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Monday, Feb. 21, 2005
Well the mahogany is cleared out of Stuís garage. We finished fabrication, loaded the last of a series of fixtures onto the box truck and drove Ďem up to their new home. Took every bit of space we could free up on the truck, too. Which means all of that stuff in the truck beforehand had to go somewhere, and we happened to be in front of Stuís garage at the time, so . . .

You couldnít fit a tea cozy in there now.

It doesnít bother either of us all that much, I guess. Other than to get at anything in the garage at this point youíd need a front end loader, a trained spaniel and a helluva lot of cold beer to celebrate .

Iíve lived with a lot of cabinet shops over the years, more than I care to remember. Contrary to what you might see on television or coffee table books the image of a lovely old time place with wide planked wood floors, a lovely multi-paned series of windows overlooking a snowy landscape with a smiling grandpa steadily planing down a sumptuous piece of virgin pine is, well . . . a pipe dream at best.

Every shop Iíve every worked in had a concrete slab for a floor. Concrete block for walls, no windows at all, and the only hand planes might be broken out once a month for a quick swipe at an offending protrusion. It was a dusty, noisy place with piles of scrap wood and plywood everywhere that nobody could bring themselves to toss out, it was sappingly hot in summer and chilled in winter because climate control over large open spaces is just damned expensive. You donít work wood efficiently if you donít have lots of wide open spaces, and it tends to come at the expense of extra dough to spend on air conditioning.

Iíve worked where forklifts brought bundles of plywood to huge panel saws, the saw had a computer controlling the number and size of cuts and the operator was basically a glorified load and unload man. Iíve off loaded thousands of sheets of stuff from a truck, made a pile, moved it sheet by sheet when the time came to cut it, cut it on a tiny table saw all by myself and gotten the same results as the big saw costing two years of my salary.

Iíve sucked enough wood dust and noxious chemical fumes for ten lifetimes. Splinters? Every week, it seems. Blood drawn? Enough to have Stu perfect a screeching litany at me at least a hundred times, ďStop bleeding on the product asshole!Ē It doesnít help, I still stick my hand where it doesnít belong and a utility knife is happy to lacerate a finger, yet again.

But I do get a heck of a lot done when the need hits.

I know my environment. High ceilings and weak lighting over large machines covered in dust, walls lined with clamps and a drill press and a calendar from the plywood salesman. A clock from the glue guy. Tools scattered over every horizontal surface instead of in the neat rows of bins where they belong. The smell of propane in winter from an open flame heater, the 3 foot fan that blows the heat around. The compressor kicking in with a roar every few minutes and the cool, wet feeling of compressed air from a nozzle blowing dust off every square inch of me at days end.

I guess I miss a big shop to build in and mostly just to hang out in. Itís an identity for both of us with room to store everything and work out of the weather. Stu and I both know that his garage just doesnít cut it in that regard. Itís a place to make inefficient money and drive his wife crazy with the mess.

Maybe one day Iíll have it back. Weíve had three spaces of our own in over eight years, cutting it out when the need just wasnít there and stashing stuff in self-stores or garages. And the amount of tools and useful stuff just never gets any smaller, our home garages are both jammed to the roof with what we own as a company right now.

But I wonít be the smiling guy with the hand plane, the leather apron and the neatly trimmed beard. If you want to find me, Iíll be the one sweating over in a corner with sawdust in my ears and a filthy T-shirt, hunched over a screaming drill and trying to stick an open utility knife in my palm.

Iíd pose for you but hey, Iím busy making stuff over here.

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