Every Precious Little Thing

Not every project requires the precious precision of the persnickety.

I started woodworking in the late '90's, a carry over from buying a house and teaching myself to do some home DIY renovations. A little over a year later, after the passing of my wife's grandmother, I was told I could take whatever I wanted from her grandpa Setles's tool collection. (He had passed away several years before)

Anything I didn't take was to be sold at auction and so I grabbed many things, whether I knew how to use them or not.

Setles was not a woodworker, he was a tinkerer, a fixer, and a maker. The tools spanned from automotive to woodworking to blacksmithing. Tools weren't super precious or overly cared for, they were used and used hard and if they broke, you saved them to scavenge the parts from to fix something else. The man never threw away a screw or bolt if he didn't need to. and if he needed a shelf to store things on he didn't head down to Pier One Imports and buy one. He tore apart a pallet he picked up for free and built one.

One wall of his shop was lined with these pallet wood shelves. The wood still rough sawn and raw with no finish or paint save what was spilled or splattered. (There must have been a hell of an accident with some light green paint at one point, it was splattered around like a Jackson Pollack, including spots on a lot of the tools.) The shelves were well built. dovetailed corners and dadoed shelves.

I knew enough about woodworking to think I could pick out the mistakes he made. The big one I saw was the dovetailed corners were oriented wrong if you consider a hanging shelf. Set to hold the sides instead of resisting the forces of gravity.

A little while ago I decided I needed a shelf in the winter shop and I thought fondly about the shelves in Setles's garage. The spirit of Furniture Of Necessity. (Can't wait for Chris's upcoming book) With no collection of old pallets to draw from (they don't make those like they used to either) I picked up a couple standard grade pine 1x8 boards and proceeded to knock out the shelf in a quick evening in the shop.

Complete with dovetails facing the "wrong" direction and reinforced with wire finishing nails.

I shot some time lapse of the first half of the evening.

I owe Setles and his mismatch tool collection a huge debt. In the car full of tools I carted home was the saws and #5 Stanley that got me thinking "You know, I should figure out how to use those things." It took me a few years of looking at them to make that decision but look where I am now!

Now I have to decide whether to Jackson Pollack the shelf with paint of let that happen organically.

Ratione et Passionis


  1. There are a lot of opportunities to get into things like woodworking (acquisition of tools is one) but you also have to be at the right point in your way of thinking before it really takes hold. Years ago when I first started, I unfortunately didn't have the patience.

    1. Up to that point I was dead set on turning myself into the next Norm Abrahms. But I'd catch myself spending time staring at the big D7 Rip saw hanging on the peg board. There were other factors but having some of the tools there to experiment with already was definitely key.


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