From Chaos With Love.

My workshop is my sanctuary. Its slightly dusty atmosphere is where I go to breathe. Where the feel of my tools in my hands is the pathway to feeling re-centered. Anxiety, anger, pensive thoughts, ennui. The workshop is my prescription for all that ails.

There is a distinct mindset that leads to good work at the bench and it doesn't start in these dark places, but the shop helps turn off these bad factors and switch on worthwhile ones. Reminds me of what I am, or can be. In the middle time, during the transition, I often head into battle with chaos.

I have a tendency to try and box the concept of a year into the categories of good or bad. Though I know a year (and a week, a hour, a minute, and so on) is a human construct arbitrarily dividing infinity, I still hold magical thinking that the turn of a new year can reset the karmic switchboard from the previous.

2017 has been a roller coaster year and I'm calling it a karmic draw.

But through it all I have my siege proof fortress. It's there for me when I'm ready and it waits patiently (more patiently than me) when I'm not. The only thing it asks of me is to help hold the line in the battle against chaos.

When I used to read and participate in woodworking forums one of my favorite subjects was shop tours. There is a special pleasure, something I'm certain only the German language has a word for, that comes from looking into another's Sanctum Sanctorum. But there was often something off-putting, off-balance, off.

Many photos I saw were spur of the moment, purported to show the rest of us a real shop, no fancying up cleaning, no staging, no care taken. The concept is to show a shop where work gets done, but there are piles of chaos everywhere. Arioch reins. It's the chaos of my dad's shop in my childhood, where there was barely time to fix or build what needed doing, but not usually enough time to clean up afterwards, with the additional help of my brother and I recklessly rummaging through for whatever we thought we needed.

I can't abide the chaos. It doesn't work for me and I don't understand how it works for anyone. I don't have to work in a pristine fantasy. Items get set out and used until I'm done. But I will often do a complete clean up at the inbetween points of a build.

All or most of the squaring and thicknessing is complete . . . clean up and put away almost all the tools I used and sweep the shop.

All the major carcass joinery is cut . . . clean up and put away almost all the tools I used and sweep the shop.

Main carcass is glued up . . .  clean up and put away almost all the tools I used and sweep the shop.

Hardware is fit . . . clean up and put away almost all the tools I used and sweep the shop.

Do you see a pattern?

This also includes problem solving moments. Something unexpected results from the joinery choices I made. Something isn't fitting the way it should. I forgot a step in my haste to glue up the carcass and now have to retrofit something. Opportunities for problem solving.

Instead of severing one more wood fiber I will often clean up and put away almost all the tools I used and sweep the shop. Usually by the time I'm done I've solved the problem and I've held the chaos at bay. I've kept up my end of the bargain.

In the end I don't care how you like your shop anymore than I care how you like your steak cooked. It's none of my business and I don't judge. I've come to an agreement with my shop and as long as it upholds it's end of the bargain, so will I.

Ratione et Passionis


  1. Much better to come to a karmic draw than a karmic loss. From my point of view, I think you are well beyond the lows and should consider the year a big win.

    Gotta go sweep the shop floor...

  2. Well put as always. My work area always appears "busy", but there are almost never any tools or supplies laid out that are not needed for the process going on. I don't have the square footage for my shop to be uncluttered and roomy. It has been a hell of a year our way and as you say, even an artificial restart is better than nothing. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from our house to yours!

  3. I too tend to tidy things up between operations. It is mostly to maintain my sanity amidst all the clutter that could unfold. I save the "real" cleanup for later in a build. People wander into my workshop and often ask why it's so clean and tidy. To this day I don't have a good answer, lately I've been saying it is because I make videos and photoshoots of the buil processes... there is truth to


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