Bryan Ortiz is a talented woodworker who is part of the Forest 2 Home woodworking community. We first came across his Instagram page as he began to share his #BuiltWithF2H projects and have loved seeing his work ever since. Forest 2 Home has shared Bryan's work several times-we absolutely love each of his gorgeous cutting boards, especially his Oregon shaped ones! We were curious to learn more about his woodworking journey and share it with the Forest 2 Home woodworking community. This is what Bryan shared with us:
Bryan's start with woodworking
At the age of 13, I moved from Mexico City to the United States-specifically Oregon. It was quite the change; the weather was rainy and cold, I spoke no English and everything I owned at the time fit inside my backpack. Surrounded by fellow migrants, manual labor became an important part of my life. On weekends and during school breaks, I spent my time doing things like carpet installation, trash removal, painting, planting trees at the PDX airport, cleaning dental offices at night, and washing cars for local dealerships. I was taught to always-at the very least-pull my own weight. Whenever I asked my mom for something that I was completely capable of doing myself she would say, “¿Qué, no tienes manos?” (What, don’t you have hands?) That was her way of telling me to do it myself. Even though I hated hearing that when I was a kid, it was a great rule for life that I still try to live by.
At the age of 19, I got a job doing manual labor for a construction company, working so many hours that my only hobbies were playing soccer and sleeping. 10 years later, I had worked myself into a position where I didn’t have to do manual labor anymore. It was great knowing that my hard worked had paid off, but every time I would visit the laborers in the field, there was a part of me that wanted to be back out there working with my hands. To fulfill the need to work with my hands, I supplemented by helping family with home projects and doing side jobs with friends.
Soccer continued to be my main hobby. I met my wife and lots of great friends playing soccer; we would play 3-5 times a week, sometimes multiple games a day. It was the perfect hobby; you could burn calories while having fun and then make up for the burned calories with a good IPA (or two…or three). Back in October of 2019, I broke my foot during a game. At the time I didn’t know it was broken so that didn’t keep me from the post-game IPA’s but once we arrived home, my Physician Assistant wife checked my foot and confirmed it. The doctor later confirmed my wife’s diagnosis, officially declaring I had a broken metatarsal. My options were driving a screw through my heel all the way to my metatarsal or 8-10 weeks non-weightbearing. I chose the latter.
The first couple days were great! I finally had an excuse to do nothing! After the third day, I became frustrated and even sad; I couldn’t play soccer, going anywhere was a hassle with the crutches or the scooter (yes, I had a scooter) and the weather had turned rainy and dark which became a metaphor for how I was feeling at that moment. My wife was playing soccer one night so I went to organize the garage and found my old miter saw and my palm sander. In that moment, it hit me: “¿Qué, no tienes manos?”
I had a broken foot but still had my hands. I began watching YouTube videos on how to make coasters and simple cutting boards. My first project was a simple square coaster made with poplar I bought at a big box store. Nothing fancy by any means but the simple fact that I had made it with my hands made that coaster special. I continued to tackle more intricate projects that required glue-ups, inlays, and even some epoxy work- I was hooked. I spent countless hours sitting on a stool with my broken foot propped up in front of my work bench throughout my recovery.
How to get started woodworking
I never took a woodworking course or had any formal training, I relied on the great woodworking community on Instagram and YouTube videos. One of the best things about working with wood is that the possibilities are endless. Your projects can be big or small, intricate, or simple, expensive, or affordable, you get to choose. You don’t have to make huge epoxy river tables or have the latest CNC machine. In my case, even though I have spent hundreds of hours working with wood since my start with woodworking in 2019, I don’t consider myself a professional woodworker, I’m just a maker.
Top 3 tips before you start woodworking
Here are 3 tips I have if you are thinking about getting into woodworking:
- Start small. You don’t have to go out and spend a ton of money. Maybe just buy some 220-grit sandpaper and some cutting board oil and start by refinishing your old cutting boards. Once you apply the oil and see the board come back to life-you’ll immediately want to make more.
- Don’t buy a gift, make a gift. The holidays are a great time to start woodworking. Instead of spending money on buying gifts why not make the gifts? Forest 2 Home has Cutting Board Kits you can put together yourself. You will be giving a special present not found in stores. Cutting boards and coasters make great housewarming gifts as well! Use the money you’ll save to upgrade or buy new tools.
- Be Safe. Bumps, bruises, and band aids come with the territory, but woodworking is not fun if it’s causing you harm. Always wear the proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as ear plugs, safety glasses, gloves, and filtering facepiece respirators. I recommend using clamps, jigs, and push blocks as much as you can to keep your fingers as far away as possible from any moving parts like blades and bits. Don’t do anything you are not comfortable with, if it feels sketchy stop and find a better way.
The woodworking community is probably the most welcoming community on Instagram. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help!
You can find more of Bryan's incredible work on his Instagram page @ortiz_woodworks or you can reach out to him directly by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
We would love to hear about your start with woodworking! Send an email to email@example.com detailing your woodworking journey and we will feature you and your shop on the blog! Don't forget to use hashtag #BuiltWithF2H on your Forest 2 Home project photos so we can see and share your work! Happy Woodworking!