Zen and the Art of Vicious Cycle Maintenance .


I’m embarrassed to admit this is my shop when I walked in this afternoon. It’s bad. It’s really bad.  But worse - it’s not “I have a dozen projects I’m juggling” bad. It’s an “I haven’t really been invested in a project so the place has collected shit on and off for a few years” bad. 

This isn’t even the shittiest pic I could have taken. I’ve saved you the craptastic piles directly stage right.  

In the spring of 2018 I tore the distal biceps on my left arm. I found several other distractions in the 4 months of downtime and rehab. The arm was weaker but it was my off arm so I could deal. 

Almost exactly 2 years later. Spring 2020 I tore my right arm distal biceps.  PT and rehab in the pandemic was much more complicated for many reasons. The arm is weak and still feels weak. 

In the wake of these things - I just haven’t felt at home in the place I’ve always felt so very happy and at home. I’ve lost momentum, gained inertia, gotten in my own way…. Package the bullshit however you want. I just haven’t had the desire to be out here and that bothers me. 

Last week we had some very bad weather coming through. Possible tornados, shearing winds, bad juju all around. We were fortunate to lose a few small branches and nothing more but in anticipation I went to the shop and picked around filling my traditional tool chest with the tools that were supposed to be in there and many of my favorite/valuable tools that hang on nails and pegs around the shop. I basically made my own version of a Benjamin Seaton Tool Chest. A doomsday chest if you will - prepared to be pulled out of the rubble and hauled to the next workshop if the big bad wolf blew this shop over. 

The experience made me think about the shop more in the last week than I have in a long time and I thought about how uncomfortable my neglect made it for me to go in there - which bla bla bla viscous cycle bla bla bla. 

Today I bundled up in my long underwear and went to clean up and put some things away.  I unpacked some things from the chest back into their usual homes I reset up my sharpening station and I made a dent - a very small dent - in the chaos. 

I thought it would make me feel better. It really hasn’t.  It has made me spend the evening rethinking what I want in a shop. 

Hopefully more on this in the near future.  

Thanks for being here. 



  1. I get it man. My shop is definitely worse (it's not a competition, but...) and I've felt so preoccupied with changes in my working life that the craft stuff that used to be hugely fulfilling for me have fallen by the wayside. I'm trying to find ways to chip away at it and get my hands dirty here and there.

  2. Sorry to hear about the injuries and the disordered shop. Something that helps me greatly is a trick I learned from a time management class I took from work. If you have a project you really don't want to do for whatever reason, allocate 20 minutes a day to it. 20 minutes is enough time to get things done. Often, once the 20 minutes are up if you are in the flow, you will continue to work on it. I've used that for woodworking projects if I am doing something I need to do but don't want to. 20 minutes a day. Some days more will get done. Others it's just the 20 minutes. It does however get forward progress. Hope that can help you get the shop back to where you want it to be. Looking forward to hearing about what your new vision will be.

  3. It's good to read a post from you again. Everything you are saying is familiar. I live in Winona and sheltered in the basement during the recent storm. My shop is in the basement and I was dismayed by its state. I too have been neglecting woodworking after tearing my left distal bicep tendon (I am left-handed) in fall 2020. Your post has given me some motivation to spend some time getting back to what I really enjoy doing. Thanks and best wishes

  4. Yo bro, I've been wonderin'... I know that injuries can be both debilitating and paralyzing, but I found that PT focused me on getting back to work. I hope at least you have been pursuing your graphic art. I know I have been re-thinking my projects in the shop; no doing more or less, just doing more different and pursuing the things that *really* interest me.

    I hope to make another visit to the midwest and if I do I'll make sure we get together to break bread, quaff some mead, and make some shavings. Call me some time just to shoot the breeze.

    Blessings to you and your clan



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