Highland Woodworking Wood News Online, No. 141, May 2017Welcome 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
 
The Down to Earth Woodworker
By Steven D. Johnson
Racine, Wisconsin

This Month's Column:

• What Makes A Dream Shop?
Work Expands To Fill The Time Allotted (Part 1)
And Baby Makes Three

What Makes A Dream Shop?

Click on any picture to see a larger version.

It seems to be getting harder and harder to trust any kind of poll, but nonetheless, they still have some value… I think. Well, anyway, I have been conducting a sort of "informal poll" of woodworkers. Everywhere I go, every woodworker I talk with, I ask one question. It has been fascinating. The question? "What one thing would make your shop a "dream shop?"

Figure 1 - The results so far of my "poll" of woodworkers... "What would make your shop
a 'dream' shop?"
The runaway number one answer is "more space." Over 51 percent of the people asked have given some variant of that answer. The second most prevalent answer is tool-specific, i.e. "A new [fill in the blank] machine or tool. Number one among those is "a new SawStop Tablesaw," number two is "a new dust collector" and number three is "a new Festool" [fill in the blank as to which Festool piece]. The third most common answer to my "dream shop" question, which surprises me a bit, is "a new workbench." Surprising only because it seems that a workbench is so central to any woodworking endeavor I assumed it was the first, and probably most "obsessed over," piece any woodworker puts in his or her shop.

There have been a few, let's call them "interesting," answers. A couple of people said they wanted better lighting. Two guys told me "a refrigerator." One lady said "a cute cuddly pet to keep me company." Floors were top-of-mind for some, most wanting something level and softer than concrete. More and/or better heat was an answer I've gotten a few times; attribute that to most of my "interviews" being done in my proximate geographic locale. I suppose if I lived in the deep south, I might have gotten "more and/or better air conditioning" as answers.

For me, more space is number one, but out of the question. I'm "locked." My shop cannot grow on the north side due to the proximity to the property line. To the south the house is in the way. West is out because of the driveway and due east there is a steep hill, two giant trees that I would not want to remove, and my little barn. There is simply no way to "grow" my shop short of something spectacularly expensive, disruptive, and probably illegal. I've thought of adding dormer windows upstairs, but for the minimal increase in usable square footage and the frightful expense, it's just not worth it. So, I have forced myself to be satisfied with the space I have. There is another thing that would turn my shop into a "dream" retreat.

Coffee is a staple in my shop. All day, many cups. There is no water in my shop, which also means no drain, which means… yep, you guessed it… I make a lot of trips back to the house out of sheer biological necessity. Usually "recycling" my previous cup of coffee means taking the time to get another cup, and it is thus a vicious cycle. Do you have water in your shop? If so, you are extremely fortunate. And not just for the possibility of having a toilet and making coffee, but also for washing hands and brushes, for wetting rags and paper towels to clean up glue, and for a myriad of other things.

A toilet is currently out of the question in my shop, but for other water needs, a gallon jug of water works as a substitute most of the time. Pour a little in a paper bowl, dampen a paper towel, and cleaning up excess glue is possible. A little water in a jar can keep brushes pliable while finishing or doing elaborate glue-ups. Water in a spray bottle can be used to spritz hands and achieve a little superficial clean-up. I spilled coffee on the floor this week (last week, too, and maybe the week before) and a spritz of water on the floor and a paper towel cleans it right up. But still, an unlimited supply of running water in the shop would be so nice.

Machine maintenance is tough. Greasy hands won't come clean with a spritz of water from a spray bottle, and grimy hand prints on the door knobs leading to the house are just unacceptable. I tried some hand cleaner in a tube, and yes, it does remove a bit of grease and oil, but the cleaner itself leaves a residue and a smell that would offend B.O. Plenty. My "dream shop" would definitely have water. Again, though, just like additional space, it isn't going to happen. So, on to my third choice…

While working, I love to listen to music, news, television or almost anything else other than the sound of my own breathing. There is a TV in my shop, but it's speakers are tiny, tinny, and not very loud. There is a little antiquated stereo, too, that an iPod would plug into… about ten years ago. No new piece of equipment will connect to it, and even if it did, the stereo has no remote control. You see, I have to be able to turn the sound off when I set the camera to "record" when making videos, so most of the time I just leave the system "off."

My "dream shop" would include a sound system that would pipe the sound of either my TV or my iPad through speakers… loud enough to hear… and with a master remote and a "mute" button. I could be rockin' out to Led Zeppelin or listening to Brady Bunch reruns right up until the moment I hit "record" on my camera and making videos would be infinitely more pleasurable. A new sound system is possible.

What would make your shop a "dream shop?" Email me, and the poll continues…

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Steven Johnson is retired from an almost 30-year career selling medical equipment and supplies, and now enjoys improving his shop, his skills, and his designs on a full time basis (although he says home improvement projects and furniture building have been hobbies for most of his adult life). Steven can be reached directly via email at sjohnson@downtoearthwoodworking.com


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