Woodworking in India - busting the 4 prevalent myths



Hobby woodworking is not so much of a well-known domain in IndiaEasy access to labor, lack of readily available DIY kits, lack of awareness, absence of an active hobby community, lack of time are some of the reasons why this terrain is largely unexplored. Or so I thought. When I started my first project, I was skeptical because of these same reasons. However, it was a revelation as I moved on and have now come  to enjoy it with fervor. Here is the list of four things that created a block in my mind that I strongly believe are merely myths.

Myth 1: Tools are not available

Tools required depend on the project that one is undertaking. Hobby woodworking can also relate to smaller projects which eliminates the need for high end tools or machinery. However, knowing what tool one needs for a certain activity is essential. Unlike the western countries where you can walk through aisles in retail outlets to pick and choose your tool of choice, in India, the challenge is to specifically ask the hardware vendor what you need. From what I have seen, there is absolutely no dearth to the kind of tools that get sold in Indian hardware stores.

Myth 2:  Information is not available

In this world of Internet era, no amount of information is beyond the reach of an individual. Youtube and Google can throw millions and millions of tutorials for you to choose from. Right from how to buy a tool to how to use it to how to build a certain piece of furniture, everything you can imagine is available at a detailed level. Woodworking DIY is an established concept elsewhere and you would find what you need in every corner of the WWW.

Besides that, local carpenters carry a wealth of information with them. Though they are hesitant to share their trade secrets with hobbyists, there is so much that you can learn through observation. Also, of late, woodworking workshops for enthusiasts (will save the details for another day) have also sprung up in some cities.

Myth 3: Labor is inexpensive, so why sweat?

Hobby woodworking is most certainly not an alternative to cheap labour. It is like any other hobby. You don’t paint a canvas because buying an original Picasso is expensive. It is about being passionate and taking pleasure in your indulgences that enable you to explore your creative potential. On a different note, labour is indeed not cheap. Some of the quotes that I have received : Rs 500 for painting a 2 ft x 2ft low table, Rs 800 for installing glass doors for my TV unitRs. 1500 for erecting a frame around the cot (for mosquito netting).

Myth 4: There is no active community

I realized over a period of time that the number of Indian blogs in this niche is limited. However, that was no indication to the number of folks indulging in Woodworking. I found out that there are indeed people to whom I can reach out.
  • The DIY Woodworking India group is now becoming a very active Facebook group with hobbyists, enthusiasts and experts exchanging their WIP projects and expert tips. If you are looking to join an online community, THIS IS IT.
  • Indranil Banerjie is from Noida and manages a hardcore woodworking blog. Some of his projects are big and very very functional
  • Vinay is another blogger from Vellore and makes some really fun projects like wooden toys and Wooden Wagons for kids. 
  • Am sure at least one or two of you would now say,"Hey ! my father was never a blogger. But he was way into carpentry and did everything that he could inside our home."
  • And that is the point. There are more and more individuals who have always been into carpentry and there are many who show keen interest towards it.  Just that they never had / have a blog.
Woodworking is fulfilling and functional at the same time. If you are indeed thinking about hobby woodworking, Good luck. Start with smaller projects before you can venture into the bigger ones. Do not let these myths hold you back. Explore and experiment. India has all things in place for you to quench your thirst for DIY woodworking.

Do you agree with my views ? Do share your thoughts. I am game for a healthy debate on this topic. And think there are other myths too ? Leave a comment.




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45 comments:

  1. Very informational and inspiring post! Finding a reliable carpenter who doesn't abscond while the work is in progress is hard enough,finding one who will do what you want is even harder! Even I have wanted to take into my hands sometimes,but the menfolk around aren't very supportive ;)! and you are so right...its hard to get anything at hardware stores if you don't know what you exactly want.- Rachana

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    Replies
    1. Hi Rachana,

      Thanks a lot... True that finding a carpenter is difficult especially if it is for smaller projects... They get paid pretty well for a days work and so tend to shy away from low paying small projects.

