Shop & Tool Growing Pains #4: 1.21 GigaWatts!

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Blog entry by pendledad posted 10-26-2012 03:31 PM 1464 reads 0 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 3: Lumberjocks, Sawhorses, and Power Tool Value Trap Part 4 of Shop & Tool Growing Pains series Part 5: Hurricane outside and inside the shop »

So the new main panel went in yesterday, and man is this sucker huge. Here are the before and after shots:



Garage panel:

Seeing this makes me feel like I’m getting ready for some mad scientist experiments. Or maybe a Delorian projects:

On a more serious note, I’ve been astronomically depressed at work over the last couple of months. My company actually has amazing benefits (free health care, great pay, bonuses, etc…) but more and more I seem to be depressed sitting at my desk. I am getting tired of sitting in front of computer screens for 10 hours a day. Taking the train to and from the city. Being too tired to play with the kids for the 20 minutes before their bed time. It all adds up to this:

I’m not happy with what I do for a living.

That said, without this job, I couldn’t afford to purchase tools or upgrade electrical. So I feel even more unhappy because I know I am trapped. In order to afford the hobby, I need to be unhappy and depressed for 40-50+ hrs a week. I know this might sound selfish because there are a lot of unemployed people out there, but I’ve worked extremely hard to get where I am today … and I’m not happy. It just feels like a big disappointment.

I would be dramatically more happy if I could work part time to pay the essentials, then spend the rest of my time in the shop. My work is not professional by any means, but I’ve received orders for my radiator covers simply because of the close knit community we have. They are functional and clean looking, which appealed to a lot of my neighbors and friends. Unfortunately, I have to decline these orders because I simply don’t have the time. I would love to build something on commission … and I’m flattered that someone liked my work enough to want to purchase one.

So I had a talk with my wife about our lifestyles and what we want to do. She is on the same page as me, we’d rather be happy than be wealthy. She is very crafty and as the kids get older and she has more time on her hands while they’re in school, she is going to start expanding her crafts & design projects. She likes to make bows and accessories for our daughter. She is good enough that she can sell the bows through local channels without even trying. Granted there isn’t a ton of money to be made in small bows, but it is very satisfying work for her.

So part time consultants in my field (development, quant finance, modeling) actually earn about double what I make as a full time employee. Granted I have benefits and all that jazz which I need to consider, but I could easily work 20 hrs a week and bring in roughly the same pay as I do now. That would free up all my other time to skill building and working on projects. And if I get orders for some projects, I could tackle them and actually earn money on the side and start to grow a business slowly.

Anyways, sorry for the rant. I feel like I’m having a mid-life crisis at the age of 29. Except instead of buying the sports car, I just want to work with my hands and be constructive instead of a computer zombie.

The good news is the electrical work will be completed today. I’ll post more pictures of the finished project with the sub-panel in the garage. On a funny note, my garage sub-panel is the same size as the original panel for the whole house. Gotta love overkill.

5 comments so far

View Robb's profile


660 posts in 3990 days

#1 posted 10-26-2012 04:12 PM

God bless your plan! I hope you’re able to make the transition to part time, and grow your creative side. I have a similar situation – good to great job, but not really satisfied that I’m doing what I’m meant to do, and yet feel trapped by financial constraints. I truly wish you the best. ...and I envy your new electrical work! :)

Great Back to the Future reference, btw!

-- Robb

View Dan's profile


106 posts in 2882 days

#2 posted 10-26-2012 04:22 PM

pendledad – I also feel the same way. I will be 29 shortly and am a computer engineer that works in IT. I really don’t enjoy the work that I do. All of the politics and other corporate issues including 60-80 hours a week of sitting in front of computer are taking its toll. Most weekends I get called in to work on one thing or another.

I have no problem working hard and long hours. The problem I have is that I do not enjoy it. In the corporate world today everyone is replaceable and the companies don’t care about the individual. I really enjoy woodworking and can’t think of a better way to be spending my time. Its relaxing and gratifying at the same time. I am also allowed to make mistakes and learn from them.

That being said, I am also looking for a way to spend more time in the shop. Over the past few years I have put together a shop with almost everything I could need to build my projects. The problem is that I rarely get anytime to work on them. I also own a house that I live in by myself so I need to make sure I can continue to pay my bills.

Let me know how everything works out. I would be very interested to here about the changes you make. Any advice that you have would also be appreciated.

-- Will work for wood...

View NiteWalker's profile


2737 posts in 2633 days

#3 posted 01-01-2013 05:28 AM

Pendledad, I just got to reading this but would have posted sooner if I saw this sooner.

I’m 32, have not worked a real job in over 8 years and am suffering for my bad choices. I do make money out of my shop (in fact, the money I bring in from the shop is the only thing that supports the shop), but my wife is the bread winner here. Because of my bad judgement with employment, it spiraled down into a lot of bad things. I used to be a healthy 240 lbs (stocky, but healthy), I’m now over 400…
I rent my apartment and shop now, and will likely never have the credit or money to buy a home. My shop is a detached one car garage that is leaning to the right pretty bad and has no insulation (chilly NY). I have a single outlet on the wall with 4 plug receptacles on a single 20 amp 110 volt circuit. I do have plans to straighten the garage, insulate it and add another 20 amp circuit with a couple of receptacles (my needs aren’t much for a shop; I’m happy in a cozy space where I can run a heater and the tools at the same time, something I can’t do now), but for now I’m stuck with what I have. A motor vehicle is another luxury I do not have. All my tool, supply and lumber purchases are made online or from local borgs and only what I can bring home on the bus. I’m doing the best to remedy my situation, but because of the choices I made there’s a long, hard road ahead of me, and I’ll get where I need to, but I regret quitting my job those years ago.

So I understand your stress (I used to be a baker working 12+ hour nights (where my username comes from) 6 days a week), just make your decisions carefully, and realize that those hours you spend in front of the screen are a means to an end.

I’m enjoying this blog. Keep up the good work.

-- He who dies with the most tools... dies with the emptiest wallet.

View pendledad's profile


190 posts in 2145 days

#4 posted 01-01-2013 05:48 AM

Thanks for the message. My firm had great year and I made a good income this year. It has funded my shop and tools as well as all the family stuff. I think I’ll be happier once I get to work on more projects and enjoy the time in the shop.

It stinks am tied to my desk, but when things like my dog getting a double ear infection and needing $200 for a vet visit … I’m much happier knowing I’ll get those steady paychecks.

Thanks again for the note … it takes all perspectives and experiences to paint a good picture.

Looks like I’ll be a code jock by day, and a lumberjock by night!

View FeralVermonter's profile


100 posts in 2027 days

#5 posted 01-04-2013 01:00 AM

I’d just add that you shouldn’t rule out the dream job, even if it doesn’t seem feasible in the moment. Just keep it in the back of your mind, and take a step here, a step there… who knows how it will work out? It doesn’t have to be one or the other—have you considered fusing the two professions? If you can manage code and tools, you might be able to make computer controlled tools—that’d sure be an advantage when it comes to making radiator covers, among other things. And that might take you a while… well, so be it. If it takes you five years to get into your dream profession, I say that’s five years well spent.

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