Shop Chronicles
Shop Journal
Journal Entry | February 2, 2006
Fear. It has become one of my most formidable nemesis in the workshop.
Fear of error. Fear of building something I'm not happy with. Fear of poor craftsmanship.
This prevents me from exploring my abilities and, more importantly, learning from mistakes. I am working to fight the fear. If I let this fear control my time in the shop, my skills will never improve.

Fight fear.
Journal Entry | December 6, 2005
Like so many before me, I've learned a great many things in my short time in the shop. (A little over a year.) Sure, I've learned about sharpening, machine usage, safety and such, but I never expected to learn such important lessons about life. My parents have tried to teach me some of these things since I was a kid. I only wish I had listened to them.

All that being said, I'm learning now and I want to impart upon you, dear reader and likely shop beginner, some of these lessons. But don't take them as 'words from the wise'. I am by no means wise in any real capacity. Take them as tips from a fellow beginner. I think you'll find many of the lessons I'm learning now are the same ones you are struggling with if you're my age (25 - 35).
  1. Be frugal. Don't waste things.
  2. Work with what you have. An extension of Lesson #1, I'm just now having this epiphany. Ever since I've been old enough to enjoy owning 'things', I've been obsessed with getting something 'better'. The greatest obstacle to my creative pursuits has always been, "If only I had _______ , I could really do some nice work." Your lesson? Get this thought out of your head, its poison.

Journal Entry | October 24, 2005
Things are starting to gel in the shop. I had been troubled lately by the last few un-organized things, namely two large plastic tubs of stuff like spray paint which I had not yet sorted from the big remodel. With these still lying in a corner of the shop and having an impromptu lumber rack of greatly questionable design, I haven't felt like I could jump into a 'real' project. I'm a very organized person and I just can't concentrate with these peripheral shop problems lingering about. Now that these loose ends are tied up, the time I spend in there is more fun.

This, of course, brings me to a new problem: focus. Its funny, while I'm at my day job, I yearn to be in the shop working on something or just piddling. However, too often when I end up with a great swath of open shop time on the weekend, I can only get in about 4 to 6 good hours. Why? Because for some reason my focus starts to slip after that. Its not that I'm tired, its not that I love my time there any less.

I can always tell when I hit the plateau:
  • I start making foolish mistakes and my attention span shortens to mere minutes.
  • I also begin finding reasons to leave the shop and waste time running out to Lowe's or rust hunting.
I hate this and I'm now working on pinpointing the cause and some kind of solution.
Journal Entry | September 8, 2005
I've found myself strangely nostalgic recently about my 'old shop'. (Same space, of course. Just pre-remodel.) It seems silly at first, considering the terrible shape it was in at the time. However, I can't shake the feeling that the space really did serve me for several years, despite its complete lack of organization, dirt floor and pitiful construction. The dirt floor kept everything a thick layer of dirt on everything and prevented any moving around of tools or tables. The impromptu raised plywood floor I had built over half the shop awkwardly intruded on the door entrance creating a trip hazard and potential head basher. The concrete and cinder block walls allowed for no easy way to attach shelves or storage. Worst of all, two 4x4 beams positioned in the middle of the shop made moving large or long boards and projects a nightmare.

Despite all the bad things about the old shop, I can't help but hold a little place in my heart for that grungy space. The layers of quickly pencilled project plans which covered the plywood benches. The little doodles made by my daughter, Erin, while spending time with me in the shop. In fact, those same doodles and markings live on in new shop fixtures now that I've reused their lumber. The pull-out workbench drawer I built and modified multiple times and used constantly throughout the life of that bench.

Fortunately, the current and vastly improved shop will take on a sweat equity of its own in my mind before you know it.