Here's My Workshop!
by Ken Allison
British Columbia, CANADA
My shop is in a 30 ft x 40 ft heated building that the original owner built to house his big travel trailer and
the truck that pulled it. Its advantage over my previous shop is its larger floor plan and the 13 ft 6 in
ceiling which allows me to prefab large projects like the gazebo I'm currently building, some
mezzanine storage, the thermostatically controlled gas heat, and the 200 amp electrical service. I
wish it had facilities for a dust free office and washroom, but the house is only 30 feet away. Three
phase power is available, but so far nothing I do would justify the cost of rewiring the shop.
I'm a retired Band teacher who
inherited some of my little hand tools from my father who did fine woodturning and some rough
cabinetry all with tools he mostly made himself in a garage with a dirt floor here in Canada in
the 40s, 50s and 60s. My maternal grandfather whose surname was the Estonian equivalent of "Wood"
was a ship's carpenter who travelled from his home on Saareema Island to St. Petersburg (Russia)
each winter to work on the big wooden ships. When the Russians occupied Estonia, he built a
seaworthy boat out of green lumber in the bush and used it to escape to the West with his young
My life has had none of those extremes. I have all the modern advantages, but none of the fine hand
tool skills that either my father or my grandfather had. Nevertheless I have seen a lot of good
woodwork being done, have an intense love of fine quality tools, and enjoy making simple things for
my family and friends. These days my 18 year old grandson is a third year apprentice to Andrew
Farqhuar, a fine furniture builder/ restorer in Bowral NSW AU. I repaired/refinished the guitar in
my facebook gallery for him when he was 15. I take little hand tools to AU for him each year and
bring back little bits of exotic Australian wood. I get a lot of pleasure out of using tools that
my ancestors have used. I like to give my grandson things that will still be around 50 or 60 years
from now. I still have my grandfather's Duncan Phyfe style tool chest that he brought to Canada
with him. It's an adapted old blanket chest with "1864" carved into the lid.
Shop Built Tools: This is the 1 hp 30" drum sander I built from common lumber to level the table top panels. It uses two hinged plywood leaves and an acme screw vice to hold the work in place. Some dust control and a power feeder are still to come.
Creating Level Surfaces: This red oak double pedestal table I made for my daughter, Cathy. With two 30" leaves in place seats 10. First I had to build a 30" drum sander to level the glued up panels. That was more work and expense than building the table.
Bowl Turning: This is a 7" diameter bowl I made for my wife from a burl growing on the side of red mallee tree somewhere in New South Wales Australia. Burls are difficult to work with because they are very hard, and they don't have directional grain.
Cabinetry: This is a very heavy "Arts and Crafts" styled buffet made to fit a specific niche. It's 3/4" red oak veneered plywood with solid fronts and edging. Ideally it would be quarter sawn white oak with through tenons , but this was the best my budget could afford.
Repair/Refinishing: This is a freight damaged guitar that I repaired and refinished for Andrew, a young man with fine woodworking skills of his own. The 11 coats of solid colour acrylic lacquer completely conceal the repair. Nobody knows, but me.
Outdoor Furniture: This is a front door planter I built with rigid frame and floating panel construction from 5/8" cedar and "2x" spruce. There are no exposed fasteners and the top has a mitered trim strip. "2x" spruce is very inexpensive right now because of the downturn in the US economy.
Router Templates: These are replicas of Philco cathedral radio cases from the 1930s. The two on the ends have some original parts. I used them to make templates to build the others.
Box Making: This is a heavy duty, old fashioned carpenter's toolbox I made from recycled 1/2" Baltic Birch plywood for John, my new-homeowner nephew. It features finger-jointed corners and was my first attempt at standard box joinery.
Toys: Child's wallmount name plate from 1/2" Baltic Birch plywood, 10-wheeled caterpillar from Canadian large leaf maple with black walnut hubcaps.
You can email Ken at
Here is his
woodworking Facebook page
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