A Little Shop Healing

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Blog entry by thewoodwhisperer posted 02-28-2010 01:48 AM 1838 reads 1 time favorited 19 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I had some time this week to do a little of what I like to call “shop healing”. My schedule can get so hectic sometimes that I start losing focus and I feel like I am spreading myself too thin. That’s when I know its time to get re-centered and re-calibrated. Since I am between projects, this was the perfect time to go all zen on my shop.

I started by tweaking my setup. An inefficient space is a frustrating space! My tool cabinet was originally mounted in a little alcove behind my oscillating spindle sander. This made it very difficult to reach the tools, which kind of defeats the purpose of my “handy” cabinet. So I moved it over to the other side of the shop and cut my big storage rack down to half-height. I was already starting to feel the tingly sensation of peace and harmony.

But I didn’t stop there. My next mission was sharpening. All of my chisels and plane blades were ready for a touch up, so I pulled out the Shaptons. Once I got started, I just couldn’t stop. So over the course of two days, I lapped every back and honed every bevel in the shop! I was getting so close to intergalactic oneness at this point.

So with a couple more days to kill, I decided to finish off my woodworking vacation with a little hand tool practice. Now you guys know I am not the type to mill up my project lumber using bench planes only. As long as my Powermatic jointer still has juice, you won’t see me flattening boards the old-fashioned way. But on occasions like this, I will select a very special board that I will refer to as “The Offering”, and mill that puppy flat and square using my trusty #5, #7 and #4 bench planes. I just go to town on The Offering until its flat or I run out of wood. Any stress that was in my head goes through my hands, into the plane, and ultimately escapes in the form of a wispy shaving. If someone were to observe me at this point, they might even hear me semi-consciously mumbling, “That’s for that stupid house that won’t sell!” and “That’s for that credit card payment I forgot to pay!” Life’s too short to hold on to these things, and the wood is all too happy to help me rid myself of them. If you haven’t tried this, I highly recommend it.

The grand finale of my week was getting some practice cutting a few half-blind dovetails by hand. I don’t do this often and I needed some practice before I teach the Guild members how to do this on their Shaker End Tables. It proved to be a great way to test the edges on my newly sharpened gear.

Although I am incredibly busy, I love what I do. Its hard to call it work when I would be doing this stuff with or without a paycheck. But its incredibly important for me to occasionally get back to basics and spend some quality time in my shop. And while I am no neanderthal hand tool junkie, its interesting to observe what tools I go to when I am in the stress-relieving re-centering mode. I had absolutely no desire to use electricity in the shop this week. But when it comes time to flatten my next project board, you can bet you’ll be hearing the sweet hum of a jointer and planer coming from my shop.

Feeling refreshed, renewed, and reconnected with my shop, I am ready to take on the insanely busy month of March.

-- For free video tutorials and other cool woodworking stuff, check out

19 comments so far

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 4200 days

#1 posted 02-28-2010 01:55 AM


-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View Gary Fixler's profile

Gary Fixler

1001 posts in 3620 days

#2 posted 02-28-2010 01:59 AM

Just reading this was relaxing. What is that beautiful spalted wood? Maple?

-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator

View Justin's profile


20 posts in 3258 days

#3 posted 02-28-2010 01:59 AM

I think that is a ritual all of us should go through. However my boss refuses to understand this very important part of carpentry.

-- I'm into rough carpentry, are you?

View bayspt's profile


292 posts in 3942 days

#4 posted 02-28-2010 02:33 AM

I some times find myself grabing a scrap and a plane and just going to town. I think of it as practice setting up a plane, but it really is just the zen you speak of. I don’t even go for flat, just piddle. There is just something relaxing about taking a sharp edge to wood, expecially when we aren’t worried about the outcome.

-- Jimmy, Oklahoma "It's a dog-eat-dog world, and I'm wearing milkbone underwear!"

View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 3911 days

#5 posted 02-28-2010 02:42 AM

Nice work!

View Dennis Fletcher's profile

Dennis Fletcher

467 posts in 3293 days

#6 posted 02-28-2010 02:47 AM

Wow, I just found that I can use my hand plane on roughsawn boards and tried it out yesterday. It was very relaxing.

--, Making design and application one. †

View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8901 posts in 4337 days

#7 posted 02-28-2010 02:51 AM

You’re preaching to the choir bro!

I know exactly where you have been and how important it is to get centered again in the shop.

Glad you reached that inner peace and connectedness with the shop.

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana,

View Bothus's profile


441 posts in 3414 days

#8 posted 02-28-2010 03:05 AM

Great post Mark.

I think I’ll go out to the shop and just hold my hand planes for a while.

Thanks for posting.


-- Jerry Boshear, Professional Kitchen Designer, amature woodworker.

View thewoodwhisperer's profile


605 posts in 4422 days

#9 posted 02-28-2010 03:25 AM

Thanks everyone. Glad to see I’m not the only who does this. Its incredibly theraputic! And Gary, that is indeed a nice piece of spalted maple. In fact its the left over stuff from my old gadget station:
gadget station

-- For free video tutorials and other cool woodworking stuff, check out

View Mike's profile


252 posts in 3621 days

#10 posted 02-28-2010 04:26 AM

We all need that shop healing time.

-- Mike, VT

View Alex Lane's profile

Alex Lane

542 posts in 4128 days

#11 posted 02-28-2010 06:36 AM

Good move, Marc! I find that nothing makes my arms and back hurt more than face jointing a piece of Bubinga with a hand plane…yet it’s a great stress reliever indeed. Boy, I’ve gotta get in shape!!
I haven’t gotten myself into chisel/plane blade sharpening mode yet, but I think it will come soon.

Hey, when you said ”I had absolutely no desire to use electricity in the shop this week.”, you didn’t mean you worked by candlelight…did you?? LOL

Take care.

-- Lane Custom Guitars and Basses

View NBeener's profile


4816 posts in 3412 days

#12 posted 02-28-2010 06:42 AM

Great use of time.

Cathartic, AND … it buys you MORE time, down the road.

Housekeeping … particularly when put off for far too long, and then torn into with a (calm) vengeance … is a beautiful thing!

-- -- Neil

View Dark_Lightning's profile


3367 posts in 3347 days

#13 posted 02-28-2010 06:48 AM

I like that gadget station. Have you ever tried breaking up concrete slabs for stress relief? Lots of relaxing results with only a little sledgehammer action. Of course, that’s not really the kind of muscle training a woodworker needs…

-- Random Orbital Nailer

View thefishingschool's profile


41 posts in 3255 days

#14 posted 02-28-2010 06:52 AM

lol i need to do this too

-- wood takes time and effort... just like women

View Gary Fixler's profile

Gary Fixler

1001 posts in 3620 days

#15 posted 02-28-2010 07:01 AM

Ah yes. I remember that awesome gadget station. I watched a bunch of the build, and then saw the show wherein you gave it to Leo Laporte. That’s one famous cabinet.

-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator

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