Spike Carlsen has been involved in the world of wood and woodworking for over thirty years. He ran his own construction and remodeling company, was an executive editor at The Family Handyman, and currently writes The Great American Woodworker for American Woodworker. He also keeps his own blog about everything from woodworking to world travels. (Check out his recent post about a trip to Tanzania.) 


Since our December giveaway has us thinking a lot about hobbies, we wondered how the author of Woodworking FAQ and The Backyard Homestead Book of Building Projects (forthcoming from Storey), got his start. Spike paused long enough in his full life to chat with us about the value of having patient parents and a safe place to make mistakes. 

Photo © Tom Thulen
What comes to mind when you hear the word “hobby?”
The best hobbies are those where you lose yourself —those where you look up and discover three hours have passed. Maybe you have something big to show for those three hours, maybe something little, but your mind has shifted gears.
Did you have hobbies when you were growing up? What was it about those hobbies that captured your attention?
My first “home improvement project” was a tree house I built using the walnut leaves from my great grandparents’ dining room table stored in our garage. I was eternally tearing things apart as a kid—clock radios, lawnmowers, chairs—sometimes I’d even get things put back together again right. My parents were very patient. 
Do any of those hobbies play a role in what you do now, either professionally or personally?
All men are carpenters at heart—some just get waylaid along the way. I was waylaid while going to college and then teaching for several years, but my interest in building never waned. And having the opportunity to write about those things is pure joy.
How did you get started pursuing your interests—did someone in your life teach you? Did you teach yourself? 
I’m pretty much self taught. When I was growing up, our next door neighbor—seriously, his name was Donald Duck—gave me a huge box of scrap wood. It kept me amused for weeks. I learned how to use a hammer—and apply a Band Aid one handed.
What does having a hobby or hobbies mean to you? 
In an interview, Jimmy Carter said it best: “…making a piece of furniture, playing a violin or painting a painting is something that doesn’t change with the vicissitudes of life. Woodworking is a kind of therapy, but it’s also a stabilizing force in my life—a total rest for my mind.”
What are your hobbies nowany new ones?
I collect and restore vintage radios, bike, golf, and recently took up the accordion. Lifelong hobbies are great, and new ones—at any age—are refreshing.

What’s one piece of advice you’d offer someone who’s interested in pursuing their hobby but hasn’t found a way to get started?
Don’t be afraid to fail. Hobbies are a part of life where you can take a pratfall and no one gets to laugh.

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Storey is giving the gift of a hobby. What do you want to learn?
We’ll contribute $250 toward a learning experience of your choosing, including workshops and classes with our authors. Enter by December 31, 2013, for your chance to win!

While you’re there…
Spike Carlsen’s Woodworking FAQ ebook is just $2.99 for the month of December. Find this and other ebook discounts for the budding hobbyist all month long on our Fresh Picks page.

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