with very few tools installed a home made fitted kitchen of white Contiplas which in its day looked very smart indeed and I felt so proud of it.

restored lorch lathe

As the years passed by I became interested in woodworking and joined "The
Craftsman Book Society" in those days few had computers and there was no YouTube so learning for me was from books and making every mistake possible. As bits of money became available I started to buy scrap woodworking machinery; rebuild the machines then put them to work something I still do to this day.

Now aged a young 68 I have lots of kit which I enjoy using at every opportunity and I love to hear my fully restored machines singing.

woodworking workshop

Over the last year I've been giving two bedrooms and our front room full makeovers. I had been using the rear single  bedroom as my electronics workshop where I restored many vintage radios; I had become so proficient at these restorations I thought I could no longer improve so my interest waned and I reverted the workshop back into our third bedroom.

At the beginning of this year I started work on our master bedroom working in dire conditions it being the usual Yorkshire black hole. I've progressed a bit at woodworking and decided to do something special for my lovely wife.

I installed a coffered ceiling and wainscot panelling; new ceiling light pendent; venetian blinds and new carpet finished the job off and what a difference; I had been storing over 70 assorted vintage radios in this bedroom selling most of these before starting the makeover.

coffered ceiling

I have lots of kit including a Startrite combination woodworking machine; lathes; band saw plus lots of power and hand tools. The timber used was ordinary 18mm MDF ripped to width using my Skilsaw; I ground moulding knives for the Whitehill cutter block and ran the mouldings on the Startrite.

coffered ceiling

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Mitred joints were cut on the DeWALT mitre saw and I splashed out buying my very first cordless power tool it being a lovely Makita 4ah drill which was a huge help in sinking dozens of drywall screws which I like to use with MDF; I also fired lots of brads using my compressor and nail/brad gun.

I bought an Apollo Pre Spray 1500 paint sprayer second hand and sprayed the woodwork but used a paint roller on the upper walls. All this work being carried out whilst I felt perished and working with a single bulb in the ceiling light; I think I sprayed in Braille?

The end result was worth the time and effort; all the MDF cost 130 delivered but who would now know it was MDF?

master bedroom makeover

Two months ago with blood returning back into my arms after the coffered ceiling I set about our front room makeover and once again I wanted to do the best possible job I could for my lovely wife. I always spend lots of time at the design/planning stage and will only start to cut timber when everything is straight in my head. Bron and I visited four local timber yards for suitable timber moulding to use on the dado and picture frame panels but suitable moulded timber wasn't available.

I had a pair of big Erbauer routers so not wanting to die whilst trying to track down timber moulding I ordered and had delivered 300' of planed softwood. I set up one of the routers with an 1/2" dia shank Roman Ogee cutter installed on the end of an 8' long plank and ran the moulding but as I needed both edges of the timber moulding I actually ran 600' doing this very quickly due to how I had set the router up to act as a fully supported guide.

All I had to do was to feed the timber through which again due to our terrible climate was a problem; I had to start feeding the timber from our driveway and each time I had to turn the timber over it had to be brought into the driveway because of its length; I don't know why they insist that Yorkshire has a summer? I ran 25mm x 50mm softwood for the panel frames and 25mm x 75mm softwood for the dado rails.

makita router

I had never been a router fan but after this success I suddenly warmed to using a router so I bought a very nice 2,100W Makita router and now having such a router wanted better quality router bits.

I browsed eBay and found a set of 1/2" diameter shank Trend router cutters and these are my first purchase from Toolstop. I no sooner placed the order than the delivery guy was at our door with the parcel; well done Toolstop for brilliant service and next time I want more kit I'll be heading your way.

I designed and made a router jig from off cuts of timber costing nothing; this jig allowed me to quickly and accurately cut over 80 mitred half lap joints using the new Makita router and the Trend router cutters. I enjoy a bit of woodworking.

fireplace restoration

Our old fireplace was of random stone being 10' long x 3' tall with a Welsh slate hearth. What a job I had in removing this; 18 bags of rubble were carted to the local tip taking two trips and this didn't include the stone which I retained. Bron and I visited Flames of Wakefield and chose our new gas fire; tiled inset and marble hearth but I was to make the wooden mantle.

fireplace renovation
With the old fireplace removed I then made good the exposed rough wall by plastering taking a lot of time to make a perfect job of this; I'm not a plasterer but I'm stubborn and determined. Two guys spent around five hours installing the new gas fire etc making a beautiful job of it.

