A bad rap?: Retirement and woodworking

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Forum topic by Craftsman on the lake posted 01-24-2012 09:19 AM 4525 views 0 times favorited 32 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Craftsman on the lake

2790 posts in 3436 days

01-24-2012 09:19 AM

Topic tags/keywords: humor retirement woodworking rant

On re-reading this it seems like a rant but it’s really more of an annoying observation.

Okay, it seems that people who retire, build a workshop and plan on spending time in it but never do. They build a couple of bird houses and then the shop goes cold.

I retired a few years ago after 30+ years of teaching. I built guitars in my 20’s for fun and profit, then got married, a career, kids, a house, etc. Everything came to a halt during that time, except what had to be done,
like building a house. Now that I’m retired, I’m back at the wood thing. The workshop was prepared, renovated, expanded, etc. just because I would finally have the time again.

I’ve made a bunch of stuff, blogged it here and also a ton of stuff not blogged. But…. mention to someone that you retired and put together a wood shop to make stuff and they see you as some old duffer, retiring and looking for a hobby just to keep busy so you don’t sit in a lounge chair all day. I’m sure they envision a bunch of poorly and unfinished outdoor chairs and some latex painted blue and white bird houses. (no offense to the prolific chair and bird house makers here). Of course relatives and friends who have seen the stuff produced don’t think this but the look on other people’s faces indicate that they think “ah, the old retire and looking for a hobby thing”.

Maybe there are a whole lot of people who retire to a wood shop, then let it collect cobwebs, I don’t know. Maybe the moniker is deserved. It’s just that I’ve run into too many people who relate the retirement / woodworking / need to keep busy as a thing that happens when people get old and look for something to keep them from going batty until they die. It does keep the mind busy. It does keep the hands busy, but they would have been busy doing this all along if I had the time during the past 30 years.

Okay, off soap box. Thanks for looking.

-- The smell of wood, coffee in the cup, the wife let's me do my thing, the lake is peaceful.

32 replies so far

View redryder's profile


2393 posts in 3100 days

#1 posted 01-24-2012 09:43 AM

I can relate to the cartoon. During Christmas I was wondering if I had over done it with the family shop made presents. The reaction I get from some of my work is not always the same from the family…..........

-- mike...............

View David Grimes's profile

David Grimes

2078 posts in 2638 days

#2 posted 01-24-2012 09:47 AM

@Craftsman on the lake, You make some valid points and observations that I happen to agree with. Many people do think of a woodworking shop (home shop) in that way, especially for retirees or near retirees. In my case, this hobby is so close to what we do for a living that I get some of the “Why would you go home to work in another shop?” to which I think and sometimes say that at the home shop I do whatever I want whenever I want (or not at all) without any customer to please but myself. For example, I knocked out a downdraft table tonight driven only by my desire to make it and use it. I’m working on a binding jig for guitars. Whatever comes to mind (or need) is wide open for just having fun creating.

Do you have any plans to build guitars again ? I am having a blast ! You should revisit your passion of years ago.

Regards. DG

-- If you're going to stir the pot, think BIG spoon or SMALL boat paddle. David Grimes, Georgia

View doordude's profile


1085 posts in 2981 days

#3 posted 01-24-2012 10:27 AM

a good observation you have. oh, your friends and family don’t really think that. at least that’s what they told me. they want the new pieces,that you can make them. but what do people say, about those that still have job to go to, and have this sawdust hobby?

View Mickey Cassiba's profile

Mickey Cassiba

312 posts in 3030 days

#4 posted 01-24-2012 12:28 PM

Most of my friends, and family are quite supportive of my turning addiction(enablers? :P ) I get little chunks of wood from all over requesting this or that. I have a bowl on the lathe right now that was commissioned for a wedding gift by SIL for her son.

-- One of these hammers oughta fix that...

