Saturday, April 6, 2013

A Shop At Rest Stays At Rest

I won't claim credit for the title of this post, I saw it when one of the galoots on the Old Tools list mentioned it years ago.  I will say I have found that it is pretty accurate.

What I mean by this is that when I am consumed by a project and can't wait to get to the shop, I find myself making excuses to spend as much time as possible there.  Even 15 minutes in a day is helpful, and a project seems to come together in no time.

Then there are other times, when there either isn't an active project in the works, or the project I'm working on just isn't floating my boat.  When this happens it seems I have a hard time finding time to get to the shop.

Once I am there, it seems there is a big mess that needs dealing with before I can do any woodworking.

Granted, I think that I have it a bit harder than most.  I travel and spend usually three to four days a week away from my shop in Munich to our second place in Garmisch, where I work.

After reading that sentence I can see I am going to get absolutely zero sympathy.  Garmisch is a beautiful resort town.

My point is I am away from my shop often, and can't work wood there while I am out of town.

The good news is the Army post where I work has an MWR woodshop that I can use in Garmisch.  The machines are all in bad shape, but that doesn't bother me too much.  I just have to remember to take the tools I need with me when I go.  So, it is not uncommon for me to have two projects going at once.  One in Munich and one in Garmisch.  That is, as long as I can get over there during the opening hours, which do not line up too well with my schedule.

I am not sure what my problem is right now with the project I have in Garmisch.  It is going to be a dining table made from American walnut.  I like the design and  love working with this wood.  It is beautiful.  What's my problem?  I don't really know.  This project is not really charging me up to hurry and get it finished.  The wood has actually been rolling around for more than a year, and over the last few weeks I have only been able to get a few of the boards glued up for the top.

I think I just need to suck it up and get on with it.  Once it starts taking a bit of shape, perhaps woodworking fever will set in for this project.

I am starting to run out of ideas for blog posts that do not require me actually doing some woodwork.

My weekend this week will be on Monday and Tuesday.  Monday I have an appointment to help a friend put in a new floor.  If things go well with that project, I should have some time in the afternoon.  I will go to the lumberyard and pick out some lumber to build a Shaker side table.  This table isn't really one of the projects on my honeydew list, but it is a project I am chomping at the bit to build.

If the lumber I get isn't quite ready to work by Tuesday (as in if it needs a week or two to acclimate) I think I will get back to my hollow and round plane project.

I got stuck on that project when I blew out the blind side when drilling to start the mortise.  On both blanks!  I was so frustrated when I made that mistake twice in a row, that I put it aside and haven't looked at it in about two months.  I'll look at them and either patch the holes, or start over.  This would not be the end of the world, but I must mill up some more lumber with Peter's help at the Dictum workshop.  I don't have any large power tools at home.  A  bandsaw and thickness planer are just too darned handy for this process.

The planes I am working on are #10s.  Another alternative would be to work on a pair of #6 blanks that I already have milled.  Actually, that sounds like a better idea.

Forgive me for thinking out loud.

Momentum in the shop is a fickle thing for me.  If I can get to my bench every day, even for a short time, it makes things easier for the following day.  If I wait, thinking tomorrow I'll have more time, it is twice as hard to get in there.

Does anyone else notice this, or is it just me?


  1. Great point, Brian. My (only) shop is just a few short steps from my front door, but there is certainly an ebb & flow of it calling me or telling me to stay away.

    1. Hi Dyami,

      I think you hit it on the head. Sometimes my shop tells me to stay away, too!

  2. I think it is a classic problem. Perhaps a solution could be to find some woodwork that you can actually do in Garmisch.
    Before I decided to build the sea chest, I carved a name sign for a horse. I could do it sitting in the control room, and I just used a hobby knife with a breakable blade. This won't make much of a mess. There is no requirements for workholding, and if the wood is fairly soft it quite a nice job. True to the tradition, I used pallet wood (I think it was pine).
    Personally I don't like carvings very much, they tend to be overwhelming. But a name sign is something else.

    I have thought about taking up scale modelling of timber structures. Build a copy of the structure for an old house using 0.5" x 0.5" strips instead of the original 5x5's or whatever size they had (probably 8x8). Make the correct joints. this can be achieved with a hobby knife and perhaps a very small saw.
    If you make a nice looking cabin, you can help me build it in full scale.
    Good luck

    1. I think I have enough projects in the wings in various states of completion.

      However, I was thinking about your dad's milkman's bench. That might be cool for working at the apartment. Perhaps it will give me some inspiration to finish the dining table. Not a dining table, but something to hold up a portable bench!

  3. Actually I didn't mention the Milkmans bench, since I wasn't sure if SWMBO would allow that sort of woodworking in the Apartment. But I think it is a good idea with a sturdy table to serve as a base for a Milkmans bench, and when it is not in actual use, you could use it as a dining table.

    1. What she doesn't know can't hurt her.

      I realized today that it is a good thing I have been dinking around with this table project. We decided today that the current design is not going to work, so we will come up with something completely different. Thank goodness I haven't cut any joints yet!

  4. I've found that momentum in a project, whether it's woodworking or anything else for that matter, is the most important factor to not only complete it, but also do a good job. Just this past Sunday was a real momentum killer for me that I won't get into other than saying that trying to explain to your wife why you just can't stop making a drawer in the middle of making it and expect to pick up where you left off the following weekend just isn't a lot of fun.
    I've also found that having too many things going at once can also be a momentum killer. I am so tempted to start on my new workbench top that I had to actually pull myself out of the garage last night as I was about to plane the boards to thickness. I've found that having two or three half finished projects going at one time is another sure way to never finishing one of them.

    1. Don't get me started. I know this about multiple projects, but I can't help it sometimes.