Woodworking in America: Char Miller-King
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We are interviewing producers from all 50 states. Today we introduce Char Miller-King, a carpentry educator from Georgia.
How did you start the woodworking? Who were your mentors?
I am a self-taught. My first project was a platform bed that I made in 2003 with a loaner drill and a cordless screwdriver. My bed was inspired by a photo from a magazine. I couldn’t afford the bed, so I decided to do it. From there I started other small projects and learned how to use each tool through trial and error. There were bookstores and multiple beds. I have read many books and looked at the Woodsmith Shop and This Old House on the weekends to get useful information. Wherever I went, I gained some knowledge of tools, techniques and processes. Soon my circle of friends expanded and our conversations focused on doing and resources. Once an idea comes to mind, I understand how to do it, with the knowledge I have. My uncle has been a carpenter for over 40 years. He taught me many things and introduced me to CNC. I send him all my questions.
What do you think is your best or favorite job? What kind of work do you do most?
My favorite project is the modern desk that I built last summer. I have gone through several iterations of desks. There was a suspended desk that I used for a few years which quickly became too small for my needs. So I decided to do something bigger, a place for my monitor, drawers to hide the sheets and enough space to enlarge. It’s my hub, it all starts from there. My ideas go from my mind to the paper there; I communicate with my colleagues from there. I am an educator in my heart, most of my work is in the shop that shows others how to do it. I teach carpentry lessons at my local production space, Decatur Makers, to children just seven years old and adults of all ages. My mission is to bring the wood shop back to schools, I started by opening the creators’ spaces in schools and teaching students how to use electric tools.
I am a champion for women in woodworking, I do it through my monthly column Women in Wood for Highland Woodworking. Highland is an international supplier of woodworking tools and products. I introduce a new creator to the community and share his journey in the woods. My heart lies in servitude, whenever there is an opportunity to volunteer to teach the children I accept. I collaborate with the Girls’ Maker Club in our maker space and currently teach the online community on topics ranging from SketchUp to paper circuits.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start carpentry or pursue it as a profession?
If you want to be good at woodworking, you need to take the time to make mistakes. Nobody becomes competent overnight. It’s a very rewarding career when you find your niche. The best place to start is to complete a project someone has already done. Spend some time each day learning, whether it’s reading a book or meeting a new creator online or in person. Each bit of knowledge you receive will benefit you in some way in the future. Above all, learn how to use your tools safely and protect yourself from dust and chemicals. Take what you know and pass it on, there will always be someone new who shares your passion.
What’s your best woodworking tip or technique?
I recently started updating my shop and rethinking how to double my workspace and make better use of my tools. One of my first builds nearly 20 years ago was my workbench. At the moment I have not added any hole for the bench, because I had no idea that one day I would need it. Fast forward, they would certainly be useful. However, I am not entirely ready to change my trusty bench. Instead, I used a large piece of scrap wood and a perforated board to mark every six inches and drilled holes with a 7/8 ″ Forstner tip to drop into the counter dogs with rubber coated counter biscuits. Thanks to the platform, I don’t have to measure or worry about uniform spacing and I have created a secondary workspace. I also built a mobile workbench, which doubles in size when open, has magnetic hardware for connecting my measuring instruments, a built-in Bluetooth speaker and a folding shelf. I can immediately transform my 2-car garage into a complete workshop by explaining a few pieces of wood.
Is there anyone you would like to scream or recommend to follow? Who inspires you? (It doesn’t even have to be tied to carpentry.)
There are so many fantastic people on Instagram, it’s difficult to choose. My friend Tami, who is also a shop teacher and inspires me and teaches me great techniques. Its handle is @girlyshopteacher.
See more of Char’s works on his website or on Instagram @woodenmaven
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