Highland Woodworking Wood News Online, No. 140, April 2017 Welcome to Highland Woodworking - Fine Tools & Education Learn more about Highland Woodworking View our current woodworking classes and seminars Woodworking articles and solutions Subscribe to Wood News
Here's My Workshop!
By Jay Brown
Bedford, IN

I'm a mechanical engineer and have completed 36 years as a civil servant for the US Navy. I have built furniture, cabinetry and installed trim for over 30 years. I've built numerous projects for peers and people around the community including Indiana University, Brown County National Park, and the St. Vincent Hospital. I have a brother and two sons when I need extra help and a 92 year old woodworking mentor to turn to for advice. I'm currently working on my masters certification at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking.

My dad was one of the most inspirational people in my woodworking career. He was a professional firefighter and painted houses as a side job in our fair town. Reputation typically precedes a person that works for the public. I started on his paint crew when I was 13 and he cut me no slack. In the early 1980s, a former customer asked him if he could build them a "tater bin". Dad was never one to turn down a paying job. I was in engineering school as dad had certainly convinced me that I didn't want to paint houses for the rest of my life. I traveled home on the weekends to paint and play music in a band to buy my groceries. One weekend, dad was struggling to assemble this tater bin, when he asked for my help. We got it together but it was sad. I was convinced the customer paid for it out of pity. A month later, dad had orders for 10 more - I couldn't believe it! That's how it all started.

After that, we upgraded equipment and improved our game. Time passed and we continued working together. After college, we graduated from dad's garage to a dedicated 20'x24' wood shop barn we built in his backyard. The paint jobs turned into woodworking jobs. My dad was my biggest fan, he was convinced I could build anything. We started trimming out houses and became more serious about our "hobby". There's just something about building things with your hands - it's hard to get that level of satisfaction anywhere else. This was when I decided I wanted to woodwork the rest of my life. My dad and that little shop kept me grounded through a divorce. We continued working and reinvesting our profit into more tools that we agreed upon until the shop became so small that it was difficult to work in. I began sketching my "dream" shop and, as always, dad supported me every step of the way. I designed the shop from the inside out - we allowed spacing around each tool we had and figured size and spacing for the future tools we intended to obtain. We would rearrange tools, spacing, storage, wood flow, wood support (for long pieces), building access, assembling and finishing areas in the drawing and then put it away for 6 months. We continued to tweak this floor plan about every 6 months. After three years of tweaking, we couldn't come up with any more improvements - the design was complete.

The current woodshop is 32'x 80' with a 17' wide lean to. The building fits in my backyard. We had the pole barn erected and the concrete floor poured. Dad and I insulated it, lined the walls and 9' ceilings with OSB, built the interior walls, installed our equipment, lights, air lines and custom vacuum system. We had a bathroom plumbed in, traded out work for the 400 amp service and had a gas forced air furnace with central AC installed. We worked together to pay for all of it.

I spend a lot of time organizing specific areas of the shop for dimensioning, shaping, raised panel door manufacturing, handwork, turning, sanding, assembling and finishing always careful to keep the appropriate measuring tools, jigs, clamps and sharpening stations readily at hand. I have garage doors on both sides of my finishing room to control wood dust and overspray. If that's not enough space, I can raise one garage door and add an additional garage bay to lay out furniture, cabinets, doors and trim for drying. That bay has a separate fan mounted near the ceiling and wall heater to accelerate the drying process. I installed hangers on one wall to store trim and material out of the way until it's time to install.

I've lost my dad, but not my direction. I dedicate this shop to him - thanks dad, for helping me make my dream come true! I'll never forget our struggles, accomplishments and victories.

You can email Jay at jlbrown94@att.net .

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