      What kind of support were you looking for from the menfolk ? Besides a word of encouragement here and there, I doubt if you would need any support. You should take it in your hands at the first available opportunity :)

      Cheers,
      Somu.

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    2. Hey,I'm done expecting any kind of help/support from guys(don't take it personally;))..just lack of sarcasm and skepticism would do! I once visited a hardware shop and everyone there was looking at me as if I was an alien..like madam,are you sure you walked into the right shop?!
      Jokes apart,it would take some confidence and a lot of expertise to take up something like what you do!

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    3. I can understand the sarcasm at the hardware store. I had difficult times initially when I did not know what I was looking for, and the guy at the shop would offer no assistance in helping me find what I want. And so I can imagine how that should have been for you.

      I don't claim to be an expert... though I do love doing what I do. Anything I make is good work for me and that's how I see it :)

      And for those with sarcasm and skepticism, show them a glimpse of those handy"men" in HGTV :)

      Delete
  2. Hi there,

    Before I read Rachana's comment above I was going to write about Myth 5 - Women and woodworking don't get along!
    I am from Bangalore and now live in Canada. The easy availability of tools here and the internet has made it possible for me to harness my woodworking skills (which I never knew I possessed). I have started small and built 8 garden beds this summer and I feel incredibly proud of myself for doing so. I feel anyone with an interest in this can do it.
    Urmili

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    Replies
    1. LOL..Myth 5! Good for you,Urmili! I get a lot of kick seeing those women handy'men' using power tools on HGTV!

      Delete
    2. Hi Urmili,

      You are perfectly right. Anyone with an interest can get involved. It is a hobby for all genders and I probably should have put that as Myth number 1. Internet certainly has the detailed steps to any project that one wants to undertake.

      Garden beds ? Have a picture. Would love to take a look at it. And I would love to use that as an example to explain why women and woodworking don't get along is merely a myth, if ok with you that is.

      Cheers,
      Somu.

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    3. Im my wood working classes I have not only seen approx 30% women but I have had older women also learning. Last semester I had a 63 year old lady who had severe problem with arthritis and other medical problems attending the cabinet making class. She took many days off and at times we had to assist her but she completed her project.
      Right now I use college shop in what is essential shop time rental with a bit of supervision. Basically we get to use the shop for whatever we want while a instructor is talking another class. So we have 5 people who use this for their own projects and one of them is a 65 year old lady who works on her small projects. The good thing is even though she is not very good with the tools she still manages to do her work and takes assistance when she needs it. Even though she keeps forgetting how some of the features of power tools work it does not stop her working on her projects.

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    4. That is nice Kittu... Weekend Woodworking classes are something I wish they had here. Maybe there are classes, but there is not much information about it.

      Am sure you understand how addictive it gets and that should explain her resolute to get the project completed. There have been few woodworking workshops that happened in Bangalore and from the pictures that were posted, I gathered that there were many women who turned up for it.

      Delete
  3. It certainly is OK! I'll try and send you pictures soon. BTW my husband is not least bit interested in this. But I love working away in the garage. HomeDepot here is great and it is very common to see women walk up "power tool" aisles! I usually get my wood cut up at the store (for a small extra fee) but once I am able to, I'll get myself a nice mitre saw! Something like this http://www.homedepot.ca/product/10-in-compound-mitre-saw-with-laser/913320

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    Replies
    1. I really envy you... The garage and the home depot options :) Anything above 6mm, I get it cut at the plywood shop... If not for the space constraint, it would be great to own and use a power saw.

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  4. Very well thought out and well articulated writeup Somu.
    Enjoyed the read :)

    Kudos on de-mystifying the myths and encouraging more people into the hobby.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks a lot buddy... Glad you agree with the post :)

      Delete
  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  6. i have made 4 shelves 1 stool a bench a table and one board for my kids and i am a woman. its exciting making useful things from pieces of wood. and I am a woman :)

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    Replies
    1. That's great stuff Sarina... It is really nice that you find excitement in making these projects from pieces of wood. Yet another example of why "Woodworking is not for women" is merely a myth. Do you blog about your projects elsewhere ? Would love to take a look at them.

