We had the chance to talk to maker/woodworker Annette Amadin of 513 Woodworks (@513woodworks) and cabinetmaker Matt Visintainer, owner of IKAG (@IKAGviz), to show the latest collection of 40 Grit gear. What they have in common is not only a love of making sawdust fly, but a knack for online social connection and information scrounging that rapidly expands what they can do.
GETTING THE WOODWORKING ITCH
Annette is a professional chemical engineer, and while woodworking and furniture making may not sound like a natural extension of that, it was her lifelong love of learning that brought her to the table saw.
“It’s such a strange start,” she said. “I just had a few practical things I wanted made for my home. Some shelves, a raised garden bed. Nobody I knew was really handy, so I bought a few tools and thought I’d do it myself. Those first projects were so much more rewarding than I expected. My schedule filled with classes very quickly after that. And my garage filled with tools.”
Matt came into woodworking through construction, first building fences at age 18. “I always take pride in my work, and I had set up some of the finest fences you’ll ever see. But I knew early that digging holes wasn’t a long-term plan for me.” Whenever he saw someone with talent, he always asked how they did what they did. And then he’d ask if he could give it a whirl. That led to residential remodel jobs and more before he finally set out on his own. “I worked year after year, job after job in different fields. It was like a self-guided education into whatever aspect of construction I wanted to dive deeper into.”
“SELF-TAUGHT” TAKES A WEB-FULL OF MENTORS
You could call all that traditional, hands-on learning so far. But once Annette and Matt both had a strong foundation of skills, they found they could leave their limits behind by following their interests online.
They started by sharing their own progress on social platforms, then reaching out to others doing the same. Tool demos and instructional videos would lead to cross-country tip trading, all connected by apps on their phones.
Case in point: during our discussion with Matt, he pulled his smartphone out of his pocket and held it up. “This thing? This is like cheating. There’s an unbelievable amount of info you can absorb if you know how to look. It’s not even fair. Everything you could ever need is in your pocket and available 24/7.”
Annette still finds good discussions to be the best way to learn. But those discussions are more likely to come from messaging a woodworker who posted an intricate piece on Instagram. “The virtual community of woodworkers has been great. The community is so encouraging and so welcoming. No one is guarded at all. All you have to do is ask, and talented people share what they know.”
MAKING ROOM FOR “TOYS”
New skills bring new tools and, for both Annette and Matt, space came at a premium. They each had one logical place to start out: the garage. It’s the one space in a home that offers both sawdust tolerance and good ventilation – the only issue being, where does the car go?
“Early last year, I gave up on having my car in a garage altogether. It lives in the driveway permanently now,” Annette said.
She initially had a mobile setup, with her equipment on casters so that she could back the car out for room and get to making. That fell by the wayside as soon as she needed a professional table saw, which now hogs a central spot in her workshop.
Matt kicked his truck out early, because his penchant for custom molding and cabinetmaking demanded almost every square foot of his garage. Videos of Matt navigating this tight workspace put him on the Instagram map. “It was a well-choreographed dance that only I knew the footwork to,” he says. “It was fun figuring the process out. But I just needed a bigger shop. Business was picking up and there was some new equipment I needed to make it happen. That garage was NOT going to fit any more.”
Matt just had his new shop up and running when we talked to him and there’s quite a bit more room to breathe. That made us curious about Annette’s workspace, so we asked her: any plans to upgrade in the future?
“There’s a narrow strip of yard next to the garage that in theory, one could build out an extra bay,” she said. “But whenever I start thinking about it, I have enough sanity left to realize that I don’t need to. Part of woodworking is finding new ways to work more efficiently, and I keep surprising myself with what I can do in the same space.”
TAKING ON LIFE WITH THEIR OWN TWO HANDS
We asked them both what was over the horizon, and neither sees much in the way of limits when it comes to what they can do next.
“Oh, man. I have no interest in specializing,” Annette said. “There’s too much out there and I want to do it all.” Turns out, there are a few things on Annette’s short list, though. “I just added a welder to the shop. I want to incorporate metal pieces into my work, and so, now I’m welding! But I want to try power carving as well.”
As for Matt? “Cabinetmaking was always my favorite thing to do. That gave me the itch to build and sell furniture. I just built the desk that’s in my office. You could call that my practice piece.”
“There’s one other thing, it might sound weird,” he continued. “I want to talk to kids in high school. There’s a never-ending line of people marching off to college. And that’s great. But there’s a need for electricians, carpenters, everything that’s outside of college, too. You can go into a shop, use your brain, use your phone, and you can create a business for anything.”
“It was never presented to me that you can build your own life like this. More people need to know that if you can solve an issue, you can make your own corner of the world.”
To us, those sound like words worth spreading.
Want to know more about Annette and Matt’s tools and techniques? Follow us on Instagram and Facebook to keep hearing more.