Olly Writes

Woodwork, writing, walks, DIY and more!

Your First Project?

This evening, I write to you with a question and you’ll find my own answer to this same question further down the page…

My first; circa. 1997-1998

What was your first woodworking project?

Today’s post is inspired by a Keek by Richard (woodcraftBPW) that I spotted earlier today. He’s one of only a handful of other British woodworkers who I’m aware are using this social networking application and I would encourage any others reading this to give it a go, if only to ease your own curiosity. I’m really glad that Richard decide to post this Keek today because I was intending to post the same question a couple of weeks ago… I guess I got sidetracked but I did pick out my first sometime in August last year and it’s been in my workshop ever since; ready to photograph; waiting for me to take the opportunity to write about it.


My first is in the photo at the top. It was a DT (Design & Technology) project from my second year of secondary school (Year 8). This was back in either 1997 or 1998 and I would’ve been 12-years-old, if not 13. I’ve held on to it for so many years and yet, I can barely remember a single image about making it. It’s fair to say that I didn’t enjoy DT during school (particularly the wood, metal and textiles lessons) but also, that I’ve come a long way with my woodworking since! 😉

Room for excess glue squeeze-out…

Those lap joints haven’t aged well at all. If something of that standard was coming out of my workshop today, well, there’s only one place it could be going and that’s in the bin! I’m sure we had a few tenons saws up on the workshop walls but I have better memories of breaking numerous junior hacksaw blades! If they weren’t cut on a bench hook then I can remember frequently using a metalworking vice sat on top of a bench. Our school had a larger ‘shop dedicated to woodworking but, as I left the worlds of wood and metal and headed towards drawing, ‘graphic products’ and design for my GCSEs, I never got to go anywhere near that one, at the other end of the corridor.

These screws were both round-headed AND slotted… If only they were brass as well!

It worries me that I can’t recall anything from these days, even though I didn’t particularly enjoy these lessons. Was it the fear of the machines? Is that what I’m trying to forget?? If I did cut that acrylic lid myself (we weren’t allowed to use the bandsaw) then it must have been done on the scroll saw, whose vibrations used to frighten me far and away! I couldn’t even set up the pillar drill properly without asking someone else to do it (but I do remember its name – Ajax). I remember the vetical belt sander though. That was far less threatening than the rest and it would sand both wood and metal.

Hardboard base with filler still to be sanded.

That base is still holding up okay. It looks like a put a little too much varnish on around the edges of the frame (I still do that today) and that the four spots of filler weren’t sanded at all, by the looks of it!


It doesn’t look very square to me. Those corner joints are so hideous that I’m glad I can’t remember what mark I might have been given for this! I do actually remember gluing those strips of MDF in place to create the walls and simultaneously ignoring the advice of a friend who warned me that they were not square. I (wrongly) trusted my own visual judgement… While at the same time, proving that glue alone goes along way towards holding wooden components together! 😉

From then on, when I was being practical, my materials in DT were mostly strofoam and plastic. I remember hearing how the plastic roof on my styrofoam building model had slid off with all the PVA glue I’d used; leaving a right mess from the staff room shelves and down on to my teacher’s desk!! That was in my final GCSE year, at 16 (I’ve no idea what happened to that model but I’m sure it was more respectable than what you see above).

During the last year of my A-Levels, I began constructing another building for a proposed cafe; this time on top of a plywood base with balsa wood strips used for accents elsewhere. If not for an onslaught of depression that led to me dropping out of school before the course finished, I might have gotten somewhere with that. By this time though, we had fewer machines in our ‘workshop’ and the majority of this space was replaced with writing desks and brand-new computers, running the circumference of the room.

So, I’ll ask again…

What was your first woodworking project?

If it has survived, perhaps you could also share some images on your own blog? 🙂

Writing this, I’m actually thinking about re-making the atrocity above and perhaps creating a short video on the simplicity of hand tool woodworking…

Thanks for reading.

5 responses to “Your First Project?

  1. John 12/05/2013 at 20:29

    Hi Olly,

    I think my parents may still have my very first woodworking project – built at playschool from 3 pieces of wood nailed together in a shape like a thin bench hook with long fences and painted in (?black and orange?) poster paint.

    I think it was meant to be an aeroplane …

    The only wood based CDT project I remember from secondary school is a letter rack with a perspex front and wooden back and base.

    I do vaguely remember cutting my first (and last!) hand made dovetail and being intensely frustrated at how badly it went, but I don’t recall what it was part of, or whether it was just two pieces of wood being joined in an L shape …

    Most of the other things I remember from CDT are metalwork (in particular brazing) related.


  2. redjim99 12/05/2013 at 22:49

    A wall hanger for a plant pot. I don’t think it survived. I don’t think it was a great loss to design or carpentry.


  3. Steve 13/05/2013 at 09:30

    Hi Olly -nice project! and made me think…. but I remember making a bottle opener and having one end dipped in a powered plastic, but I only got a grade 3 CSE…
    Then after a lot of other CSE’s, O’levels, GCSE’s, GSE, C&G, and a foundation course (showing my age here), I managed to get a degree in furniture design, (putting your mind to some thing you really love), but I think adding one of my first degree peaces might be unsuitable, so I’ll dig around and see if I made some thing similar.
    (it’s probably a pencil case, and more than likely made from Pine, Hardboard, Panel Pines and lots of PVA too)!

  4. Trialanderror 13/05/2013 at 13:11

    I think we made a very similar project in our DT class. Mine must have been thrown out not long after it was made! Our classes were every other week so continuity was poor, but I do remember having fun in them.

    I think remaking your game is a great idea.

  5. Andrew 13/05/2013 at 15:45

    My first real project would have been a sanding block I made in the 8th grade. It survived for many years but sadly it got lost the moving into my current home. The oldest project I still have around is an old wooden typing table I built about the same time (yes – built for a real old fashioned typewriter to sit on). Currently it’s doing duty as the hall table and is covered by a nice cloth so I can’t get a decent picture of it. I get the urge to get rid of it from time to time – the table is made from plywood and old construction grade lumber – but my wife rescues it and has adopted it as hers.

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