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    2. Try Iconic Carpentry Skill Centres at Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore www.caple.in for both Men & Women with German, Italian and American M/c Tools.

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  7. Very informative post.
    Every-time I visit hardware shop, I feel the same way, what Rachana has experienced. I want to buy a small tool to cut the hard cardboard or thin wooden sheet for my craft works. I could not decide. If you don't mind could please suggest some?

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    Replies
    1. Hi Ranjana, see if a Mica cutter will help... I use it to cut wooden sheets of up to 4 mm thickness. For sheets that are only about 1 mm in thickness, you can also try making a gash along the cutting line using the mica cutter and then cutting the board along the line using sharp tailors scissors.

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    2. Thank you, I will try and let you know the result :-)

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  8. Somu your website is an inspiration and I am getting inspiration from the Myth 5 discussion in your comments!! I am a big DIY fan and my hubby [a busy ENT Surgeon ]loves to design all kinds of furniture though it is so tough to find a carpenter who understands the design to execute it...If he could my hubby would make all our furniture himself...I will show your site to him!

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    Replies
    1. Oops... Don't know how I missed responding to this comment... Really sorry for the late response. It is indeed nice that myth 5 is slowly turning out to be a mere myth. I do remember you having mentioned that your husband is a big DIY fan in one other comment elsewhere...

      I am a silent admirer of your pop up cards and I really enjoy every post of yours that turns up in my RSS :)

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  9. A woodworking acquaintance of mine shared your clock assembly video with me. Seeing that you were Indian piqued my interest more in seeing your other work. I am an American woman. My husband is from U.P. When I was a schoolgirl woodworking shop classes were offered to the boys, while home economics was the class for the girls. I wish I could have taken both. Only recently have I acquired some power tools. I have to admit, I am shy about using them because of lack of training. I do have more confidence with hand tools, and have used them with some success over the years. I encourage you to keep posting your excellent step-by-step videos. And I especially encourage my Indian sisters to pursue their interest in creating useful items or art from wood. I have been carving wood for four years. Please visit my Facebook page. www.facebook.com/woodcarvingsbylinda
    Respectfully yours,
    Linda Gupta

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    Replies
    1. Hi Linda, I really appreciate your having penned down your thoughts here. It is indeed a wonderful feeling to be acknowledged for whatever it is that we are trying to do here. I still have my own apprehensions about using power tools. I don't stray beyond using the drill. I can understand because it does take some time and skill to tame the tools. But just like you, I hope to be able to handle them all with much finesse.

      Thanks a lot for your comment. It does really mean a lot. And after this comment, I am hopping over to your FB page. Hope to connect with you there :)

      Delete
  10. Very well written Somu. I faced a similar situation last year when my FIL wanted to give a shining coat to our faded front door. He usually does this job of painting all windows, door etc., every year in his home in the village. He told me to get the same company's product in a hardware shop. When I visited the hardware shop, the shop keeper said such thing doesn't exists and started giving me queer looks. This made me realize what a fool I am enter into this male dominated carpentry world... After explaining couple of times what exactly we wanted to do, he gave us something, finally after applying it gave us the intended results.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks a lot Vasudha. It is sometimes difficult to get these guys to understand if we do not know what exactly it is that we want. I have the issue sometimes when I look at a tutorial from elsewhere and those terminologies are not used here. Of late, I try to take a sample, or take a picture in my mobile. A pic speaks a thousand words :) And am sure if should be fun for your FIL to be doing all that stuff himself. I have come to realize that it gives me a certain sense of fulfillment to be able to do things myself.

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  11. Somu, I started having an active interest in your blog for a few months now and thinking about starting my first project. :-) I read about OST and it's use as cheap building wood. Is OST really One Side Teak? Does it give a Teak finish after polishing? What is the difference between Veneer and OST?

    regards,
    Nevil

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    Replies
    1. Hi Neville, wood veneer may come with finish and would find umpteen designs and patterns to choose from. OST on the other hand is more of an unfinished veneer (not exactly though). On one side it would have the teak finish. You can stain it to whatever color you desire and yeah, it is possible to get the teak finish.

