Woodworking Wednesdays: What Are We Doing Now?

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 12.06% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

Every Wednesday for the past few months, my friend Eric and I have gone out to my garage and honed our woodworking skills.  First we built an inset bookcase for Eric’s house, then a firewood box, then a smaller bookcase, and last night we finally finished the drop-down workbenches we’ll need to refit my garage.  WITNESS ME!

Last night, two things happened that really made me feel like we’d levelled up:
First, we had a problem with the chopsaw – the motor seemed to be going, because it kept whirring for minutes after we stopped the saw, and couldn’t bite through the wood.  We got out the manual and started looking, and I properly diagnosed the problem before we got at the internals.
Seriously, me actually troubleshooting a power tool is major biz, folks.  (For the record, the arbor nut holding the saw tight had loosened, so it was spinning semi-freely upon the motor.)
But more importantly, we started working in parallel.  Eric and I are choosing projects to hone our skills – first a screw-together bookcase, then a firewood box with some angled cuts, then a (small) bookcase that involved routing and dado shelves, and finally this drop-down shelf, which involved using the Kreg jig and applying hinges.
Until last night, basically, if one of us was doing something, both of us were doing it.  If Eric was measuring a piece of lumber, I waited patiently, watching Eric to try to determine why he’s so damn good at measuring accurately.  (He has exceptional spatial skills;  I have very sub-par spatial skills.)  If I was using the router, Eric was watching me use the router, scrutinizing my technique to see how we could improve it.  (And in case you’re curious, Eric has written up his side of events over at The Pastry Box.)
But last night, we’d already built the left half of the table, and we knew all the skills involved. So after a while of watching Eric put up the pegboard – a job where there wasn’t room for two people to help, really – I said Why the hell am I waiting around, anyway? There are boards that need to be cut. So while he put up the pegboard, I chopped the shims and the 2x4s down to size.
Essentially, we’d gotten comfortable enough with the work that we could accomplish separate tasks, him handing off to me, me to him.  That will doubtlessly change on the next project, when we try something different – man, I wanna try dovetail joints – but it points at a larger effort, where eventually we’re both skilled enough to work as a team as opposed to one guy alternately learning from the other.
And it’s exciting, transforming the garage.  Eric and I decided that it would be a shame if we only did this during Cleveland’s highly-limited run of good weather, so we’re making the garage into a fully-kitted tool shop – a place where we have shelves to hold the tools and lumber, racks for Gini’s bikes, and enough room in the center that we can park the car.  It’s not just woodworking, but carpentry we’re also learning –
– And it doesn’t stop, as Eric’s family came over for my birthday brunch last Sunday and Eric and I went out to the garage and, completely without meaning to, spent an hour tracing wires to determine that yeah, we could probably extend from that overhead lamp socket to create another power outlet, and now I’ll probably be buying a book on wiring this afternoon.
There’s learning new skills, yes, but part of what I find exciting is discovering how malleable the world is now.  Before, when I’d condemned myself to being “not handy,” the garage was this immutable object – it came with crappy shelves and lights that didn’t work, and I couldn’t afford to hire a guy to do it all.
Now?  The garage is a toybox, ready to be changed for our convenience.  Oh, it’ll take some work, of course, and some planning, and God, another run to Lowes, really? – but in the end, with some elbow grease and a bit of consulting with each other, we can pretty much do anything with this space.
Or any space, really.  Eric’s wife is mentioning some work she needs done around the house. I keep looking at my house and going, “Wow, there’s no light in this ceiling – but you know, we could probably fix that.”  The bathroom is a major expenditure, but now I’m starting to do the foolish guy thing and go, “Huh, I wonder how much effort it WOULD be to replace the bathtub.”
All I need is a friend to work with. It’s good to have a friend to work with.
(EDIT: And because I forgot to post this this morning like I’d set up to, have some photos taken of the workbench in daylight:)
Woodworking Wednesdays: the double drop-down workbench.
Woodworking Wednesdays: the double drop-down workbench.


  1. Brandon
    Jul 9, 2015

    Congratulations on the level up. I’m excited for you to try dovetails, because it’s perhaps my favorite skillset to have developed. Are you going to be trying out hand tools as well, or just sticking with power?

  2. Angie
    Jul 10, 2015

    Hey, very cool on the woodworking. My grandfather was into that, and built a lot of awesome stuff before he passed away. He made me a wall unit with bookcases, cupboards down below, and a drop-down desk with a bunch of pigeonholes behind it. I used to be pretty good at woodworking (for a kid) but haven’t really done anything as an adult. You make me want to try to get back into it.
    That said, I’m going to be a bit of a wet blanket now. Carpentry is one thing, but electrical is very much another. If you screw up a bookcase, it might end up breaking and dumping your books on the floor. If you screw up electrical, it might end up shorting and burning your house down, possibly with your family in it. There’s a huge difference here. One is a great pastime for an amateur, and the other is very much not. Please, please, think about the electrical. Or at the very least, be incredibly careful. 🙁

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