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Women in Woodworking - Meet Anika Gandhi
By Char Miller-King
Atlanta, GA

Over the past few months I've had the pleasure of interviewing many incredible woodworking enthusiasts, many of whom I had the pleasure of meeting in person. Our feature this month is Anika Gandhi; I originally met her at WorkbenchCon and had the opportunity to chat with her again at Haven Conference. She lives in my home state of California and two of our children are about the same age, and of course she is a lover of building and sharing how to make what she builds, so we have a lot in common!

Anika is the author of Anika's DIY Life, a blog dedicated to simple DIY projects using essential power tools. Her project tutorials appeal to readers with varying degrees of skills, they are easy to follow, and you ultimately end up with a fine piece of furniture that looks high-end. She's worked hard to grow her audience and become a go-to source for information and inspiration.

Prior to becoming a woodworker, Anika was a physicist who worked on semiconductor materials and devices.  Her Ph.D. thesis was on making materials that would make solar cells more efficient. In the corporate world, she worked on the development of a new material that helped make power devices (chips) for automotive applications. Some of the chips she helped develop and release were used in Tesla, Toyota, Honda and many other car manufacturers around the world.

It wasn't until 2011, when Anika decided to make a small table and chair set for her daughter, that she began to fall in love with building; from that point on she describes it as being "hooked." This was of course before she owned heavy duty power tools. The best part is, she still has the set and was able to pass it along to her son. Anika's passion for making has come a long way since the mid-2000's. She currently works out of her garage and uses a portion of her driveway. Since her garage serves many other purposes, such as the laundry room, she keeps her shop dust free by using her saws outside. With the help of a mobile workbench, she can set up shop in no time.

Since Anika's DIY Life focuses on simple builds that look complicated, such as a floating ladder shelf or a wood and concrete planter, she uses basic beginner tools. She definitely practices what she preaches. Her tool arsenal includes, a miter saw, circular saw, jigsaw, and a pocket hole jig. Of course there are a few drills and nailers in there. Just recently, Anika purchased a table saw and a palm router. She shared that, "I try to keep my builds simple enough so I can help beginners learn and build." Her favorite tool is without question, the pocket hole jig; as it made it possible for her to build projects that would typically be too complicated for beginners. Although, like many woodworkers, once we get a taste of life with a table saw it soon becomes a favorite in the shop. Anika is joining the fold of it becoming a favorite for her as well.

Anika is a self-taught builder who connects with the maker community and blogging peers for inspiration and education. Her favorite type of projects are those made from scrap wood or using small amounts of lumber. "These projects are easy, cost barely anything and most importantly are functional. I love making projects that a new woodworker looks at and says, "I can make that." To give that extra kick of inspiration, she even sells shirts with that quote on Etsy.

One of the most frustrating things we, as makers, experience is when a project does not go according to plan. There is one project in particular that stands out for Anika and that was building drawers for a nightstand. She disassembled it at least four times before achieving her desired goal. Installing drawers can be a nightmare without a jig, perfect alignment of drawer slides and the list goes on. Even though she ran into a few snags, there was much to learn about squaring and shimming lumber. Thankfully, the hard work and commitment paid off and produced this amazing Pottery Barn inspired Clara lattice wide bedside table. More recently, Anika is not only working on a mobile miter saw stand, but a complete overhaul of her garage, which she skillfully likens to peeling an onion. What started out as cabinet removal and a paint job has blossomed into much more, which she is currently chronicling on Instagram.

Anika's DIY Life has become more than she thought it would be. What started out as a simple search for a fun toddler table and chair turned into this amazing platform where she would have the chance to inspire and encourage other DIYers and woodworkers. Anika's blog is a powerful resource and she now wants to grow her YouTube Channel and be the go-to resource for beginners and busy DIYers.

I always hope that someone who may be new to woodworking reads my interviewee's advice on getting started. Anika Gandhi had this to share, "Just get started and try new things… take it step by step. Don't be afraid of failure or wasting materials on a project… because that is how you learn and no project is going to be perfect in your eyes! We really can be our own worst critics!  But if you do your best, your projects are going to be amazing!"

You can check out Anika's work on her website at https://www.anikasdiylife.com/ and follow her on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter @anikasdiylife.

You can check out Char's website at https://www.thewoodenmaven.com/ and follow her on Instagram at @woodenmaven.

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