Local author becomes best-seller

WILLIAMSTOWN – A Williamstown writer and woodworker is gaining notoriety with his how-to books.

A.J. Hamler, who has published three woodworking books, one a best seller, will soon be publishing two more.

His “Easy to Build Birdhouses, a Natural Approach: Must-Know Info to Attract and Keep the Birds You Want,” reached best-seller status in late 2013, Hamler said.

“It has sold over 40,000 copies,” Hamler said. “For a woodworking book, that’s Stephen King or James Patterson numbers.”

This book was the first one he published through Hamler’s current publisher, F+W Media.

In 2010, “Easy to Build Birdhouses, a Natural Approach” was the most popular book sold by F+W Media, Hamler said.

Hamler’s second woodworking book with F+W Media was “The Box Builder’s Handbook: Essential Techniques with 20 Step-by-Step Projects,” Hamler said.

The box-building book was relatively popular, showing readers how to build boxes of every size and shape for multiple uses around the home, Hamler said.

When Hamler went to write his next book, F+W requested that it be about birds again.

Because of this, Hamler chose to write a sequel, “Birdhouses & More, Easy To Build Houses & Feeders for Birds, Bats, Butterflies and Other Backyard Creatures.”

“Birdhouses & More” will hit store shelves on in early April, Hamler said. It will feature 24 projects, ranging from a toad house to a squirrel feeder.

Hamler said he began his writing career when he left broadcasting in 1995 to take a full time job at “Woodworking Magazine.” He worked his way up to editor of the magazine in only two years and remained with the company for seven, he said.

Then, Hamler received an offer from Woodcraft, he said. Woodcraft wanted him to become the founding editor of “Woodcraft Magazine,” an offer which Hamler gladly accepted, he said.

After a year and a half of service to Woodcraft, Hamler left the magazine to pursue a full-time writing career, he said.

Since then, Hamler has published five woodworking books out of his garage workshop in his Williamstown, he said.

The woodworking shop in Hamler’s garage is a woodworker’s dream come true. Clamps, drills and a selection of different types of wooden boards line the walls. Custom-built work benches serve as islands in the garage space, allowing Hamler with room not only to work, but to photograph his steps as he proceeds, he said.

A full catalog of woodworking machines rests in different areas of the garage, each sparkling and free of sawdust, ready to photograph. And, high above, special compact fluorescent daylight bulbs ring the upper walls to create the proper lighting for taking woodworking pictures, Hamler said.

Most of the furniture in the shop was created from odds and ends, Hamler said. One of his primary work benches was originally an entertainment center, before he cut it apart and recycled it, he said.

Hamler tries to remain neat while he is working on his projects, but doesn’t always manage it, he said.

“Sometimes, when I go to take a picture, I end up having to kick pieces of wood scrap out of the frame while not tripping over others. It just happens,” Hamler said.

The first woodworking book Hamler published was “Civil War Woodworking: 17 Authentic Projects for Woodworkers and Re-enactors.”

Although the book did well, the numbers were not impressive, he said.

“The book just had such a niche market,” Hamler said. “It was aimed toward re-enactors, reproduction furniture builders and decorators who liked a simple country style,” he said.

In June, Hamler will publish “Civil War Woodworking, Volume II: More Authentic Projects for Woodworkers and Re-enactors.”

The second volume is geared toward the everyday woodworker, featuring projects that will interest Boy Scouts and Civil War enthusiasts alike, he said.

The book will feature a detailed folding officer’s camp chair Hamler knows readers will enjoy, he said.

The project was sold as an individual piece to “Woodworker’s Journal” in August 2012, Hamler said.

“It was their single best-selling magazine issue ever,” Hamler said. “I am told that people still order back-issues of that magazine, just to get their hands on my folding officer’s camp chair plans,” he said.

Hamler knows a few things about Civil War-era furniture.

He has been an active Civil War re-enactor for 20 years. Throughout his adventures in re-enacting, he has been part of a musket group in Connecticut, a member of the 1st W.Va. Infantry in Weston and is one of the original members of the local re-enactment group Carlin’s Battery.

In re-enactments, Hamler has operated a cannon and a musket and often runs into old friends at re-enactments.

“When we all went up to Gettysburg a couple of years ago, I tossed my musket in the car for the sake of doing so,” Hamler said. “I ended up running into my Connecticut buddies and their musket regiment and decided to fall in with them for part of the battle. It was a lot of fun,” he said.

When he is not getting muddy by running around a field in Civil War-era clothing and making loud noises with reproduction weaponry, Hamler enjoys maintaining his woodworking blog on the website woodshopnews.com.

Hamler’s blog, “Over the Workbench,” is a staple of the site and has reached more than 540 blog posts since it began in 2007.

Hamler updates his blog twice a week, on Tuesday and Friday, although he seldomly knows what he will post about until he sits down to write, he said.

“I sit down and drum my fingers on the keyboard for a while, and when an idea comes, I start writing about it,” Hamler said. “After one paragraph, if it makes sense, then I will keep going. If it doesn’t, then I erase it and start over,” he said.

“Over the Workbench” features anecdotes of the woodworking life, Hamler said. A recent blog post focused on locating a stubborn draft in his garage workshop, and how he solved the problem, he said.

Whatever comes to mind, the blog will always have something to do with woodworking, Hamler said.

“This blog is all about my thoughts and impressions of the life of a woodworker,” Hamler said. “Woodworking will always be involved in some fashion,” he said.