Tamar Hannah – Self-Taught Woodworker Who Welcomes a Challenge

Tamar Hannah discovered her love for making furniture in 2016 and launched 3x3 Custom to share her projects through her website and social media sites.

From flipping flea market finds to building furniture, guitars, woodworking jigs, and pretty much anything that interests her, Tamar Hannah has come a long way in her four-year journey to perfect her building skills without formal training.

The wife and mother of three children ages 11, 8 and 6, Tamar said she has always created and worked with her hands – the handy one around the house who loved going to flea markets in search of  furniture to fix and refinish – likely a passion inherited from her grandfather.

“My grandfather worked in a cabinet shop and was a woodworker. Sadly, I never got to learn anything from him, but I remember him fixing everything in my parents’ house when I was a little kid,” Tamar shared. “Funny story, I made a cutting board for my mother a few years ago. When my aunt saw it, she got so excited because the pattern on the cutting board looked almost identical to a pattern on a box that my grandfather made for her! I never saw this box before, but I happened to have made a similar pattern! I guess woodworking is just in my blood!”

On her website, 3x3custom.com, Tamar writes, “3x3 Custom started by accident. I was searching for an outdoor storage bench and couldn’t find anything I liked. So I had a crazy idea to build it myself! Instantly, I fell in love with power tools, hand tools and everything in between. 

The name 3x3 (Three by Three) is a reference to the 3 little people who are most important to me, my children, combined with my new passion, woodworking.” 

Tamar’s passion for building extends to sharing her projects through videos and tutorials free to viewers on 3x3custom.com and her Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter social media sites. She also has a store on the website where viewers can buy plans to build furniture and jigs, templates, and apparel. Ads and sponsorships provide a huge chunk of Tamar’s income and allow her to provide lots of free building content.

If You Can’t Find It – Make It

On the day Tamar decided to build a bench to hold firewood from scratch, she had a few tools but no real experience or training.

“It's been 4 years since I made that initial firewood bench; it’s still standing and it’s still functional, but oh is it gappy! I didn’t know anything about wood movement when I first started building. I just threw it together with glue and screws,” Tamar explained.  “Shortly after that, I made a table with breadboard ends using pocket hole joinery...you can imagine what that table looks like now!”

Regardless of the imperfections in her early builds, Tamar was not intimidated. “Even though that table looks horrible, that build made me aware of the concept of wood movement, and I wanted to learn everything there was to know about joinery so I wouldn’t make those mistakes again. That table still stands in my house, looking really bad, but it’s a reminder of the journey I have been on for the past few years.”

Videos and firsthand experience have been Tamar’s primary instructors over the past four years.

“I never had any sort of formal training. I have always been good at doing research. Once I am interested in a topic, I want to know EVERYTHING there is to know about it. I watched hours upon hours of woodworking videos to get a basic understanding, but nothing really sank in until I tried it,” Tamar said. “Before attempting dovetails for the first time, I think I watched every video out there, and it still seemed a bit confusing to me. Only after attempting them and failing, did I actually fully understand the concept. I find I learn more from my mistakes than anything else.” 

The Dining Table with Storage was inspired by a need: out of sight storage for the children's school supplies. Center lifts up to reveal the perfect space.

Tamar built the Dining Table with Storage using bridle joints and then decided to do this Angled Bridle Joint” video.

Living by a schedule and having fun

I asked Tamar when she has time to create so much how-to content for 3x3 Custom and handle her tasks as a stay-at- home mom, homemaker, and wife.

“As of last year, all my kids are in school!” Tamar said. “As soon as I drop them off, I get to work. My early mornings are dedicated to household items that need to be taken care of, and I spend some time doing computer work. Then I get out to my shop and I work until my kids come home. That's when I become a chauffeur, driving to and from basketball and dance, dinner gets made, homework is dealt with, and more cleaning is done. After my kids go to sleep, I’m back on the computer editing video and writing website articles.”

Sounds like an exhausting schedule to me, but Tamar said, “It’s a lot, but I’m having fun doing it! I think creating a schedule is what has helped me the most with work/life balance. Everything is scheduled down to our meals. I am not always perfect at it, but I try my best! (Especially during quarantine…this time has been a bit difficult to get anything done but we’re making it work.)”

Parents, if you are looking for “stuff to do with their children, Tamar has the solution: a how-to video, “5 SIMPLE WOODWORKING PROJECTS FOR KIDS.  The fun “stuff” to make includes a Toothbrush Holder, Banana Holder, Piggy Bank, Acoustic Phone Speaker, and Backgammon or Checkers in a Bag (doubles as the game board).

I asked Tamar if her children are excited to have a “maker mom,” but she said, “I think they are more excited they have a ‘YouTuber’ Mom, ha!”

“All my kids really enjoy using hand tools. My oldest son can use a spokeshave all day, and my youngest loves to make dowels with the dowel plate,” Tamar shared. Her daughter, however, is the one who spends the most time in the shop. “She is definitely our creative one; she comes up with crazy ideas and we try to make it work. I wish I had more time to do fun stuff like that with her, but I have a build schedule to adhere to. If it were up to her, all my projects would have painted unicorns on them!” 

