Ruminations, Philosophy, and Workshop Antics.......... #23: House without a soul. …or how I brought purpose, and creativity to a lifeless home.

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Blog entry by Jim Bertelson posted 05-08-2011 06:36 PM 2113 reads 0 times favorited 20 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 22: Don't clean up those old tools, you are removing their value! It's all about...PATINA! Part 23 of Ruminations, Philosophy, and Workshop Antics.......... series Part 24: in simple things.......drivin' steel.....feelin' like John Henry! »

I don’t know about the rest of you LJ’s, but I walk into my shop and it’s like putting on an old pair of slippers…….a real old pair, 26 years old to be exact. I know where everything is, and probably could literally find anything I need in the dark. Don’t want to be in the dark……..although sometimes I really am clueless…..but, you know what I mean.

Sure, my shop is changing from its plebian DIYer origins, and mutating into a woodworking shop. But that redefinition isn’t a far stretch, most of the basics, big saws and all, were there.

But to make another point, it isn’t just that the old shop is so familiar, that it allows me to rapidly make small projects within hours, frequently without a trip to the store for wood or fasteners or finish…………..

The real point is………the shop EXISTS.

So, I have a new vacation home.

No, not a furnished condo complete with groundskeeper, housekeeping, swimming pool, golf course. No. Not me.

Sherie and I have a 16 year old fashionable two story house perched on a hill in a small town of 839 people in northern Washington. This town is filled with Victorian homes and artsy shops…..and good restaurants.

The house has outdoor decks, balconies, and railings, all of which require maintenance. There is a two car garage with a shallow alcove off to one side…empty. The garage is in the house, under the bedrooms.

I can tell. One sniff, a casual glance. Only one pair of electrical sockets. Lousy lighting. Clean naked walls. No nail holes, not even patched blemishes. Shiny spotless floor. This soulless house, exists in La Conner, Washington.

But where the heart of the home should be, there is only an epoxy painted floor… unblemished, clean, dimly lit.

Silence. Sterile.

If this house was alive, the detritus of its existence would be evident

…the place with be alive with the aroma of creation, casting a dull haze on the household and permeating the carpets and the air. You might detect a hint of pine resin, perhaps the subtle scent of oak, a wincing whiff of burnt wood might waft by…….perchance the rancid smell of linseed oil.

But the clincher, the centerpiece of my evidence, with this I rest my case…

...there is not a hint of ……… SAWDUST

Now I must digress…especially in what has been presented… as a philosophical treatise. And here I…well…really make an excursion, into the mythical battleground of two giants that lay claim to the lighter, perhaps more frivolous, yet artistic spirit of mankind.

There is the woodcraft goliath, and the fiber arts denizen.

I identify most closely with the former. Sherie with the latter. She might say the quilting room, with its sewing machine and table, ironing board, etc. might well be the heart of the home. But I just can’t identify with that. The only odor, perhaps a little formaldehyde, but I can’t really detect even that. Perhaps a little ball of lint somewhere to evidence her activity. I mean how many quilts can you use? Granted she knits some, weaves on occasion, and even spins a little. But surely that quilting room cannot be the heart of this home, that puny motor on that sewing machine can’t even be 1/10th hp…….a 1/10th horsepower home. Come on now! Well, since this is the LJ forum, I surely don’t have to belabor the point. You understand.

End of digression.

So I says, I will energize this home, give it a new heart.


That’s my mantra. Of course, how do you set up a shop…without having a shop?

Shops usually evolve slowly, I think, especially at first. I remember a slow evolution from a small collection of handyman tools to a do-it-yourselfer shop with considerable woodworking capabilities. It took many years, without a specific purpose, just responded to needs with more tools.

But I needed an instant shop in La Conner, because I really can’t even imagine a house without a shop anymore. And when you are setting up a new house, inevitably you have to fix things, hang things, etc.

So here is the garage, now with a pile of tools, but certainly not a shop yet.

Note that I have temporarily placed a couple of lights on the wall, have a slab door on a couple of Stanley saw horses for a workbench, and already have the panel cover off trying to figure out how to add more circuits and plugs.

This house needed some stuff repaired and painted, so I collected some painting supplies, minimal woodworking tools, and an assortment of general purpose tools such as socket wrenches, files, etc.
It needed to be organized, so I got some pegboard and placed some of it on the wall in back of the workbench. Here is a picture of my setup to cut the wood strips to mount the pegboard.

Sure miss my RAS sitting idly at home in Anchorage………(-:

I used some precut ¾ x ½ inch strips, and some ¼ by 1 and 3/8 inch strips, gluing them together in appropriate lengths and positions so that none of the holes in the peg board would be blocked. Thanks to Dave Owen for that idea, although I had to use a different approach because I didn’t have the tools to cut dadoes. This was a little slow, but worked well.

I also added two new circuits of 120 V 20 Amps, and can easily add a 240 V if needed later.

