The Slightly Confused Woodworker

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Mele Kalikimaka


Sunday morning for no particular reason I woke up far too early. In the cold, pre-dawn air I made several lame attempts at photographing Venus alongside a crescent moon (I’m neither a photographer nor an astronomer) Happy at the least to see nature’s beauty, and considering that it was barely 4:30 am, I decided that it was a good time to catch-up on Game of Thrones.

When the sun finally rose, I entered my garage to prep some construction lumber in my ongoing experiment to see if I can make nice furniture from “two-by” stock. I did manage to make a few nice boards in a short period of time, and considering it was just “left-over” lumber and not stuff I had hand-picked, I was satisfied with the effort and results.

Afterward, I did a little cleaning, some sharpening, and some tool maintenance, including the flattening of my little wooden block plane. While I was at it, I cleaned and sharpened my moulding planes, and then oiled up all of my chisels. If we were experiencing the same December weather we had last year, I very likely would have wrapped up my chisels in their roll and put them away for the winter. But thus far the weather has been pretty nice. To be truthful, it hasn’t been very cold this year. In fact, just a few days ago I paid my utility bill, and on that bill is a comparison of usage from this year to last, and also the average daily temperature. According to those charts, we are averaging just about 10 degrees warmer per day compared to the same time last year.

I do know this, at this point last year we were experiencing record cold temperatures and we had already had several major snow storms. I was in the middle of a project that I nearly shut down for the winter. This year, our afternoons have stayed relatively mild, and that makes me want to consider starting a new project. I’m not one to follow long term weather forecasts (I’ll save that for when I’m old-God willing), but all of the lovely weather people in the region are calling for a much milder winter than what the past three or four years brought us.

Who gives a damn about the weather? Nobody really, until you’re living through it. Last year we had a stretch where the high temperature didn’t rise above freezing for 6 weeks. We also had even worse stretches where the high temperature never made it past 15 degrees below freezing. In fact, if I remember correctly the first day of Spring brought with it almost a foot of snow. Woodworking in an unheated garage in those conditions is absolutely painful both mentally and physically.

For the first time in years, I’m actually looking forward to woodworking during the winter months. Next month things may change and we might just get hit with another infamous “arctic blast” that froze up the rivers and killed a lot of car batteries. I’m not getting my hopes up, but there is a slim possibility that I will actually make a piece of real furniture this coming winter.



  1. Wesley Beal says:

    I hope you do! The garage that will house my workshop is will have the roof installation completed today. Then we can install the doors and windows, finish the wiring….

    Before long I hope we’ll be installing a heating system. I think we’re going to go with a gas (propane) furnace – it will be the easiest and cheapest for us to set up. Living in Minnesota now, I hope we get this work done soon, and I can get back to work in front of a workbench.

    • billlattpa says:

      In Minnesota I know you must have some cold winters. Our winters generally aren’t awful, we usually have a really cold stretch from January to the middle of February and that’s that, otherwise it’s seasonal weather. But the past four years have been brutal, cold from October until May. I’ve learned my lesson when it comes to starting a project during a cold winter, which I will never do again.
      IMO, a natural gas/propane furnace is the way to go. Electric is probably easier to install, but it costs a lot more to run, and will likely take up more space.
      Good luck with the new workshop. Hopefully you’ll be posting some photos. I can only dream and be envious.

  2. Greg Merritt says:

    Have you decided on a project for your 2x experiment yet? Working with 2x material can be addictive. You get the feeling that you are cheating the system some how. 😉

    • billlattpa says:

      I think I’m going to make the end table I drew up a few weeks back. I did some calculations, and I can make the bulk of that project from just (2) 2×10’s. I was thinking of painting it black, but I’ve noticed that even the construction level Fir takes a very nice natural or shellac finish. I’m actually going to defer to my wife.
      The top is going to be a bit of a challenge in that it has angled sides. I wish I could see an historical example to see what methods were used. So now the next step is to prep some material and pray that the nice weather continues.

  3. ausworkshop says:

    Sitting here reading this in my workshop (in shorts and singlet) I got goose bumps thinking about what it would be like if my workshop was covered in snow.
    Luckily I live in an area of Australia that doesn’t snow so I will never find out but I could imagine that would be a real bummer. I think I prefer the heat, although I didn’t get much done yesterday, it’s already getting far too hot for hand tool work. I don’t like dripping sweat all over my tools either.

    I was kind of hoping you were going somewhere with the Game of Thrones reference. Thought you might start making a GOT inspired piece.
    I love watching that show. Can’t wait till the next series. Makes me want to make medieval style furniture (whatever that would look like) I’d imagine big chunky timber, weathered rustic, through tenons with pegs and rustic edges worn smooth from years of use. Dripping with character and history, some burn marks and maybe some sort of ‘house’ symbol or shield carved into it. A dragon perhaps?

    Now I’m day dreaming again, I better get back to work, customers are waiting for Christmas gifts and the days are rolling on.
    Thanks for the brief distraction. If you ever do get inspired to make a GOT inspired piece I’d love to see what you come up with.

    • billlattpa says:

      I generally try not to woodwork during January and February and July and August, which are generally the coldest/hottest and most humid months. I love woodworking, but during those times it’s just not enjoyable.
      The weather in my part of the country runs the full spectrum. We have hot summers and cold winters. So far, this year has been the exception for the cold winters, even though it is technically not winter yet.
      I would love to make a Game of Thrones inspired piece of furniture, though my wife is not too keen on medieval syle, I would love to make a medieval style table or desk. So I’m with you there.
      Good luck this coming summer. Sounds like you would enjoy a climate controlled work space as much as I would. Whistle “Waltzing Matilda” while you work 🙂

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December 2015
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