Thursday, March 11, 2010

My Workshop - Part 1

This has been a hard winter. With all of the snow, the rain, and the cold I have not been able to get into my workshop to work for months. My workshop is outside of my house in what was once the garage.

When we got married we intended to move right into a house, but the house market and the interest rates on mortgages at that time - this is over thirty years ago - was not going to allow that to happen. We moved into an apartment and stayed in that apartment for ten years before we found "our" house.

While we were in the apartment there was no way that I could have a workshop. The neighbors upstairs and to the side of us were unhappy enough that we are "night people" and stay up beyond the hours that most do. It is not that we make a lot of noise, but the television is kept on and the walls are not what they could be. This was an apartment complex that did not permit children, but the people upstairs eventually had a baby and we used to hear, through the ceiling, the little guy in one of those little walkers on wheels scoot from one side of the room to the other. As he got bigger they had to move out of their three rooms and then there was no more scooting upstairs - not that we minded. It was kind of funny following the little guy's movements back and forth. Anyway - no workshop in the apartment. We were doing craft shows back then - with our inventory stored in the living room. My wonderful wife was doing most of the work with her MA Bears (tm), quilted pillows, and baby quilts. I was doing small handwork - but it really was not satisfying my need to create. I took up gourmet-style cooking and would put my creative energies into the kitchen. It impressed a lot of relatives and friends. I could not wait to get into a house.

Back in those days, before there were infomercials and home shopping networks on television, there would be info presentations in the shopping malls. Companies trying to sell a gadget would have a representative set up on a stage in the center of a mall, gather a crowd, and put on a "show" to let you know how wonderful this gadget was and why you absolutely needed to have it. I bought my first punch needle set at one of those presentations. Never then did I think that it eventually would become a business for me designing patterns at Pop Goes the Needle. But what would really get my attention was the ShopSmith man. He would come to the mall to show off the invention of the century - a complete woodworking shop in one machine. The ShopSmith company is still around but the pitchmen at the malls are long gone. I just loved going to one of those demonstrations. To lure you there they gave away hardcover books about woodworking that were, of course, all about the ShopSmith, but applied to any woodworking equipment and were full of techniques. IF I could not do it, I could at least read about it. Well, the ShopSmith man would make it all look so easy. This is a LARGE shop tool - maybe six or more feet long - and heavy ("but look how easy it is to move around on wheels!"). What always got me was when he set up the machine - it converts to five different tools - to become the lathe! A lathe was a tool that none of us in junior high school (what is now called middle school) industrial arts woodworking class were allowed to touch. It was TOO dangerous we were told for the likes of us. I always wanted to try a lathe. I would watch in fascination as the ShopSmith man would cut away at that spinning block of wood and produce - a dowel! Amazing! Even the cabriolet leg that he could make on the machine converted to a bandsaw in just five cuts of a piece of wood was as exciting. In seeing my enticement, he always said directly to me - take one home with you tonight and you can be doing this tomorrow! No, I live in three rooms with very close neighbors and thin walls. I don't think that they will like me converting the living room to a woodshop and making noise on a ShopSmith. No, I just had to wait.

Eventually we found and could pay for a house. Of course, in the ten years that this took houses went from $60,000 to $170,000 and interest rates were over 13% for mortgages by then. But we bought a house that has possibilities. Converting the garage came a while later. I first filled the basement with small woodworking machinery. This house has half of an unfinished basement and that part consists of the furnace, the heating oil tank, and the washer and dryer - but there is a little space around and in the corners to fit the smallest table saw, band saw, jig saw, radial arm saw, and drill press that I could find. What I had never figured on was some way to catch the dust that I was creating and not only was this a problem for health (which I never realized at the time - after all isn't the smell of fresh cut wood and sawdust wonderful) but also was not a friend to my furnace which was getting clogged. Still no place for the lathe - and I knew that the wood shavings put out by even a small lathe would never be able to be dealt with in the basement. It was time to look elsewhere.

End of PART 1
Next week - Part 2

1 comment:

Clare said...

I loved reading this. I'm currently in an apartment, my guest room also my office and mini-studio. It gives me hope that a home will come!

~ Clare Johnston, Inspiring Handmade Jewelry,