Why should you take away from your precious woodworking time to clean the shop? The obvious answer is safety. Woodworking is much safer without a lot of clutter and piles of saw dust everywhere. There is another reason and in some ways it’s just as important as having a clean, safe place to work.
A few years ago, I was working in a cabinet shop building store fixtures for a large retailer. Three months had passed since I had been promoted to Journeyman Cabinetmaker. Times were good, we were working 10 hour shifts, six days a week and there was no indication that the work would be letting up any time soon. It was a Friday near the end of the shift when we were cleaning up as we did every day. The superintendent came strolling through the shop as he often did, chatting with the guys and checking out the work that had been accomplished that day. Warren was a pleasant guy whose laid back demeanor made him easy to talk to and quite often he had a funny story to tell or a little tidbit of news about some upcoming work.
For quite some time I had been wanting to ask Warren why we had to spend so much time cleaning when we would just mess it up the next morning. I had decided that this was the day that I was going to put on my new journeyman’s hat and quiz him as to why we needed to go through the cleaning chore each and everyday. As I was cleaning around my bench, keeping an eye out for Warren and thinking about how I was going to approach the subject, I could feel the butterflies starting in my stomach. Cleaning the shop was a hard and fast rule and I was going to question it. Is this a good idea? Could I end up cleaning out the dust bin every day for the entire winter? As he approached my bench I could feel my face starting to flush and it must have showed because he started the conversation with “So Keith, what’s on your mind?” Well, I said, pausing for a moment while trying to decide if I was going to question a shop rule, I was wondering why we spend time cleaning the shop every night when we would just mess it up again the next morning? With a slight smile and a firm tone he offered a simple explanation. When you start your day with a clean and organized work shop, it is much easier to get started. It makes it too easy to put off getting started if you start your day by looking for tools or clearing off your work bench. Then he stated that walking into a shop that is clean gives you a fresh start for the day.
Having to follow these rules for many years, the cleaning aspect has become habit for me and it’s true when I work late and don’t clean at the end of the day, I am slower to get going the next morning. From a business standpoint this is easy to understand but what about the hobbiest? I think that it is just as important for the hobbiest because your woodworking time is limited. If you start with a clean work area, you are able to get more enjoyment from your woodworking.
Try cleaning up when you are done for the day and I think you will agree that starting out with a clean shop is best and it entices you to get back at that project.
-- Keith, Charlotte, MI www.julyswoodworks.com