So here it is, the shop as we left La Conner, heading back to Anchorage:

There are a number of cheaper tools, but they will get the job done for now until I find out what this shop will evolve to. Note the cheap Stanley chisels……actually pretty darn sharp off the shelf. I bought those when I found myself looking for a chisel while putting up the pegboard and lights.

A close up of my few power tools. Note that I got a compressor and pin and brad nail guns. That was to make the glue up of my pegboard supports reasonably efficient.

Here is a picture of a novel support for some Quick Change files that use one handle. Made with scrap materials on hand, peg board and some wood strips. I enlarged the peg board holes on the top piece, and countersunk the holes on the bottom piece so that the handles would stand upright. Glued together and spaced properly with some wood strip pieces.

Here is the shop busy at work painting a post cap to replace one missing from one of the balconies.

I bet you can feel that happy shop at work.

I bet you can hear the heart beat of the hand saw and hammers.

Yup, the La Conner house has found its soul, and is now officially alive………..

Alaska Jim – vacationing in La Conner, Washington

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

20 comments so far

View NBeener's profile


4816 posts in 3198 days

#1 posted 05-08-2011 06:50 PM

What a great and thoughtful solution to what I can only imagine was a nagging feeling of mild anxiety.

Welcome home, Jim !!!

Incidentally, I’ve picked up on certain … Napoleonic feelings of inadequacy from my wife’s Bernina sewing machine, too. Odd little creatures, aren’t they (er …. the machines; NOT the ladies) ? ;-)

-- -- Neil

View dbhost's profile


5723 posts in 3256 days

#2 posted 05-08-2011 06:56 PM

At least it had an epoxy painted floor when you got it!

I love the additions. Good electrical, decent amount of peg board, and a fair collection of tools….

I have a scary feeling that this garage will morph into a proper shop as time progresses. You already have a really good start… Enjoy it!

-- Please like and subscribe to my YouTube Channel

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4179 posts in 3188 days

#3 posted 05-08-2011 07:45 PM

Yes, when threatened by the fiber arts denizens, we LJ’s have to band together. Been a busy time since I got home last evening. Changed the tires on my car this morning…......really….....I am getting to old for that. Well, my old one gallon Coleman tire inflator set up is showing its age. Hose is starting to crack, it isn’t coming up to pressure very fast, and I think it leaks somewhere. So it will be set aside and I will buy an inflator setup for the 6 gallon PC pancake compressor. So that means a trip to the store today, best to fix things before you need them. Have to pick up something to make for Mother’s Day dinner, so got an excuse.

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4179 posts in 3188 days

#4 posted 05-08-2011 08:01 PM

David and Neil
Actually most of the tools are OK. I bought a set of small pliers for electrical and small mechanical work, Kobalt, at Lowes, and the darn things were hardly functional. Took it back. Many of the ones I have here in Anchorage are expensive little things bought at specialty electronics stores.

Otherwise, my cheap purchases are doing OK.

Didn’t low ball the power tools, though. I am really liking the Bosch 12V drivers and drill. They are more convenient that my 18V Bosch set here in Anchorage. I decided to try the 12V after reading a review here on LJ’s. My compressor and nail gun setup mostly duplicates my setup here in Anchorage. Not expensive, and very convenient. Got a Rigid compact jig saw and a Rigid Fuego circular saw. The latter was well reviewed here by Gerry the Dane. The jig saw seems to work well also. Nothing fancy with either.

I will need a vise of course, some drawers under the workbench, which I will cover with plywood and edge with oak or some such. The drawers may come from a kitchen remodel planned for later. Oh well, gotta stop spending money for awhile, and go earn it….......

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View lew's profile


12101 posts in 3779 days

#5 posted 05-08-2011 08:05 PM

Ahh, a Lumberjock in the kitchen- can there be any better use if all those cutting, organizing and assembling skills (he says as he takes off his apron)

Looks like the little workshop is off to a very big start, too!


-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4179 posts in 3188 days

#6 posted 05-08-2011 08:15 PM

Thanks Lew. The shop is definitely functional, but of course quite limited. Clamps suffice for a vise, hand saw for the small crosscuts. No sander. But it will get a little bigger over time, but probably not much more this year.

Like David noted, at least it had an epoxy floor when we bought it. Mostly I need a general handyman shop, but thought it would be fun to do some woodwork while there. But that takes a much better shop, so it will have to wait.

Still recovering from changing the tires this morning….....gonna have to rethink that chore, maybe let the experts do it. Good exercise though.