Now I could determine the measurements for the new wooden mantle. I had seen a mantle design on the web I liked and Bron agreed it would look nice but I didn't have accurate dimensions so I printed off a picture of the mantle and used a pair of dividers to roughly scale the sizes and worked to this.

fireplace renovation

Using the Makita Router and a cutter from Trend set I ran the flutes in the pilasters; the Makita was a doddle to adjust with its micro adjuster guide which I very accurately set on a test piece of MDF against my digital vernier callipers.

The mantel was then assembled using brads and woodworking adhesive but as I always work on my own I left the mantel in four units.

With the wall panel frames glued and sanded using my Makita palm sander these in turn were drilled and secured to the walls using club hammer and 65mm long lost head nails punching the heads below the surface.

The mantel was set up on the hearth and the top shelf unit was accurately marked with a pencil line; the mantel was then removed and using a scrap of MDF another line was drawn below the first this giving the top edge of the securing baton position. I tried nailing the baton but the nail curled up so I had to resort to drilling and plugging to accept screws; I was taking extreme care not to cause damage to the new fireplace or drop anything onto the hearth.
new fireplace mantle

The two pilasters are unsecured and only the upper shelf unit is secured to the wall with three drywall screws driven into the baton; the top shelf too is unsecured; the reason for this is one of convenience next time I decorate the room.

I had made such a good job of the dado and panels that less than half a tube of decorators caulk was required to fill gaps; I also made good the skirting machining skirting as required. All nail holes were filled (Toupret snagging filler) and once dry the filler was brought flush. I had spaced the wall frames at 3" apart so using a 4" long mini roller was out of the question and I didn't want to resort to fully brush painting neither did I wish to spray.

I considered cutting down a 4" long roller but wondered if shorter rollers were available so I spent quite a bit of time browsing the web and found a company who sell 50mm long foam rollers for oil based paint and 60mm long rollers for emulsion so I bought some of each.

living room restoration

Doing all the work myself I save a fortune on labour costs whilst continually learning. I never skimp on materials only buying the best and with each job I tend to buy yet another type of tool.

Getting someone in gets the job done but there is little persona  satisfaction in just handing a wad of money over and nothing learnt. Over the years we have heard all the excuses why our visitors having seen what I've achieved justify why they themselves cannot do the same. I don't have the skills; I don't have the time; I don't have the tools; I don't have the space; I can't visualize and the best is I can't do that which of course is oh so true because they won't try.

I'd much rather buy a tool from Toolstop than buy a football club tee shirt; Bron and I don't smoke nor drink our money being used to better our lives. We are all different but planning ahead has paid well for us allowing me to fully retire early whilst still young enough to do what I want to do; we've not had an holiday away from home for the last 38 years and we lead a simple but enviable lifestyle supporting each other in our respective hobbies.

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From starting out detesting woodworking I now love woodworking and we now have a beautiful detached bungalow having worked solidly on it for 28 years; the front room makeover completed all the big jobs so now I'm free to play with all my toys and next project is to design and make Bron a lovely chest of shallow drawers to hold all her card making materials.

I've just created my first website which I'm populating with my projects and would encourage others to have a go themselves before simply getting someone in; it's amazing the amount of work that can be done with just a few tools from suppliers like Toolstop saving getting someone in and once the first job has been successfully completed confidence quickly grows.

I'm no one special and if a job can be done 100 ways with 99 being the wrong way I'll do the job 105 wrong ways first because I still make the same silly mistakes but I never quit. The only way to fail is not to have a go; hope I'm not preaching but DIY can be very rewarding and needn't cost a fortune.

Good tools once bought last many years and become best friends

If you'd like to share your success stories with our readers, get in touch using the comments section below!

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