Hi! I’m Buddy McLaren, co-owner and woodworker of McLaren Family Crafts in Brown County, Indiana. I married my best friend, Margaret, in 2007, and we have 4 little girls that keep us busy and slightly insane. I’m a machinist by day – well, night, actually, as I’m on second shift – and woodworker at all other times.
I suppose I could say that I’ve been around woodworking for most of my life. I remember being in my father’s basement workshop, playing with a hammer, nails, wood scraps, and his block plane while he was building things. Through my Scouting years, woodworking was around to one extent or another, even if it was just whittling on a stick during a camping trip. After I earned my Eagle Scout, however, woodworking didn’t cross my mind for a few years.
Before I got married, I found myself in need of a cabinet for some trading cards that I collect (Magic: The Gathering for all those nerds out there). I couldn’t find what I wanted pre-made at the home improvement stores, and I by no means had the funds to order a custom cabinet. Thankfully, I realized at that point that I had the ability to build what I wanted, so I left the store that day with a sheet of plywood and a box of screws and set to it. Little did I realize what I’d started by throwing together that one ugly cabinet.
Fast forward a few years. I’m married with one daughter and a second on the way. As we came to the conclusion that my paycheck wasn’t growing quickly enough to keep up with my growing family, I started looking for other sources of income. As it turns out, I was able to come to an acceptable solution with my boss and stay where I was, It was during the process of considering a new job that I realized that I (still) enjoyed working with wood.
After we moved into our new apartment, which was in a small town south of Indianapolis where my wife and I grew up, she discovered that there was a woodworking school in the same town. Being as small of a town as it is, my first thought was that it was just some old woodworker who was teaching classes out of his garage workshop. It was only a few days later, though, that I was listening to a woodworking podcast on my way home, and they were interviewing none other than the owner of that very school. Much to my surprise, the school that she’d found – the Marc Adams School of Woodworking – is one of the premier woodworking schools in the country, and here we just moved 10 minutes away from it. I took my first class in 2011, and all the classes that I’ve taken from then on have had a profound impact on my skills.
So what do I do? Primarily, I’m a hand tool woodworker, at least in the realm of furniture. I dabble in hand carving, and I’m also a turner, though at the moment I’ve only turned pens. I’m excited to expand into bowl turning as soon as I can find the time. Turning is a nice way to get that (nearly) instant gratification from being able to spend just a few hours in the shop and come out with a completed project. With my furniture, however, I’m in it for the long haul. I prefer the feel of a plane in my hand to standing in front of a machine with ear protection and a respirator. I feel like I’m more connected to the work when I’m supplying the power to the tool instead of just pushing the wood through the blade. Besides, I get enough of watching machines run while I’m at work. I won’t go as far as to say that I will never use power tools, but the vast majority of my work will be done by hand, and any projects made using power tools will be clearly labeled as such.
So that’s the story of how I became a woodworker. Although I’ve been woodworking for several years, I realize that I still have a lot to learn. Check my blog often, and you can keep up with the projects I’m making, the lessons I’m learning (often the hard way), and hopefully you can learn something yourself! Enjoy!