After coming up with that line, how could I pass up a chance to get a little more mileage out of it?
Well, the final coat of finish I previously mentioned was applied to the trim of the new gigantic window I recently cut into one of my shop walls. I was once on a job on the South Side of Pittsburgh, and they were getting rid of some nice store-front windows. Being the pack-rat that I am, I said “sure, I can use those”. They were nice; double-pane, tempered, around two feet high by six feet wide. I had no idea at the time what I would do with them, but hey, how could I pass them up?
They sat for a while in the corner of the shop, occasionally being used for lapping handplane soles and sharpening plane irons. Glass is a nice, flat surface for that sort of thing. This went on for a couple of years until I was off work for most of one winter. I spent some much-needed time in my barely-heated, cave-like shop. Cave-like because I had no windows. None. Not even one in the man-door. None in the garage door I cut in when I moved into the place.
You see, I was always of the opinion (partially from genetics; my Pap was always suspicious) that you never wanted anyone looking in on what you had when you weren’t home, and you never wanted anyone looking in on what you were doing when you were. Hence, no windows, and I was glad of the fact when I moved in.
Thankfully, though, it eventually occurred to me that I live almost in the middle of nowhere. No one was looking in on me, home or not. In fact, for anyone to be there at all would require a nasty hike through some pretty rough terrain, or coming down my rather long and narrow dead-end driveway. Time to let go of the “everyone wants my stuff” mentality. Time to make my shop more like a vacation home and less like a prison. Yeah, it was that dismal.
So, I cut in one window two years ago, and the second window I just finished. I can’t tell you the effect it has already had on my desire to spend time in my shop. The natural lighting is a definite plus; much easier on the eyes. But the real beauty of it is just that-the beauty of it. I hate to brag, but I’m not above it. I live in a nice little patch of woods, and the view from my newly installed windows is nothing less than, well, beautiful. It really adds to the overall experience to my time spent in the shop.
That’s what it’s really all about, isn’t it? Making sawdust and slaying electrons is fun, but there could be so much more to your time in your little place, wherever it is. Having your tools/power outlets/dust collector ports, etc. set up to facilitate an efficient and convenient economy of physical motion is all good and stuff, but it’s really nice when your shop looks pretty. When it’s a happy place. When you can turn your stereo up loud enough to hear over your table saw, dust collector, and through your earmuffs.
That’s what I’m talking about. When your favorite handplane sits on your window sill not just because it’s a convenient spot, but because you like to see it there. When your shop bookshelf gradually makes the transition from automotive solvents and assorted junk to an actual woodworking library. These are the things that, when you walk into your shop, make you feel like a woodworker. You become comfortable in your own shop, and, because you’re surrounded with things that hopefully embody the essence of you, your own skin.
So, whether you’re a woodworker or a seamstress, go to your place, wherever that may be, and hang a picture of something that you like. Take a trinket that means something to you and place it prominently on a shelf, or on the edge of your desk. Make the place yours. Don’t make the mistake of thinking your little place isn’t worth the time; that it’s just a shop. When you feel comfortable and happy, you will be more calm and creative, and you will find the overall experience to be one that you will crave more often.
When I finally finished cutting in the window (it was a real bear; I cut it into a load-bearing wall and had to build a header without destroying the interior), I sent a picture to my Dad with the question “trim in maple or cherry?” He replied simply “Cherry.” Cherry. To trim out a shop window? Why not?