Highland Woodworking Wood News Online, No. 136, December 2016
 
Good Clean Fun
By Nick Offerman

Book Review by J. Norman Reid


Now I ask you, who doesn't like having Good Clean Fun ? And in a woodshop, no less. But wait a minute, fun yes; in a woodshop, for sure. But clean with all that sawdust? Well, it's all relative, I guess.

Anyway, if you're looking for a good time reading about wood, woodworking and woodworkers, you need go no further. In this, his third book, actor, humorist, author and, yes, woodworker Nick Offerman tells all about the Offerman Woodshop. It's a quirky read and as the cover suggests full of "assorted tomfoolery." And fun. Once I had it in my hands, I could hardly put it down.

So what, you may well ask, is the book exactly? Well, it isn't exactly any one thing. It's a lot of things, but mainly it's a celebration of woodworking and the woodworking life as lived in the Offerman Woodshop. It's got projects, as you'd expect in a woodworking book. It's got biographies of some of the Offerman Woodshop denizens, past and present. It's got humor. It's got a history of the Offerman Woodshop and how it came to be. It's got recipes; woodworkers have to eat, after all, and at the Offerman Woodshop they eat (and drink!) well. It's got humor; did I mention that? It's got profiles of iconic woodworkers to whom Nick pays homage even as he explores their contributions to the craft. Or is it art? And, not to be forgotten, it's got humor.

Nick opens with an essay on his roots in woodworking, then goes to the meat of it all, setting up and equipping a woodshop with essential gear, both electronic and hand powered. This is fairly basic stuff for seasoned woodworkers, but gives a glimpse into the Offerman Woodshop way of doing things for those of us for whom it's old hat. Then follows a short treatise on wood, how lumber is cut, and how it moves, again, intended for the novices who may be picking up this book and exploring woodworking for the first time. Finally, he talks about milling wood, especially the large slabs he uses for his signature natural edge tables.

Following this introductory material, Nick shifts his focus to the members of the Offerman Woodshop team. Each member introduces themself in a brief, humor- laden (there's that word again!) profile before describing a signature product they turn out as part of the Offerman Woodshop's offerings, which are available for purchase on their website.

First up is Matthew Micucci, whose offering is a bottle top opener fashioned from a chunk of barn timber and a cut nail. It's a neat little project that results in one-of- a-kind bottle openers and would be good for gifts and gift shop sales. Or opening craft beer bottles, which seems to be a frequent use in the Offerman Woodshop. My goodness, these people know how to have fun!

Another of Matt's projects is making kazoos. Why? Because, as he says, "if you can hum a tune, then you can play a damn fine kazoo solo." Besides, he hails from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where they hold a kazoo parade every July 4th . Now doesn't that explain it?

Next up is Krys Shelley, who fashions rough lumber offcuts into pencil holders with all the character nature gave them. This is a bandsaw project for starters, followed by sanding and finishing. See them for sale on the Offerman Woodshop website. Krys also shows how to make whisky coasters, again from salvaged wood ripped on the bandsaw and jointed square.

Nick's project is the Berry Stool, named for Kentucky farmer-poet Wendell Berry, of whom he is quite fond. The stool features curved legs with wedged through tenons attaching them to the seat, making an elegant if simple-in- design piece.

Josh Salsbury offers another small table, which he calls the Jupiter Side Table, that incorporates Arts and Crafts influences into a more minimalist design. I like this design a lot and may well make one (or more) using Josh's project as a springboard. It will be a great way to showcase some of those highly figured walnut slabs I've been hoarding, er, saving.

Nick also shows how to build his beavertail canoe paddle. I mean, it's a logical follow- on to his first book, Paddle Your Own Canoe . The paddle is a shapely design that incorporates some excellent craftsmanship and that results in a beautiful, if also functional, piece of (shall I say it?) art.

Nick's dad Ric builds a birdhouse from glued-up offcuts. It's assembled by sliding the sides and bottom into grooves and held together with dowels, so it's as unique as it is attractive.

Jane Parrott, a jack-of- all-trades, makes a craftsman lamp from a slab of natural edge wood and a handcrafted fixture. Nick's brother Matt makes a cribbage board by inlaying exotic wood strips into a natural edge slab. Thomas Wilhoit makes a claro walnut slab table with a trapezoidal base. Along the way he shows how he ebonizes the red oak frame using a safe procedure.

Michele Diener makes what she calls the Slingshot Dining Chair, a simple design with a seat that appears to float above the stretchers. The final project is the Slumberjack Bed by shop manager R.H. Lee, a knockdown piece (how else to get it in the bedroom?) featuring a large natural edge headboard and plenty of support for whatever sports it will host.

The book concludes with a selection of the staff's favorite recipes, offerings sure to tantalize you out of the woodshop and into the kitchen.

Interspersed among the projects are interviews and profiles of various woodworking luminaries, among them Mira Nakashima, Christian Becksvoort , Peter Galbert , Laura Mays and Gary Knox Bennett.

So who, in the end, will like this book? And why? It's not your typical woodworking book, and yet it's got a lot of fun projects in it. It's not didactic. If you're looking for a tome with serious instruction, you'll do better elsewhere. Oh, don't get me wrong; there's plenty of good, sound woodworking advice here. It's just that it's lighthearted (note that I did not say "lightheaded.") Heck, it's even funny. Did I mention that it's humorous?

So here is what I think. If you are ready to take a carefree look at woodworking, to sprinkle all that dust with a bit of mirth, then you'll really enjoy this book. And if you liked his last two books and you work in wood, you'll love it.

Find out more and purchase Nick Offerman's
Good Clean Fun


J. Norman Reid is a woodworker, writer, and woodworking instructor living in the Blue Ridge Mountains with his wife, a woodshop full of power and hand tools and four cats who think they are cabinetmaker's assistants. He is the author of Choosing and Using Handplanes . He can be reached by email at nreid@fcc.net .

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