There’s nowhere to put my tools. Well, that’s not completely accurate. I mean, I have approximately 800 square feet of space to work with — more space than your average big-city apartment — so there’s plenty of room. But there are no places. The handful of tools that have made the journey sit piled on the floor haphazardly. 

Shop areas fall into one of two basic categories— storage and workspaces (frequently in tandem). My in-progress shop drawings are essentially, “These things go here and I can do this there.” Like a well-designed kitchen, thought has to go into how the space works when used. Which major operations occur in a row? Which tools are required when working through a series of steps. How are materials both out of the way and close at hand? 

When beginning something new, sometimes the most difficult part is where to start. You’re feeling creative and inspired. The ideas are there, but they need a toehold, so you scratch your head trying to find the perfect one. There is no perfect one. Nor does there need to be. Everything is editable. I don’t need to be satisfied that I’ve got the whole thing perfectly sorted. I just need to start. And I need places to put things. 

Starting is easy when you allow yourself to make it so. What’s easier to build then a bit of shelving? Not many things. Utilitarian. Stable. Durable. Simple. 

And so, I get to begin. My first sounds of making within these walls. 

In truth, this is more of a construction project than woodworking. 2x4s, 3” screws and a nail gun. No sanding or finishing required. Still, it feels good to see how the light shines into my new shop. To smell fresh sawdust. To move something from thought to paper to product. 

Woodworking suits me. It’s pretty solitary work, just me and my dog. I’m far from introverted, but I am quite comfortable being alone. Moving my hands. Thinking through the steps. Confidently turning one thing into another. Still, I consider my new neighbors. How early is too early to be running power tools? I suppose we’ll find out together. No knocks at the door, yet. 

I don’t have a workbench. I make do with two sawhorses spanning a section of plywood, but a workbench of some sort needs to come next. That’s how it works. At least, that’s how I work — need dictates order. 

Esme hasn’t yet accepted our new place. Her shop-sanctioned dog bed sits empty while she stands warily by a stack of lumber. Everything takes time. 

And after some time, things take form. As they do. Two new walls of utilitarian shelving. The first impressions of the footprint this new shop. The space a little more defined. Inching toward an outcome I can’t seem to fully visualize just yet. 

Those who know me will often ask, “What are you working on?” They mean woodworking, but I’m always working on so many things. Do I talk about my current art project? Leathercraft? The scarf I’m knitting? The books I’m writing that are still closer to their beginnings than ends? I guess for a while I can say, “Oh, building stuff for the shop.” I should get a few years out of that. 

And in my downtime, ya know, I should consider learning a foreign language. Maybe French.

shop utility shelving