About The Oldwolf Workshop

I have said it a hundred times if I've said it once. If you asked me five years ago where I would be now, I wouldn't have even come close to guessing. I had plans five years ago, just like I have plans today, Something I know for sure, life doesn't care at all for your plans. That's what keeps it interesting I guess.

If I talk about myself in relation to woodworking the story follows the same winding trail. I spent my years at West Salem High School in Western Wisconsin in the art room. I stayed as far away from the shop, vocational, and agriculture classes as I could. Not that I had any issues with those classes, I guess I had found a comfort level in drawing and painting. I remember being in about 5th grade, sitting at the dinner table and proudly announcing to my family that I knew what I was going to be when I grew up, "An Artist!" My father gave a response I understand now as an adult, but as a kid it stopped me in my tracks. "Do you wanna starve?" He asked. I guess I had never really thought of a job as something you did to support yourself financially, it was more of a question of doing something you would like to do. Isn't it great how you usually have all the important stuff figured out when your a kid and then you spend the next 30 or 40 years re-figuring it out. That's me in the Yellow. :)

In 2000, my wife and I bought a house, a big five bedroom with "lots of potential" and lots of work to do. The house was old, some of the plumbing in the basement, that was obviously not original to the house, was dated 1903. We set forth on a path of remodeling the place, room by room. This process is where I learned to hate doing plumbing work, but that's another story. Now I wished I had taken those shop classes I missed in High School, but my father did always teach me that you could learn anything that you wanted to put your mind to. I started buying home remodeling books in stacks, and my wife and I spent many, many hours watching remodeling programs on TV. Of course along with those shows came a gem called "New Yankee Workshop" At first we kind of laughed about Norm Abrams and his show, memorizing the "Safety Glasses" mantra, speaking in a fake, slightly New England accent, and threatening to make up a drinking game where you did a shot every time Norm used a Biscuit Joiner. Mostly we just really enjoyed the show and Norm does make it feel accessible, even to the guy I was at that time. I will always stand by the idea that Norm is the gateway drug to the opiate that sawdust can be, and whether you love him or hate him you cannot deny that fact.

Then the persuasion started. We would be sitting together on the couch and watching Norm, and Naomi would lean over an whisper, "I think you should build me one of those." to which I'd usually respond, "Ya right" or something to that effect. But she planted the seed, and I started to watch the show a little differently. All the remodeling efforts had lead to me starting to build an OK beginners selection of tools. I started small, I build a canopy frame for our pencil post bed. I custom built the cabinets for the bathroom remodel I was doing because no prefab cabinets would fit. Then I made the fatal flaw. I purchased my first woodworking magazine. We had been up to the Mall of America in the cities a month or two before, and in a store I saw a four player chess board, but they wanted a couple hundred dollars. I was teaching myself chess at the time and the possibilities of four players was incredibly fun. I saw the magazine and decided to buy it and modify the pattern to make my own four player board. To this day today, I have never been able to get together four people at once to actually use the board. But I learned so much making it. And I wanted to do more!!

That was pushing about ten years ago, Now a days I am still happily married and I have three beautiful daughters. I work during the days as a Surgical Technologist at a local hospital specializing in Orthopedic procedures. If you don't know what a Surgical Tech is already then think back to an old M.A.S.H. episode, Hawkeye Pierce would call for a scalpel and the person standing next to him would put it in his hand. That person doing the handing would essentially be me. It's a great job, and I love working in the OR. The thing about working in surgery is that it keeps you humble. No matter whats going wrong in your life, at that moment in time, the person on the OR bed is having a worse day, even if they are there by choice. It helps keep things in perspective. My wife is going back to school for nursing and we have a plan. After she graduates, which will be several years from now, and after she gets a job, I can cut back on the hours I do at the hospital, to half time or maybe even quarter time. Then I get to try to get the Oldwolf Workshop up and running, doing custom furniture full time.

This prospect is very cool and exciting for me, and it has made me realize how much more I have to master or at least experience before I feel comfortable moving into calling myself a professional. There is a lot I have to learn from getting better at basic design concepts to carving out a leg for a Queen Anne table. Sharpening tools better to better finishing techniques. For the first time in my time as a woodworker I feel a real sense of the bigger picture, a goal to strive to beyond just finishing the next project.

This blog began when we moved out to Maine for the better part of a year, following a job prospect that didn't pan out well. It was a chance for me to show off what I was doing to really no body at all since I didn't have any nearby friends to brag to. It has evolved into a place where I can share my journey, both my thoughts and actions, as I make the transition from being a hobbyist woodworker to a professional woodwright, I hope, if you read along, you enjoy the journey as much as I will. But like I said in the start of this page, Life makes things funny and you can never be sure of where you'll be a decade from now, a year from now, a day from now. This blog is evidence of that in practice.

Thank you for reading.
Derek Olson
a.k.a Oldwolf