Canadian Woodworking

The Workshop

Author: Don Wilkinson
Illustration: Mike Del Rizzo
Published: April May 2011
The Workshop
The Workshop

How many of you reading this column either have your own workshop or want to have one but you can’t because your wife thinks your kids need the bedroom more than you do? Everybody put your hands up! That’s what I thought.

It isn’t wealth or fame or even the pur­suit of the fairer sex that men want. No! The desire that lies at the heart of every man is to have their very own work­shop. Preferably one like Norm Abrams has. But with a better brand of tools. Or that weird little guy with the big mous­tache who works in a barn and only uses his great-grandfather’s tools while being filmed but probably reaches for his Makita or DeWalt when no one’s looking.

It seems that a good workshop reaches somewhere deep inside every man and touches something it probably shouldn’t. Possibly the spleen. But whatever it is, most men are touched by something. We seem to have this great need to build things that we can proudly present to our wives and/or significant others to be oohed and aahed over and have our bulging muscles (stomachs) gently stroked along with our egos. Who cares that we spent untold thousands of dol­lars on tools and equipment to make something that she could, and prob­ably did buy at the local Wallymart for a buck-seventy-five. She’ll always claim that your version is far superior and she’ll cherish it forever. Or until you move and it gets ‘lost.’

Most home workshops tend to be shoe-horned into whatever space is available after the greeds of the chil­dren are taken care of. Some, however, are huge expanses taking up an entire two-car garage while the cars, bikes, lawn-mower, boats and assorted kids sit under tarps in the driveway where they belong. I once had a friend with an ingenious little shop sandwiched into a left-over closet that his wife hadn’t noticed quickly enough. It was a miracle of design and functionality and yet he never once managed to make anything. His wife complained that he “made too much noise” and “the light bothered her eyes.” Perhaps I erred when I men­tioned that if she had wanted to sleep she shouldn’t have placed their bed in his workshop annex. Then she said I wasn’t allowed to be his friend anymore.

But whatever the workshop, and who­ever the owner, a workshop usually takes on the qualities and personalities of its owner. I say ‘usually’ because I have seen shops so meticulously laid out and spotless that appendectomies could be performed in them, and yet the man’s car and house were so messy that his first-born had entered kindergarten before the guy ever laid eyes on the kid. Another man, who happened to be a surgeon, used my shop for several weeks and left it a complete disaster zone. Luckily for me (and others, I presume), his operating room was spotless every time I had cause to visit.

Yes, woodworking shops are personal things and mean different things to dif­ferent people. For some, it is a refuge, a diversion from work or a place to hide out from the wife I mentioned (I’m going to get in trouble for this article, I just know it). For others, it is a place of peace and tranquility, which I don’t understand at all, but what the heck! People are weird.

For me, my shop was a joy, a place I looked forward to entering every day. For a number of years it was a place I earned a living. And several times it was a place of intense, agonizing pain.

But most importantly, my workshop was a place where I could lovingly cre­ate things that would make my wife happy.

Before she threw them out!

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