Workshop Tidy Up!

It’s one of my favourite times. Working through last week’s filming I ended up with a bout of conjunctivitis – both eyes bright red. With a week of very blurry vision I couldn’t really present so I took an enforced break resting my eyes as much as I could over five days. This week we finished filming the series and that left me trying to tie up loose ends and catch up; if there ever is such a thing of course then I did it. Today was really my bigger clean-up day where I put things away, cut up, put up and shut up. With no one there I talk to myself and of course I make great progress without any arguments. Some things I’d decided ahead to put away out of prime positioning. The lathe was one thing. I don’t use it that much for it to occupy a permanent worktop I can be in use of.

As I swept and vacuumed I realised how blessed I was to have a workshop like mine. It’s tailored you see. Made to fit. Few people come to it but hundreds of thousands of people see me in it each month so over the past year that’s millions. Order is important to me but not to please others or those watching. Order brings with it saneness and I can make good sense when I put my things in order. I love putting things away after a project’s filmed. It brings such delight to lift things from my benchtop that I kept there for continuity issues with the filming. Chisels duly sharpened and put in the chisel tray, planes too, positioned and ready to go next week. Before we took on filming the projects I simply stayed on top of clean up and swept fairly frequently. Sweeping is never dead time for me, it’s time when I want a break to think but can continue with non-thinking work. I often need to work through issues that need concentration and feel better if I can still keep active. Sweeping and putting away needs little interactive thought so it frees me up to tackle the joinery in my head, or the sequence of the next phase.

The garden benches came together wonderfully. Draw-bore joinery pulled up the mortise and tenons in rapid succession and we will be walking everyone through that as they follow the series. Each of the joints closed up neatly on the tenon shoulder lines. I love seeing the peg bend as it negotiates the offset holes through mortise and tenon.

I like both of the garden benches, the pine version and the oak one equally. They feel identical because apart from the woods they are. It’s neat making two, the prototype and the final version in the two different woods. Not only do I get the experience of the woods but also see how the method of draw-bore affects the work. Placing them side by side, seeing everyone sitting on them in the garage workshop, gave me such a pleasure.

Hannah’s tool chest wood came from Surrey Timbers.

This week I will plan the new project and get my wood together. Every so often I get cabin fever and have to go look at wood. It’s always fun to go in search of something unique and I am glad to have found Surrey Timbers.

They are good people to deal with and I love spending an hour or two there. You can pick through their ‘shorts’ bins and racks and stacks to buy exactly what you need or want and then buy full lengths too. They sell rough sawn or planed and will cut to size for you too. In addition, the staff there care enough to make their wood accessible online so if you are too far away for a visit you can simply buy from them online.


  1. Glad to hear that you are feeling better. I also spent a few hours tidying up, sharpening and having a conversation with myself.

  2. I love Hannah’s tool box. Paul I don’t suppose you would like to do a video of Hannah’s tool box and you both build it. Master and student working together. That would be pretty awesome. Just a thought.

    1. I second that idea. One of the recurring themes in the comments on your teaching videos is how valuable people find it when things don’t go according to plan. I think it would be great to see a student being helped to work out what to do when things go wrong. After 50+ years you simply don’t make enough mistakes Paul! Mind you looking at pictures of Hannah’s work I’m not convinced she will make enough mistakes either…

      1. It’s not going to happen though. I understand comments like these but that is not what my apprentices and students are here for.

    2. No. It’s not the reason my apprentices are here and they have their own private workspace; it’s not mine.

  3. I had a feeling you may have been under the weather. You are such a prolific writer and hard worker and I noticed a break in the action. Checking your blog has become a part of my morning routine along with reading the daily news. I always find your writing of interest and insightful.

    Coincidentally, I cleaned my shop yesterday. Cleaning my vice, organizing, vacuuming and finding a home for the pile of off cuts. Those off cuts make me a little nuts, can’t seem to toss them!

  4. I’m sorry to hear that you haven’t been well. I hope things are better now. I often think that in your age there are many people retired. It’s not your case, because of the passion that keeps you alive. So keep it up. Bye. Giorgio.

  5. Hello Paul,

    I’m trying to plan an outside workshop built of wood. What are the dimensions of your workshop?

  6. Paul, I wish you a speedy recovery from your conjunctivitis having shared that uncomfortable experience several times. Our eyes are also our tools and deserve the utmost care while woodworking. Even with Handtool woodworking, there is some fine dust that becomes airborne that we do not normally see and can affect our eyes and airways. The first item I always put on upon entering my workshop is my safety glasses and I just cringe when I see anyone using any tool without wearing some type of eye protection. Before I retired, my eyes were my livelihood as a pathologist looking through a microscope daily, so I have always protected mine. You always do the same protecting your eyes and advise the same, but sometimes that sneaky dust gets to our eyes anyway.
    Thank you for the all that you teach us.
    Michael O.
    Alabama, USA

  7. Conjunctivitis, that was my downfall in High School composition!
    Seriously 8 years ago I woke up with blurry vision on a Thursday morning. I thought I slept on it funny, two and three days went past and it got worse. Went to the doctor on Monday morning and he sent me to an eye doctor who sent me to a visioretinal surgeon. Turns out I had a veinal occlusion, a fancy name for a stroke in my eye. It deformed my retinal area and now i have no vision in the upper right eye.
    If you wake up with blurry vision and it doesn’t go away see a doctor asap. I miss my 2020 vision.
    Michael O. you are so right they are the most precious of tools in our box.
    Speaking of boxes, Hannah your tool box is great. As a carpenter with 40 years experience I wish I could make something that nice!!!!!!!
    Don Hummer Brainerd mn.

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