• Friday, June 19th, 2009

What follows are thoughts conjured up while, or recovered from, sweeping the shop floor. Maybe you can relate.

  • Why are so many home shops relegated to the basements? You love woodworking, bring it up to ground level. It is more important than the TV, which somehow seems to always get its own room with a window.
  • Perhaps like many readers here, I started making things from wood because the material is easy to cut, firm enough to be structural, and seems so friendly and harmless, only later discovering its variety and beauty. I would probably like making things from any material, but I cannot resist making things out of wood.
  • We woodworkers are too often deferential to speculative examination of historical work to decide technical issues when the answer may be found with modern, orderly testing and inquiry.
  • Making a one-of-a-kind piece is far more mentally taxing than the easy rhythm of knowing you have previously worked through an entire process, and thus can be fully confident of an outcome that is always in sight. However, new designs are exciting and edifying.
  • I think I may, at some point, acquire “enough” clamps. I am sure, however, that I will never have enough wood.
  • “Dead on”, “dead flat”, and the like, mean to me that the manufacturer doesn’t want to tell you its tolerances. And if a tool needs to be “dead on” (no such thing), shouldn’t I want to know the tolerances?
  • Fine quality wood craftsmanship is financially undervalued. Woodworkers need to better communicate the value of our product. It would be nice if our creations spoke for themselves but it is not enough.
  • Isn’t it exciting that this is the best time in history to obtain high quality woodworking hand tools? What a difference from, say, 20 years ago. And it keeps getting better.

Happy woodworking! And thanks for reading.

Category: Ideas
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8 Responses

  1. 1
    tico vogt 

    Hey Rob,

    Wow, I think you’ve outlined a year’s worth of subjects to develop. They are certainly all familiar.

    In my case, the woodworking grew out of deciding to be an owner/builder of our salt box, timberframe home thirty years ago. Built on a gentle slope, the house’s basement has a door at grade level on one end. At the time of building it, I had no special thoughts about its use other than utility and storage. The idea that I would become a professional cabinetmaker would have seemed pretty far fetched. But within a relatively short time I found myself getting into it and quickly making do with the space at hand, eventually adding one window and a wood floor. It has been far less than ideal and has been re-configured so many times, it’s ridiculous. In the past few months I’ve come up with a “final” plan for it’s efficient layout. In the end, it is an intimate workshop and really more of a studio than a shop in the general understanding. It is only doable for one person to be working in it, and that’s not a problem because I don’t expect to ever hire an assistant. The space restrictions, tight conditions, noise and dust concerns favor a hand tool approach. This speaks to your last point about how lucky we are to have such high quality stuff now available. Part of my final organization involves filling out my tool list with some of these items.

    Anyway, keep up the fruitful conguring, and I’ll come back to the other items at a later date.



  2. 2

    Thanks for the comment and sharing your story, Tico. I guess when it comes to finding a place to work wood, the will finds a way. Good luck with the tool buying.


  3. 3


    My wife and I determined that we looked at something like 153 houses before deciding upon the one we purchased. (Our Realtor earned his money.) This house fit pretty much every bill, from a nice-sized yard with mature trees (none of which is a bradford pear, thank you very much) to semi-open rooms with lots of character, from a total purchase price we were comfortable paying to a highly energy efficient design (our all-electric 2500 sq. ft. house has budget billing set at $87/month) that keeps our bills to a minimum.

    The one feature it didn’t have was a walk-out basement. Turns out, it actually was designed for one – I have the original home plans – but the original owner decided to have fill brought in to level the eastern yard out, removing the need for the walk-out.

    Ah, well. In the end, I felt the benefits of the house out-weighed the one and only detriment of not having the most ideal shop opportunities.

    And regarding… I could go on for some time. Maybe I’ll just piggyback off of your blog and comment on some of the points with my own blog entry. Would you mind?

    Wonderfully though-provoking entry, by the way.

  4. 4

    Hi Ethan,

    Thanks for the comment and sharing your house story.

    Please feel free to elaborate in your blog on any of the ideas here. That’s one of the many good things about blogging. I’ll stay tuned.


  5. 5
    tico vogt 

    Hi Rob,

    If you walked into my studio and looked for clamps, you’d probably ask “what’s up?” There are four Bessey 12″ hanging on some nails on one post, some springs clamps (two large, four small) along a beam, a few small picture frame corner clamps, some odd C clamps, two 24″and two 36″ Pony clamps whose travel bars slip more than grab after two and a half decades… and what about more robust sizes? They are loosely tucked behind some long sticks and boards, leaning against a wall, four 36″ pipe clamps. Finally, there are four Record clamp heads that are adjustable on 1″ thick, 6′ long maple bars. Oh yeah, I just picked up two Jet 24″ parallel clamps on a tip from you. No doubt they will be a plus for clamping doors.

    The reason I have not felt the need to acquire a better collection is curved cauls. A shop made set of four 40″ cauls, with felt applied to the contact faces, has done a remarkable job for me. Of course, the nature of the type of work dictates more or fewer clamps, but for casework, gluing lippings, etc., I haven’t ever really needed more, and yet I still yearn to have a dedicated wall with a nice looking collection of neatly graduated sizes, the kind you see in Best of Shops in FWW and such. But, for the time being, this mongrel set takes the pressure off, so to speak.



  6. 6


    Thanks for the comment. I agree about the cauls. I bought a few Bowclamp cauls [] last year and they have solved clamping problems that would otherwise have required buying big, expensive long-reach clamps.


  7. 7

    Good points all, but the first one caught my eye. A couple years ago, I decided to turn the spare bedroom I’d been using as a music studio/office into a workshop. Of course, this required minimizing machines and using lots of hand tools, but so far, I haven’t found the bad part of that — and it has certainly made the Budget Committee happy!

  8. 8

    Thanks for the comment, Billy. Perhaps the B.C. would allow a portable planer or a small bandsaw in the shop, or maybe designate another part of the house as the machine room. Anyway, enjoy your shop!