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 3327 days

#7 posted 05-08-2011 09:08 PM

well at least you had your wine in a glass suited for wine..i prob would have had a mug of some type filled with sparkling cider of some kind…since i dont drink…but it sure looks a lot better then when you first got there…yes its alive and now growing…just about 3 days ago i bought a new drill…ion lithium dewalt 18 v….i like it a whole lot…the Milwaukee i have has bad batteries …pretty much from the start..and i just had to fix the problem…there is a 5 year warranty on it that i will explore..but anyway..its always good to have good tools…so your back home and suckin down the java to recover from the time change over…lol…yea jim i think you can afford to let someone else do it ole toughy…...alaskans…always wanting to do it themselves…its in my blood and always will be…glad the trip to washington went well…..did any of the neighbors come over with bread or banana bread as a welcome…grizz

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3139 days

#8 posted 05-08-2011 09:09 PM

uuuh I wish I had to start on a brand new clean room and just had to add shelfs ,charts,
workingbenches and light etc. beside deviding it in different zones and then load all my tools
+ those from the wishlist in to it :-)
you are a lucky man Jim to have the chance to enter such a vergian unspoiled room and transform
it to a mancave of the best :-)

I didn´t knew you are a multi armed monster with six arms using three drills at a time …LOL
don´t come and say you run them out of power quicker than the charger can manage to follow
up with you ….. :-)
I like your little handsaw though :-)
did you remember to meassure the room and make a drawing to take with you to Anchorage
so you can spend alot of evenings planning how you will make your vacationdreamshop …. LOL

take care

View Roger's profile


20928 posts in 2828 days

#9 posted 05-08-2011 10:23 PM

I like your file rack/holder

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed.

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4179 posts in 3188 days

#10 posted 05-08-2011 10:37 PM

All the immediate neighbors, about 5 came by and introduced themselves. Our immediate neighbor lady came over with a pan of cinnamon rolls. They have a little 7 year old girl that took a quick liking to Sherie, Sherie being a child magnet. So Sherie made her some pink pillow cases with pictures of winged fairies on it. The little girls father is the mayor. Next to them, the builder of all the houses. He keeps keys for all the houses on the hill in case there is a problem and they are not at home. We didn’t have a set for him, but he has them now because Sherie left the keys in….........the door. Even after I told her to check her keys as we left. So we called up the builder and he saved the day and has the keys…..........(-:

A charming little town, with nice friendly people.

First purchase was wine glasses….....Sherie did that…........(-:

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4179 posts in 3188 days

#11 posted 05-08-2011 10:52 PM

I am addicted to multple drivers…...a different drill bit or screwdriver tip in each one. At home I have four and get them all going at once on a project…...........(-:

No dimensions for the garage…....I will just dream about it.

The cheap Buck saw performed well, I was surprised. It is hard to do small crosscuts with a circular saw or jig saw. By the time you get it set up you can have the cut made with the hand saw.

I remember my Dad would note one morning at breakfast time that the back door steps would need to be replaced, or the garbage can stand was rotting. The he would come home with some wood, and using a wooden yard stick, a hand saw, hammer and nails, would make the steps or any other project in a flash as though he did it for a living (he worked as the bookkeeper/credit manager for a small town company). Whatever he did seemed to last forever and always looked perfect. I think kids raised in small farming communities in Minnesota in the early 1900’s were well versed in the industrial arts…....

We couldn’t afford a power mower, and the hand mower was not working well. When we bought a new washing machine, he took the motor and made an electric lawn mower completely from wood, some wagon wheels, and a replacement mower blade. My brother and I used that strange mower for many years. We liked it because you could tip it and use the blade to dig out dandelions….......(-:

That was a different time, the 1940’s and 50’s….........

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4179 posts in 3188 days

#12 posted 05-08-2011 10:53 PM

Truly a make-do item using the scrap stuff on hand. I suspect it will last for years and be in steady use. I will finish it with paint or something when I get a little time….........

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View Tim Dahn's profile

Tim Dahn

1567 posts in 3589 days

#13 posted 05-08-2011 11:23 PM

Quick setup in the shop Jim, never mind that pristine unmarred floor, a new power tool will lay a nice thin coating of dust and everything will be fine. Seems like a super nice vacation town.

-- Good judgement comes from experience and experience comes from poor judgement.

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4179 posts in 3188 days

#14 posted 05-09-2011 12:01 AM

The next picture of the La Conner shop will have an open beer, with the opener along side of it. I sent you a PM. Thanks for viewing. The advantage of having a shop there, is that I will have little incentive to get carried away with the shop, and I will be relaxed.

It should be especially fun to piddle around with little things, perhaps carving, etc. I have a Dremel set up and some beginning knives for carving. I may take those down there, instead of keeping them here. Not sure yet.

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 4323 days

#15 posted 05-10-2011 02:07 PM

Hi Jim!
I think you’re off to a great start with your new vacation shop.

I looked at your community on Google earth, and it looks like you found an ideal location.

It looks like a very clean looking town, and the surrounding countryside looks really beautiful.

I’m sure you, and Sherie will enjoy this place. Barb is just like Sherie, the neighbor kids are

always coming over and asking for Barb to come out and play with them. They call her Barb,

and they call me Mr. Cain.

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN.

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