Finding the recipe for a successful workshop

As you can probably glean from the new issue of Woodcraft Magazine (#66 August/September), I’ve been learning to work wood. I’ve also been learning over the years to cook. My wife, Elizabeth, knows her way around the kitchen and she’ll occasionally allow me to put dinner on the table. Mixed results, let me tell ya. Just don’t ask about what my family now refers to as Calzonegate.

I’ve always admired how organized the tools are in the kitchen. “A place for everything and everything in its place,” as my wife says. The task of organizing my new garage workshop has given me a fresh appreciation of how efficiently our kitchen is set up. Like a good workshop, our kitchen has distinct work stations designed for different tasks. The classic kitchen work triangle calls for a clear path from fridge to range, to sink. My workshop also needs clear pathways between major work stations (workbench, tablesaw, jointer, planer, chopsaw). This comparison also has me thinking about the mix of hand tools and power tools in the kitchen –another interesting similarity.

I’ve found too that following a recipe is like following a project plan. I need to assess what materials I have on hand, which ones I need to buy, and what I’ll make do with. Organize, prep, measure, cut. Just as different ingredients are combined in the course of following a recipe, a woodworking project calls for a series of subassemblies that are eventually combined to complete the project.  A good recipe will tell you what to do, but better recipes also contain tips, alternatives and useful advice based on the expertise of an experienced cook. These extras really make a difference. That’s why we always try to include them with every project we put in the magazine.

My goal is to make my shop as efficient as my wife’s kitchen. And to make the perfect chocolate chip cookie. In the kitchen, not the shop.

cookiesIn what ways have you likened a kitchen to a workshop? Or vice versa. Maybe you can make some interesting comparisons between woodworking and other hobbies or aspects of life. Leave a reply below and let me know what you think.

–Chad McClung, art director

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