Yep! I love it!
What would I change at the end of eight months here? Not a thing. I’ve set up enough workshops in my time to know what I want and what I want is what I need and nothing more. In times past I needed to expand to accommodate additional people to work with me, especially when on production with a line of designs. Add into that my wanting to hold classes in the same facility and the issue adds more complexities. It seems a little incongruous some times when most measure success by some an ever increasing corporate structure. You know, a big building filled with people. I come along and find peace in downsizing to a garage. It’s also funny that on the one hand it has led to me reaching more people than ever from the smallest workshop I have had in decades.
This garage workshop has taken me back to my roots. I should tell you that, at one time, when I started my first proper school as a teaching facility, the workshop floor area was 40 feet wide by 80 feet long. One half of it was walled off in glass for a full machine shop. The other half was a 20-bench-place hand tool workshop for both the craftsmen and the students. That, I see now, was a mere stepping stone. It was where I learned about the needs of those new top woodworking and those machinist types looking for more highly skilled work and knowledge to improve themselves. In those days I taught machining courses too but you can learn all you need about machining in a day. What students wanted was all of the internalised knowledge I had about hand tools. It became my training ground to learn how and what to teach to help hundreds and thousands to become woodworkers following a lifestyle inclusion like me. The complexities of a full scale workshop with staff, customer demand, sales and so on can be a real headache if that’s not what you want. My preference was make one piece and sell one piece. That leads to individual peace.
My garage space now, and, yes, combined with modern technologies, means I am able to both return to my roots of 50 years ago in my first garage workshop next to my house and also reach many a thousands around the world. Teaching them my craft means preserving everything that I have lived by for five decades. How amazing the two worlds. That early workshop was about as close to the same size as my present garage/teaching workshop as I could be and I remember designing and making my first home workbench in it on my hands and knees (with a Black and Decker workmate, the blue one with thicker metal than today’s version) just as we did a few short months ago for our YouTube series. I owned a three wheel bandsaw that gave me a much deeper depth of cut but was a beast to set up and balance out; bit like riding an adult three-wheeler cycle when you are used to a two wheeler. My neighbours weren’t too happy with me chipping away and in those days I did use a couple of machines and a router too. But came the day when they needed a new door or some other piece making and I obliged them with a quality turn out. Eventually they accepted me as this working-class lad from social housing climbing up in to a new world. It still wasn’t easy though, but the USA really helped me with that too.
My new garage space really fits me. By that I mean it suits me. Just thinking about it when I am not there lifts my spirits every time and when I encounter difficult times I walk inside it and I somehow arrive at pure peace. It is a one-man space with the possibility for a second person. O
n the other side of the garage door is Hannah’s workbench and workspace, which is about 10 feet by 10 feet, my second bench for general building maintenance on the bigger building, experimentation, trialling and such and then three more workbenches where Izzy and others develop projects for Common Woodworking are all out there too. That’s a different zone with a different purpose. Izzy makes the exercise projects like the tool tote, chisel tray and wall shelf and such. I must say that commonwoodworking.com is moving along and growing at a steady pace and I am glad we are addressing the need for those new to woodworking. It’s working.
When I say my garage space works for me I mean that it is of modest size and economic functionality. I don’t have to move too far to build my pieces and even sizeable projects seem to come together just fine. MY next project is a sizeable one and it includes using the bandsaw for about half a day. I have already built the prototype and you will love this radically different project. We will shoot the whole project differently and we will enjoy seeing your reaction to the making and the project itself.
What I have enjoyed with this garage space over any other is just taking my time a bit more than with the previous ones and then customising the innards thoughtfully—even to the point of creating working drawings for things too. In the past the demands of providing for a family with four boys still at home meant setting up ASAP and getting into production. The garage shelving in my background is no more and no less than I want. I have little passage area with storage to take the extra gear I need because of making the videos work. I cannot just nip out for that extra special brass screw or hook or fastening when we have three people hinged to a camera set up. I carry a pretty varied stock. I also carry more wood beyond my garage space because again I need to have a selection in so that nothing is held up. In some ways the garage represents exactly how I am in my woodworking and reflects some of my happiest days fro half a decade ago. today it is how I want to work for the rest of my life. It’s real, unintrusive, simple and clean. I love it.Will I add other machines like power planers and tablesaws? No. That’s all past. I have worked out exactly what areas of woodworking I love the most. I will never go back to what was offered with a full machine shop as part of my production. Even with filming, were I to sell what I can make in a week with my bandsaw and hand tools I can make a very good living. Enough to provide for a family of six people. I believe that, but I do understand that others might not or might not have that as an ambition at all.