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Closing the Shop Doors

My Texas Hill Country workshop on the Willow City Loop north of Fredericksburg.

No matter where my workshop has been, grandiose castles and my own homestead workshops by my homes in Texas from the 80s through and well into the new millennia, there are few things that compare with putting out the shop lights, taking a last look inside, and catching a silhouetted glimpse as the last light caught the frame of something you just made. Your tools are in a row, bench swept off and the shavings are bagged ready for the chickens. The door wafts a few mischievous shavings in and out and the key somehow seals them with safeness. On the one hand there’s a reluctance to go. Another half hour would have done it. But then there are other things, not many, equally important.

You head for home and reflect on all that you worked through, recall how many times you sharpened up, remember the need to fix this or that sliver that broke off before you knew it. But your tools are in good order and the workpiece is settled.The best part of the day is the feeling you get when you did what you love doing to the best of your ability. “If you could bottle that, now there you’d have something wouldn’t you.”

My Penrhyn Castle workshop in Bangor, North Wales

Satisfaction is one thing, job satisfaction another. The new building will suit me well. Already I believe my vision is fast becoming a reality. I look back on my former workshops and think to myself, “What a Wonderfull World.” In the past I rarely took photographs of myself or my workplace. Few of my pieces were recorded that way. When you have a wholesome life filled with energy you don’t need imagery and you don’t need to prove anything to anyone. That’s why I feel such opposition to reporters and magazines I suppose. Few have the real gift to be able to encompass a man’s life working his craft. My life has been both rewarding and fulfilling. I say a man’s life because I only know from my own perspective.

My tools and my work are all the safer for being in the new building. Soon I will unwrap and unpack them. I have shelves to build and cupboards too. As I wander through the building I start sensing where things will go. I have a new office for the first time. I’ve never really had one before. I’m not sure how much I will use it as I like being with everyone in the day to day. I try to imagine myself in a peaceful place and then I feel more selfish. But there are times when I need a little quiet, so we put this into the mix.

I remember every workshop from sheds to garages and to castles and remember these are the places I grew up. Difficult character-building projects now make me laugh when once they might have brought a tear.

13 Comments

  1. Jens on 5 April 2018 at 9:12 pm

    Thoughtfulness that everyone can understand, don’t we all feel the same way too from time to time? It also makes me think, that we all ought to take more photographs of our workplaces. Our memory is still sharp, but ain’t it funny how time slips away and how you only see a blurred picture of the rooms you spent so many hours in and the dear colleges that were such an important part of our lives…



  2. CHUCK BROWN on 5 April 2018 at 9:12 pm

    quite the wordsmith,,i have felt this way for years. I tell my wife that it’s hard to describe the feeling of seeing a completed project. Sometimes i make a toothpick out of a long just to make sawdust and smell the wood.



    • Hugo on 6 April 2018 at 12:02 pm

      I agree so much…. I need to make something every day, at least a shaving, despite my small abilities …. it’s my wait out .
      Cheers



  3. John W on 6 April 2018 at 11:19 am

    Aah, that explains the accent. I didn’t realize you were from Texas. 😉

    Thank you as always for your wonderful blog. I get to start my work day reading your excellent writing and insights.



    • Paul Sellers on 6 April 2018 at 12:02 pm

      No, I’m not from Texas. As the saying in Texas goes, “I’m not from Texas, but I got here as a fast as I could.” Texas was my second home from 1987 through 2009. I’m half English half Belgian, though born in England.



      • Jan Becaus on 6 April 2018 at 2:41 pm

        So proud you are half Belgian, Paul. Half Flemish, or half Walloon?



        • Paul Sellers on 6 April 2018 at 4:57 pm

          My bio family is from Ghent and so all spoke Flemish and French.



          • Jan Becaus on 7 April 2018 at 2:27 pm

            Then we have the same roots because I am from Ghent too.



          • Paul Sellers on 7 April 2018 at 5:17 pm

            My Belgian family name is French, Picha Decroix. I think my family from that side was from both Ghent and the Sluice of Ghent or Sas van Ghent. Mostly the family business was granite flooring for churches and cathedrals–bourgeois I think.



  4. Chris Finley on 6 April 2018 at 3:00 pm

    Hi Paul,

    I’d, and I’m others too, be interested in seeing some of your projects over time. Something like a timeline i suppose.

    Thanks for all you do and keep up the great work !!



  5. Larry Lumley on 6 April 2018 at 9:12 pm

    Hi Paul, I get what you mean I used to be the first in the mornings and last out in the evenings both times felt special as you say, going through the day looking at what’s been built, tools been put away floors swept ready for the next day.
    I still do it now in my garage workshop I still pop in to it to have a last look before l settle down for the evening.
    Regards Larry.



  6. David on 9 April 2018 at 2:36 pm

    There is poetry in the simplest of things in life and this piece is a fine example. It strikes such a strong chord. Thank you.



  7. Dale Griggs on 9 April 2018 at 3:22 pm

    Paul,
    Just last evening about 9:30 pm I went to flip the last light switch by the door of my very small shop. For many years I had worked at a less than adequate bench. For as many years I invisioned building the “ultimate” bench. You know, the super Roubo, split top made with massive exotic woods and a finish so pristine you would hesitate to lay a tool on?
    After viewing your workbench series I have, for the last six weeks, been following your example and crafting a true “work” bench. The floor of my shop is not as stable as I would like but it’s what I have at present so I decided on a bit beefier frame with 6×6 legs and a laminated top five inches thick. All materials of Douglas fir. I didn’t opt for a tool well as of necessity it must go against the back of the shop and all of my hand tools are arranged on the wall above the 40 inch high top. All organized and within easy reach.
    To get to my point, just before I shut down the shop I had applied the final coat of shellac. Again probably not the best finish for a bench according to the pundits but it’s what I had and easily refurbished. As I reached for the light my gaze fell on the finally completed project and an intense feeling of satisfaction overwhelmed me as I viewed the through draw-mortises and tenon joints I used to construct the leg frames and the large single dovetails I fastened the face boards with. This morning as I arose I could hardly wait to get to the shop to begin scuffing it up with my next project.
    Thank You for the inspiration!
    Dale



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