The Woodworker

My good friend Paul (or Paul-o as he’s known in Sydney’s Blue Mountains) was over for a visit recently and, like many of us practical types, was keen to get his hands dirty after a few days acclimatising to the UK environment (aka reacquainting himself with our beer).

He soon fetched up at the workshop where his genial host (that’s me) was endeavouring to earn a crust through some honest toil. It’s always good to have a hand with a job, especially when batch-producing a run of display boxes, and it wasn’t long before we had things sorted – it felt just like the old days! Once we’d finished, I began to be aware of the lack of space, clear surfaces and general order in my normally immaculate (ahem) workshop. I guess it’s not until you look at something through another pair of eyes that you can sometimes see more clearly.

Now I’m normally very proud of my ‘shop, but even I had to admit that it was not looking at its best just then. A steady succession of hasty jobs had left the place looking as though the timber recycling lorry had just tipped a load through the door, and a stranger would have been hard pressed to identify the colour of the floor.

I reckon it’s only a good friend who can readily and truthfully criticise, and I have to say that Paul-o made full use of his honoured visitor status.

As we slowly cleared the piles of offcuts, bagged up sawdust and shavings, and put tools and kit away, the actual size and shape of the workshop once more became apparent. There were moments though when I had to grit my teeth and chuck things away that had been cluttering up the place for years. It was a particular wrench to bin a few awkwardly-sized pieces of walnut-veneered mdf, but they were looking a bit shabby and I did feel better for it… eventually.

There’s a lot to be said for a tidy workshop; unless you’re disciplined it’s very easy to let things slide when you’re working on your own. When there’s someone else around, all of the system shortcomings – and especially the safety-related ones – can be quickly and cruelly exposed. So it was last week, but I’m pleased to announce that, while I won’t be in line for any neat workshop prizes, it’s easier to find things now and visitors no longer have to worry about tripping over offcuts or getting tangled up in trailing power cords. Thinking about it, I realise that I may not be setting a particularly good example to the rest of the woodworking fraternity with my tales of untidiness, but the truth’s the truth and I reckon that my place could be a whole lot worse.

So, if you’ve got any workshop-based news or facts you’d like to share, or even some before-and after-photos of your place, why not share them with the rest of us? I never tire of workshop stories so, whether yours is like a hi-tech laboratory or a condemned building, let us have the facts and help us feel more proud about our own places. PS True to form, I found a use for the walnut mdf about three days later!

Happy - and safe - woodworking to us all