View ellen35's profile


2738 posts in 3431 days

#5 posted 01-24-2012 01:50 PM

There are times that we look to “retirement” (sounds like changing the tires on a car to me!) to do the things we always wished we had time for while working. I walk through my garage workshop twice a day – going to and coming from work – each time, I wish I could just stop and spend the next few (who’s kidding who – that should be many) hours working in my shop. We squeeze in what time we can while working. I am looking forward to the day that I can choose to work/play in my shop… or do something else, knowing that I can go into my shop any time I want. That day is coming… sooner that we ever think it will!
Thanks for the thoughtful post.

-- "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good." Voltaire

View jim C's profile

jim C

1472 posts in 3097 days

#6 posted 01-24-2012 02:01 PM

My career started out as a Tool & Die maker for 18 years before staring my own shop. The business grew into a facility with 300+ employees, so my position became totally upper management. I missed the earlier days, using my hands and working with machinery, and the camaraderie with the other guys, so when I retired I chose woodworking to get back with my hand skills.
Point being, it’s not just to “stay busy” but a love affair to be creative and to do what I like to do, at my own pace, with my own hands, and give my creations to those that can appreciate my efforts.
Screw what people think. I do other things, not to “stay active” (I hate that term) but because I like doing them. Golf, boating, travel, biking etc. But the love of woodworking trumps ‘em all.

View HorizontalMike's profile


7757 posts in 2913 days

#7 posted 01-24-2012 03:38 PM

I am one of those who picked up WW-ing in retirement. Way back in the ‘60s while in high school, I was always pushed to take the “college prep” classes because ” don’t want to be one of them do you?...” from the then school counselors. I obliged, but always wanted to get my hands on things. Long story made short, I should have done this WW-ing thing decades ago. I think I would have been more satisfied with it as a younger man.

I enjoy WW-ing, but what I enjoy most about it is that I can spend 15min or 12hours out in the shop at any given time. Sometimes I choose to ride my Harley (+24yr rider off and on), or I choose to stay up all night and indulge my Astro-photography (left over from my middle school Science teacher days).

YES, retirement is about keeping busy, but more importantly it is about being in control of just how busy one wants to be IMO.

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View jim C's profile

jim C

1472 posts in 3097 days

#8 posted 01-24-2012 03:44 PM

I guess we can agree on some things.
Well said.

View GMman's profile


3902 posts in 3696 days

#9 posted 01-24-2012 03:50 PM

The time I had just a few tools I worked sometimes late at night I was just loving it, I had no clock and the wife had to call me in.
Today I have every tool you can imagine and I have to push myself to do any little thing with wood.
Must be the age sometime woodworking seems like a waste of the time I have left.

View CharlieM1958's profile


16274 posts in 4217 days

#10 posted 01-24-2012 03:57 PM

Daniel, I must jokingly say you sound a bit paranoid. :-)

Have people actually said things to you to indicate they think you are just a retiree looking for a way to keep busy? Or is that just what you think they are thinking?

Maybe you just feel too young to be thought of as an “old retired guy”, and it’s working on you to think that people might see you that way.

Note: This amateur psychoanalysis is guaranteed to be worth every cent it cost.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3073 days

#11 posted 01-24-2012 03:59 PM

I’ve been retired for 4 years now. In my case, my woodworking hobby started long before I retired. In the last few years of my career I was in “wind down” mode. I was no longer the COO of a large division. I ran a small department and did some very interesting special projects. (FYI – this is very common at my company and I enjoyed it). These wind down years at the office were “wind up” years in the workshop. So, for me, woodworking was not something that I started after retirement to have something to do. Today, I am an active woodworker. I estimate that I spend 15 – 20 hours per week in the shop and enjoy it very much.

There are two developments in my woodworking history that I think are significant. At one time I tried to make some money at it by selling products. That took the fun out of it and I have stopped doing that. A related development is that, in general, I have learned to say “no”. There are still a few exceptions I make for family and friends but, in general, I don’t work on projects that don’t really interest me as a favor to anyone.

