Getting a bit cranky – FineWoodworking


Moving has its pros and cons. The excitement of moving house also comes with stress. Moving a house and shop can be even more stressful. Maybe it’s because I’m older, maybe it has to do with all the things Andrea and I are juggling at the moment, but for this move, I found that one of the biggest things that really grated on me was not having a shop to work in. Forewarning, I know I’m pouting here, complete with the trembling lower lip, because I haven’t been able to woodwork for a while, but hear me out. Times like this help me realize how much more woodworking is than simply working with wood. 

In all, from pack to move to unpack, I had about three weeks without a shop, which I know isn’t that long at all. But it felt much longer. All my favorite things were sitting in boxes and totes, unceremoniously stacked out of the way to allow room for work to get done. I suppose I could have just moved everything in and dealt with it later, but keeping the space empty at first allowed necessary work to get done. My new single-car garage workshop needed some TLC. The walls needed mudding and painting, electricians were needed to get power where I wanted it, and the floor got a facelift with some simple epoxy paint. As soon as the floor cured, I began the new shop setup, starting with the big items.

While things were in limbo, I had no lack of house tasks to keep me busy, like installing new light fixtures, hanging curtains, and other minor work. Yes, that’s working with my hands, but it’s not woodworking. So here’s the thing: My shop is more than just a shop and woodworking is more than just making things with wood. My shop is a space where I go for some “me time” and sometimes to just sit and think. I don’t necessarily make something every time I’m in there. Sometimes I just putter around putting things away or sharpening the tools I used last, the whole time thinking.  

When I started woodworking over 20 years ago, I realized that I didn’t just enjoy it, it was a calming force in my life. Like many, I enjoy the therapeutic side of woodworking, especially during hectic times. Working with my hands and creating things is a happy place for me. Going to Rosewood Studio after the military helped me realize that I could make almost anything I could dream up. This is a powerful notion. In a world where most things are made for us, it’s incredible to think that a mere human with some skills and tools can build their own stuff. 

If only we woodworkers could figure out a way to not have to work and simply spend every day in our shops. If you ever figure this out, please let me know. My good friend Steve Der-Garabedian and I have this discussion often — how to live a life where we just hole up in our shops and make furniture every day? I’m fortunate and grateful to say that I have come close, being in a position to take my passion for woodworking and put it toward other things like writing, teaching, podcasting, and creating content. But I think as we all know, nothing is quite as nourishing as actual woodworking.

Anyhow, I guess what I’m saying is that I’m just not myself without woodworking in my life. It’s only been a few weeks and I miss it and feel off balance. The smells, textures, and sights of my shop are good for my mind, body, and spirit. In less than a week, I will have my space more or less set up and I’ll start working again. It can’t come fast enough. So the moral of this story? Let’s not take shop time for granted.

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