      OST will cost you about 25 per square ft while veneers may be more expensive.

      Cheers.

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  12. Hi Somu, I totally agree with you that DIY is as possible in India than it is anywhere else - I just believe while many people in the west discover their passion through neccessity (as labour is too expensive), in India it takes some bit of determination to start DIY works... I recently emigrated to India and I still find it difficult sometimes to keep my head up high when guys in hardware shops giggle when I am trying to buy what I need (I am female). I have so far renovated my own kitchen, painted bathroom tiles, made shelves in my closets and in the kitchen and am right now building a foldable computer desk - which is more challenging with all those hinges and doors being supposed to open smoothly;) Nevertheless, with a bit of patience I seem to get hold of everything I need. Only my newest challenge seems to find a way to colour my wood furniture... While in Europe I would just buy a coloured wood varnish I haven't yet fully understood what I need to do here... Now I am putting primer - putty - primer - wall-colour??? Could I just put an acrylic colour and top that with a clear varnish to make it glossy? Much love from Mumbai, Helen

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    Replies
    1. Hi Helen, I can understand when you say guys in the hardware store giggle... Sometimes when I don't know the exact name of what I want and start trying to explain, they lose interest and move on to other customers. Happens quite often. And so am not surprised when you say they giggle.

      Renovating kitchen is a mighty big task and it is awesome that you could do it yourself. I would sooo love to see your work. You can use acrylic color... or use enamel paint which is available in various colours. The paint by itself gives a glossy finish and you don't even have to varnish it. Try it out :)

      Delete
  13. Mr. Somu Padmanabhan
    I really like your blog. Of course I have started using internet only of late and that might have been the cause that I did not come across people who are nice, helpful and without reservations. I do know that some westerners are like that without having any selfish, narrow motives attached. I hope that during my leisure I shall follow your blog definitely. Please keep this fresh and honest breath in future also. I am proud that one of my countryman is so fair. Hopefully if I dive into internet, I may come across more honest souls of your type.
    May God be with you,
    Regards,
    Chiranjeevi Rao

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  14. Dear Somu
    I was abroad for about 10 years,There i saw ordinary men doing extraordinary jobs on wood,This my country and here you have NOBODY to guide you or help you to learn a art which if well done can propell you to great heights,I am in mumbai and its difficult to do office and later persue my intrest in wood work, I shall certainly like to know more about the art and how to develop this further,My best wishes to You.

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  15. Dear Somu
    I am an amateur woodworker and so much wanting to find wood workers in India .
    just saw your blog today .
    Would appreciate if we an connect

    skmatter

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  16. Dear Somu
    I am an amateur woodworker and so much wanting to find wood workers in India .
    just saw your blog today .
    Would appreciate if we an connect

    skmatter

    ReplyDelete
  17. Very inspirational. I am from Mumbai an want to get my son interested in this craft.

    Can you guide how an amateur can understand and work his way through this maze.

    Thanks in advance.

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  18. Very inspirational. I am from Mumbai an want to get my son interested in this craft.

    Can you guide how an amateur can understand and work his way through this maze.

    Thanks in advance.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Somu sir,

    I am very much impressed, finally i found an indian site for woodworking.

    very well going, keep and continue the good work...

    All the best somu

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  20. Finally found somebody who shared my hobby.... Ganesh from Kolkata

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  21. I am looking for a woodworking apprenticeship or on-the-job training with any master craftsmen in India or abroad. How should I go about this? I am a software engineer who has always been very passionate about woodworking. I have reached that point in my life where I want to follow my passion and not have to write code for large, faceless companies. Can anyone guide me?

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  22. Try Iconic Carpentry Skill Centre www.caple.in

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  23. Anyone aware of any workshops in Mumbai? Thanks!

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  24. Your blogs are totally worth giving time and energy. click here

    ReplyDelete
  25. The groups not reading your blogs are missing out a lot of caliber material. cordless screwdriver

    ReplyDelete

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