The Slightly Confused Woodworker

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Wants and Needs.


I live in a peculiar section of Southeast Pennsylvania. Roughly, I live around 35 miles outside of the city of Philadelphia, where I grew up. The area I live in now is peculiar in the sense that if you drive just a few miles north you will be in the heart of suburbia, with tree-lined housing developments and shopping centers. If you happen to drive a few miles south you are in the “country”, with rolling fields, farmland, and stone houses built in the 19th century. My wife’s cousin happens to live in that area, it is an area I’ve wanted to live in for much of my adult life. Yesterday we spent Easter there, and on the way home I looked with envy on some of those houses, not so much because of the houses themselves, but because most of those houses had a nice sized piece of property that happened to have a barn or workshop. I’ve wanted that barn for a long time, long before I ever woodworked, or even thought of woodworking. It was an idea etched in my mind as a young adult that is still there to this day.

As we were making the short drive home I found myself a little saddened because I knew that I was already past the point in my life where I would eventually move to my “dream house” with the barn/workshop. Call it a mid-life crisis if you will, but it is very real, and it is not a good feeling.

I haven’t woodworked much lately, not how I would like to at least. The other day I glued up the blocks for the plane I am currently making. I did a sloppy, rushed job, far too sloppy and rushed for somebody at my level. Tonight after work I went straight into my garage to start cleaning up the plane. I wasn’t in there for ten minutes when both my wife and daughter were calling me. I quickly cleaned up the mess and went to see what they wanted me for, and that was the extent of my woodworking. Ten minutes was all I got; ten minutes to last a week, or maybe a month.

I wanted to woodwork tonight; I wanted to woodwork over the weekend. Even in my cramped little garage that is too cold in the winter and too hot in the summer; I wanted to woodwork and I couldn’t. It seems like I can’t woodwork anymore for a lot of reasons. My time is no longer my own, even a brief ten minutes after an eleven hour work day has become a lot to ask.

Of course I don’t need to woodwork to survive. I don’t make my living from building furniture; I’m just a hobbyist. In fact, unless you purchase only high-end custom furniture, it makes much more financial sense to buy furniture rather than make it. So while I don’t need to woodwork, I want to woodwork because it makes me happy. And while I don’t need that idyllic barn/workshop, I want it if for no other reason than to validate 25 years of hard work.

On the nicest day we’ve had in my area in almost 8 months I wanted to open my garage door, woodwork for a little while, and enjoy the warm evening breezes of early spring. It didn’t happen. Like every morning, every afternoon, and every weekend, I was rushed. Rushed by my job, rushed by my family, and rushed by life itself. Tonight I didn’t want to be rushed for just a while. I was, and I’m not too happy about it.

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10 Comments

  1. dzj9 says:

    Sucks to be a grown-up, doesn’t it.

  2. bloksav says:

    I know the feeling.
    All you want to do is just to recharge your internal batteries, and it feels like someone pulls out the plug because they need the receptacle for something else.

    I hope you will be able to get into your garage in the near future and enjoy a bit of fresh spring scented air.

    Living in the country side isn’t always as nice as it looks. Especially not in Denmark.

    The local community has decided that all the remote houses need to have their sewage system upgraded. You can’t refuse, because they base this on an environmental legislation from the government. But it still sucks when a public office orders you to spend 18.000 $ on something that is already working. And then because you get a new system they force you to have a test performed every year which will cost a further 500$.

    I had hoped to be able to use my savings on something that I would like, and not on a new sewage system to replace a perfectly fine and well functioning one.

    The Danish system sucks.

    With that in mind I have to agree with dzj9.

    As a wise man once said: It is a difficult age, between 18 and 67.

    Take care
    Jonas

    • billlattpa says:

      I live near enough to the “country”, as in literally a 5 minute drive or a 15 minute walk, that I don’t necessarily feel the desperate need to move my family there. But, I would like to move to a house where I can have my own little barn or dedicated workshop. That house doesn’t necessarily need to be in the country, but I wouldn’t mind if it was.