Tamar made this guitar for her son after he decided to take lessons. She had already made a guitar for herself.

Tamar’s daughter and one of her sons made these banks as part of the 5 SIMPLE WOODWORKING PROJECTS FOR KIDS video.

Tamar does all her building in their detached garage, which is large but unfortunately not heated or insulated. “It is really rough in the winter (in New Jersey),” Tamar said, “but it is a pretty big space. It’s a four-car garage; initially, I only used two bays for my shop, then slowly I started taking more and more space. I would say my shop consists of 3 bays of the garage now. We never kept our cars in there to begin with, so I can expand to the fourth bay if need be, but we need some sort of storage area in there!”

Tamar works on the Dining Room with Storage Table in her garage workshop.

Videographer, Photographer, Cinematographer, Editor, Writer, And On-Air Talent!

When I asked Tamar who does all the work to turn her many, many projects into videos and tutorials for her website and social media sites, she said, “I do it all! I am the videographer, photographer, cinematographer, editor, writer, and on-air talent! It takes a lot of time. I recently built a project that I didn’t film, and I was amazed at how quickly it was finished. I think documenting my builds triples the amount of time spent on them.”

Tamar has a college degree with a major in media studies. “During college I worked at some music PR firms and after college I worked at an advertising agency in NY,” Tamar shared. “I didn't last very long there because babies happened, and I decided to be a stay-at-home mom. While those jobs were technically in media, the bulk of my studies were in filmmaking and editing, so I am actually using my degree now with my YouTube channel!”

Inspiration – It’s Everywhere and May Begin With A Need

“I find inspiration from anything and everything around me,” Tamar explained.  “Usually, the project ideas come about because of something that I need. I think about how I want the piece to function, and the design follows suit. I like for my pieces to be really functional for me and my family. Recently, I built a curved storage bench that came out of a need for storage in a small mudroom area. The piece needed to be small, yet have multiple areas of storage, and I think it was one of my most successful designs to date, because it solved the problem I had in a beautiful way. Problem-solving is a huge part of woodworking, but I think it’s also what turns a good design into a great one.” 

Modern Curved Storage Bench

Adjustable Doweling Jig

The Modern Curved Storage Bench pictured above left is Tamar’s entry in the Builders Challenge Season 9. “The point of the challenge is to tweak the plans a bit and make them your own,” she explained in the May 22, 2020, video and tutorial. “So I switched up the design but still kept the curves and the storage element. This bench will go in our mudroom; the bottom shelf will hold shoes and the middle storage compartment will probably change seasonally…gloves and hats in the winter, goggles and sunscreen in the summer.”

The Adjustable Doweling Jig shown above is an example of Tamar’s frequent answers to a need.  “I love dowel joinery because it is strong and easy to do, but I didn’t love my doweling jig, so I decided to make one!” She recorded her project in a video and a tutorial.

Beginning Builders: Just Go For It!

What advice would you give someone interested in beginning DIY projects or woodworking?

“Just go for it! You will make mistakes, and nothing will be perfect. Learn from each mistake so the next project can be better than the last. Oh, and don’t be like me, get some dedicated shop clothes so your real clothes aren’t all covered in glue...ha!”

Women: Don’t Be Intimidated and Ask Questions!

What would you say to women interested in doing what you do, whether the same scale or smaller?

The first time I pulled up to my local hardwood dealer, I didn’t even make it out of the car. I parked, got intimidated, then drove away. The next time, when I actually made it inside, it wasn’t so bad! The guys there were super nice and helpful! So I would say don’t be intimidated to start because of your lack of knowledge, and don’t be afraid to ask questions! Woodworkers love to share their knowledge, and from my experience, there hasn’t been any sort of judgment because I am a female. Just go for it!” 

Tamar is especially eager to see her daughter follow through with her interest in building.

“I want my daughter to grow up in a world where she really believes she can do anything. Woodworking is a predominantly male field; I hope my daughter (and other girls out there) can see what I am doing and realize there is nothing holding them back from doing what they love."

Tamar’s Gallery

Tamar said she no longer sells furniture in her website store, but she does have some on display in her website gallery.

Modern Chippendale Bench

Bookshelf Bed

Modern Chippendale Bench This bench is Tamar’s modern Chippendale take of an Ana White plan. She built the frame out of 2x4 lumber and used cedar for the back and seat.

Bookshelf Bed – Tamar built this queen-size bed with a built-in bookshelf footboard for her son. The headboard is made from poplar that has been aged. 

Join the Maker Movement

Take Tamar’s advice, and join the maker movement. She encourages her followers to sign up to receive her tutorials and updates, and I encourage you to check out 3x3custom.com and her Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest and Twitter sites.

Thank you, Tamar, for sharing your woodworking journey with our Woodcraft readers and for sharing your projects with all your thousands of followers. 

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