Profiles: Tamar Hannah

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This article is from Issue 100 of Woodcraft Magazine.

Mother of invention

When Tamar Hannah sees a need, she meets it head-on. The mother of three school-age children took to woodworking five years ago when even an exhaustive internet search didn’t yield the piece of household furniture she was seeking—a bench with built-in firewood storage. So, she built it. Since then, she has designed and created beds, bars, benches, and guitars. “Everything comes from a need. I need storage, I need a guitar—we all need guitars,” she quipped. Hannah’s self-taught woodworking education combined YouTube videos with a healthy dose of trial and error. When she noticed most of the instructors were men, Hannah saw a need for a female woodworking role model. True to form, she met that need too by creating her own YouTube channel, 3x3 Custom. Putting her media studies degree to work, Hannah writes, films, and produces her own instructional woodworking videos. I chatted with Hannah by phone about woodworking, family, and the need for balance. Here’s part of our conversation. —Derek Richmond

Rock on. Hannah combined an electric guitar body with the three-string design of a cigar-box guitar. Built as a trial run for a charity auction build, it’s now enjoyed by her youngest child.

WM: How did you learn woodworking?

TH: Mostly trial and error. I’ll try something and it won’t work, so I’ll try something else. YouTube has been the best source for me when it comes to learning new skills, but you can’t just take someone’s word. You have to discover things for yourself. You can get basic knowledge and ideas, but woodworking is something people need to figure out individually.

WM: Given the limit to what new woodworkers can learn from videos before heading to the shop, why put yourself on YouTube to teach the craft?

TH: I didn’t see anyone like me who was teaching, and there was a need for that. Young girls interested in woodworking turn to YouTube only to see elderly gentlemen teaching everything. Now these girls can see someone that looks like them working wood. The best comments I get are, “I watch your channel with my daughter, and she loves it.” When I first started, people would leave comments like “you’re not really doing that, it’s your husband doing it and you’re just on camera.” The thought of my husband using woodworking tools is actually quite comical to me.

Kiddie table. Hannah included a hidden compartment to store her kids’ arts and crafts supplies when family dinner time rolls around.

WM: How do you choose what to build?

TH: Everything comes from a need. When there’s a need, there’s a problem to solve. Figure out the function then solve the design. I started woodworking because I needed firewood storage that doubled as a bench. There was something that didn’t exist, I thought of it, then I built it, and now there it is. Creating something with your hands is just the most amazing thing. 

WM: So what was your second project?

TH: Another firewood bench to fix the mistakes in the first one.

WM: Is there a mistake that stands out most for what you learned from it?

TH: I built a bed with a built-in bookshelf for my son. I measured the width of the mattress but didn’t include the posts. I went to install it, and the whole bookshelf was six inches too narrow. So I had to completely rebuild it. Most mistakes are small but can end up being costly if you’re not careful. Taking your time with the small details will help you with the bigger things.

Form and function. Hannah says she designs her projects to combine utility and beauty.

WM: What do your kids think about their woodworking mom?

TH: When I started, I messed up a lot and would get discouraged. I started to think woodworking wasn’t for me. But when talking with my kids about the mistakes I needed to fix, they were hearing “I’m gonna keep going.” I was struggling, but I was teaching my kids a valuable lesson. Now, I expect mistakes with every build, and I enjoy jumping over those hurdles.

WM: What’s next?

TH: Once my YouTube adventure dies down, I want to focus on making guitars. I put my heart and soul in them, and it’s just so much fun to play an instrument I made. When I started woodworking, a musician friend suggested I build guitars. I laughed it off because it seemed to require more precision than I was capable of. But as I gained confidence, I circled back to the idea and attempted a guitar kit. While building that guitar, I realized the kit parts were all pieces I could make. I especially enjoy the freehand shaping of wood that can come with building a guitar. It’s a natural, organic form, and the only math involved is in placing the electronics and frets. My oldest son plays a guitar I built, and I made a stand for my daughter's keyboard. Now my youngest son needs a bass.


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