If you have observed some of my recent projects you will know that I have done a lot of work for my church. I enjoy that a lot because I am using my talents for a very worthy cause. Perhaps more importantly, the church basically gives me “free reign” to design things and do things the way I want to do them. I just don’t get bogged down in lengthy and unproductive committee meetings trying to decide how we want something to look.

FYI – I don’t totally ignore the wishes and preferences of the congregation. I often do a mock up (with plywood and 2×4s) of what I propose and I have never gotten an objection or even a polite suggestion on how I could do it better.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View GMman's profile


3902 posts in 3696 days

#12 posted 01-24-2012 04:04 PM

Rick ””I’ve been retired for 4 years now””
I am on my 19 year.

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

10479 posts in 3427 days

#13 posted 01-24-2012 04:43 PM

Wife and I fully retired 5 years ago. We were part time retired 5 years before that. Now we go any where we want and do what we want, when we want to. She quilts and does cross stitch. I work in the shop. She is far more productive than I. Hour for hour, I’m sure I got more done when I was working than now. But, for me, it’s not what I get done or how efficient I am, but how much I enjoy it. I don’t need to hurry. I’m not concerned with how my work is received. I make what I want for the fun of doing it and, if I choose to give it away or sell it, It’s gone and out of my mind. Only the nice memories of what I learned during the build remain.
I only try to perfect skills that I need to accomplish a particular part of a task at hand with the tools I have. i.e., I found it difficult to cut accurate bevels for mitered boxes with my Shopsmith in it’s current configuration. When I was working, I avoided that problem by simply cutting dove tails or box joints. Now I have the time to fine tune that beveling technique, and others I have surely neglected. And, to embark on other avenues of woodworking that I find intriguing.
So for me retirement has afforded the luxury of time and the joy of using it however I want.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View Bluepine38's profile


3379 posts in 3084 days

#14 posted 01-24-2012 04:51 PM

I started my wind down mode at 65, and by the time I was 69 I was working short hours, my co-workers
said it was because I could not stay awake any longer, and at 70 had my shop mostly set up, with a small
reloading/work shop set up in the basement, yes I like to put little holes in targets right where they are
supposed to be, makes more sense to me that trying to hit a little ball into a small hole. These hobbies
were meant to keep me out of trouble and off street corners, and yes some people get that bored look
when I mention my hobbies, so I shut up and move on. I have fun, make useful items, remodel the house
and enjoy life, and am willing to share my shop with interested family members, one grandfather had 27
children that lived, so I have a large family. Hope all of you get to enjoy life, if you are not enjoying what
you are doing, look around and try something else, as long as it is not immoral or too dangerous, it might
even be fun.

-- As ever, Gus-the 79 yr young apprentice carpenter

View SnowyRiver's profile


51457 posts in 3479 days

#15 posted 01-24-2012 05:09 PM

I have been retired for about a year now. I was a program manager for a large telecom company overseeing project managers putting in light fiber all over the US. My problem is that I have too many hobbies. I have been active in woodworking off and on for 45 years, but very active in the past 5 years. I am divorced and live alone so my time is my time so to speak. No distractions.

I find that most people are quite interested in the shop and what I build. I frequent Starbucks and many there are always asking what I have been building. Sometimes asking if they can see the shop or a picture of my projects.

I also love fishing and hunting. So I am often in the boat in the summer and the woods in the fall. I have an amateur radio license, and I like antique collecting, and gardening.

I may have to scale back my hobbies since I am not sure if I can sustain all of them on retirement income.

Many years ago my primary hobby was amateur radio. I have a nice station and spent hours talking to folks all over the world. When I started working after college, I found myself in the microwave radio group for my company working on the equipment and towers. I quickly lost interst in amateur radio and I dont think I have ever gotten it back totally although I am still active. This is my biggest fear with woodworking. I dont want to take any chances to spoil it by doing it professionally so most of my work is for friends and family. I dont often do work for hire.

But back to the original post, I feel many people are quite interested in our woodworking hobby. Its been fun talking to them about it.

-- Wayne - Plymouth MN

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