Fair Woodworking

July 23, 2016

Love the one you’re with.

Filed under: Fair Woodworking & Hand Tool Blog — fairwoodworking @ 10:20 pm

You know those losers that never actually build anything real? Oh sure they’re always installing another cabinet in their shop or rearranging the tool layout, but you know real stuff.


How bout you grow a pair and just make something?

Anyways, I was listening to a woodworking podcast the other day, I think it was Woodtalk, and there was a very common question asked by a listener.

“I’m new to woodworking, and I’m on a tight budget. How do I get a sweet shop like you guys have?”

Something like that.

Boy I relate to that question from when I first got started.

They all gave solid answers so I’m not going to dump on any of them. The thing that got to me was that the underlying issue never seems to leave us.

Few of us ever really get our sweet deam shop, I certainly doubt I’ll ever get mine, but I don’t think that’s reason to give up or despair.

When I switch my brain to woodshop la la land, I’d say I have a top three favorite dream shops.

3. An antique train car.

No, not a box car stupid! A passenger car, with a wood stove and the whole bit.

Ya I know. Kick ass!

2. An old school house.

I think we all dream of this one.

And finally…

1. A converted street corner bar complete with drop down windows so the warm night air can gently waft past my bench. There’d be big window awnings  for shade, and flower beds under each window that someone else maintained.

I have the best dream shops.

The truth is, I doubt I’d be happy with any of them in the end.

Let’s start with the train car.

Every woodworker wants ample window space, and what shop would have more?

Yes a train car would be F*#@ing rad except that with such a long narrow shop, nearly half the floor space would be wasted with making a clear path to walk through. Sure would be cool though.

An old school house would have a lot more usable space and nearly as much natural light, but school houses live hard lives. Most that I’ve seen are out in the country assimilated into farm life. Really, what self respecting farmer wouldn’t see one of these treasures as a perfectly suitable barn or chicken coup?

I’ve seen it.


I’m pretty certain in most cases building a reproduction school house would be easier and more cost effective than restoring some semi condemned structure.

At least my number one dream still has some legs…


Dude. I live in Canada.

I made the mistake of looking at the corner store front idea with my reality brain instead of dreamy brain once.

Even in the summer without the heat of direct sunlight, its cool at all but the best of times. If you’re looking for a warm night breeze, you better be standing near the business end of a well fed cow.

Looks like I’m never going to get a dream shop I can be happy with, and perhaps that’s ok. Dreams aren’t real. In dreams you can fly and breathe underwater.

Recently it occurred to me that as screwy as dreams are, they usually are based in reality. And so, what are the common realities of my dream woodshops.

You can’t see into my dream shop so I’ll have to tell you…

Outside of the obvious of them being awesome, they all were clean, tools were close at hand and they all had some of my favorite music playing on a real stereo.

All of these things are possible if I choose to make them happen. At the same time only one has anything to do with woodworking or really, productivity.

And that got me to thinking. Could it be, the perfect shop isn’t so much about the perfect location and more about any set of walls and windows that you’re simply happy to be. Do you like being in the room you call your shop?


If not is there any small thing you could change that would make it better?

When we moved into this house I had the choice of either an unheated garage that I’d share with our cars or  a tiny basement bedroom. The one offered more than enough space for me, but would be impossibly cold in the winter and uncomfortably hot in the summer. The basement bedroom is warm in the winter and pleasantly cool in the summer. Sure anything that goes in or out of that room has to go down the stairs and through a narrow hallway, and ripping 8′ sheet goods is physically impossible on the table saw, but it’s also very dangerous to operate a table saw while wearing a parka. I know. I’ve tried.

In my books, no amount of workspace or easy access is a good tradeoff for the risk of hypothermia.

In the long run, I know I’m more productive in an overly small but comfortable shop vs a large one that I don’t like to use without notifying next of kin.

Considering the cost of time and money in my case, the basement bedroom was a clear winner. The thing is that many basement shops are more like dungeons than dream shops. It’s easy to simply set up shop amidst storage boxes and old bicycles, and if you’re comfortable like that great! If you’re not, and you do have the freedom to improve your environment a little, you have two choices. Invest some time making it better now, or don’t and complain about how everyone else has a better shop.

I for one, want my shop to be a place I like to be. Even if I’m not working on something. A place that is comfortable enough to hang with a friend, or get some real work done, so much of my time for now will be on making my shop better.

And I’m ok with that.

20160724002712 copy

It’s certainly better than mowing the lawn in the rain, or shoveling snow.

Ahhhh…. Canadian summers.



  1. Great thoughts. Your passenger car shop would be awesome. While its been some time since I started and will continue to be a while until my ultimate goal is realized, it was freeing when I stopped dreaming of a stand alone übershop (yay another expensive multiyear building project) and came to grips with making some usability improvements to my existing garage shop.

    Comment by Jeremy — July 25, 2016 @ 11:57 am

  2. Business End Breeze 😂
    Sure can relate, I chose a basement shop too – 9.3 m2, but heated and with a sink, over one twice the size but without the comfort.

    Comment by Goerge — August 1, 2016 @ 11:32 pm

  3. Although summers can be very hot at times, I’m pretty sure that where I live (SK) we have had snow every month except July. And I don’t have a well-fed cow handy.

    Here’s to making stuff where you are.

    Comment by Doug — August 9, 2016 @ 9:17 am

    • Ya I’ve seen snow in every month here multiple times, I will admit you win for colder winters. But hey! At least we’re not in Winnipeg!

      Comment by fairwoodworking — August 9, 2016 @ 12:48 pm

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