      The way I see it, I’ve been working for 25 years and I’ll likely be working 25 more.. I don’t drink, smoke, gamble, or do drugs. Everything I do and every decision I make is for my family. I thought that after 25 years of hard work and sacrifice I would be in a position to have that barn or workshop. Unfortunately I’m no closer now than I was 20 years ago. In fact, in many ways I am even further from the “dream”.

      I’ll be 42 years old this summer. While I can’t say that I’m old, I can say that I am no longer young. It dawned on my yesterday that I will likely never have that workshop of my own. It’s a sad feeling. As I said, I can’t complain about my life, I have it better than a lot of people, but I sure did want to have a real work shop one day.
      Thanks.
      Bill

  3. Greg Merritt says:

    My allotted time in the shop ebbs and flows depending on family, weather and my day job. The family is pretty good about leaving me alone when I’m in the shop. Nor do they often complain about how much time I’m in there. They understand how important it is to me and that it is who I am.

    I do understand the shop dream. It took me 17 years to finally have my little 8×12 shed to work in and it looks like I’ll be loosing that this summer. We more than likely are moving. The “new” house has a three stall garage so one stall will be my shop. Not what I dream of, but not too bad for something that is my hobby.

    Have a look at Peter Follansbee’s blog. He makes his living working with wood and teaching and his current shop is a corner of his basement.

    Sometimes…it is what it is.

    Greg

    • billlattpa says:

      I can’t complain about my life in general. Like many people, I work fairly long hours, and I definitely wish I had more time off from work as in holidays/weekends, but there are people around the world who wake up every day not knowing if they will be able to feed their kids. When I look at what I have in that regard I feel pretty good.

      I’ve just come to terms with the fact that years ago I set goals for myself, and it looks like most of those goals I will never achieve. What bothers me is that my “dream” is not very grandiose. I wasn’t looking for The New Yankee Workshop, just a spot where I could woodwork in peace without having to worry about my projects getting run over by the car, or tripping over my daughters bike, or a dozen other things.

      Life gets in the way. This weekend was all a reminder that I am no longer young, and I had “dreams” which I reluctantly need to let go of because they are no longer attainable.
      Thanks.
      Bill

  4. Matt says:

    I feel your pain.

  5. Bill

    Shall I ask what is the reason for that situation?
    In this point of your family relationship is clear enough that you take woodworking seriously, that this woodworking hobby is something important for you, I think you have all the right in the world to spend some time doing it.

    What about telling them (your wife and daughter) that from now on you will shcedule twice, three times per week in your shop and therefore interruptions won’t be allowed.

    Also, I would like to say that I am not demonizing your women, ha ha!, it’s just my two cents.

    Thanks

    • billlattpa says:

      I don’t have a clear answer to be honest; I wish I did. As far as my daughter, she has never bothered me or interrupted “on purpose” while I was woodworking. I can’t say definitively if my wife has either, though I think there are times she has. It’s all very subtle and passive-aggressive of course. I’ve been told that I should be flattered that they want me around constantly, and maybe in a small way I am.

      My experiences Monday afternoon I don’t believe were the result of any malice. Nonetheless I wasn’t too happy with it. I’ve found that I have very little, if any, time for myself anymore. It’s not a good feeling when the only part of my day with no interruptions happens to be the commute to and from work.

      I will do anything for my family, that isn’t the issue. My issue is the rare moments when we do get some free time, and my wife immediately wants to fill it with whatever. There are times when doing absolutely nothing are just as important as “getting things done”. On those rare occasions I like to go into my garage and woodwork for a while. I’ve already given up the dream of the house in the country, or the nice dedicated workshop. I don’t think it’s too much to ask that I should be allowed to woodwork for a few hours per month without being interrupted.
      Thanks.
      Bill

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