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by Steven D. Johnson
Racine, Wisconsin

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The Other Sign In My Shop

Click on any picture to see a larger version.

The only other sign in my shop is relatively small and inconspicuous. If guests read it, they laugh. Woodworkers understand it. My spouse hates it. Most woodworkers would never dare try to enforce the rules outlined on the sign. And I steadfastly refuse to remove the sign. While it may not always have the desired effect, it does establish certain ground rules and even serves as a vigilant reminder to self. It is a list of things that cannot be stored in my workshop.

Figure 6 - My only other shop sign... a partial
list of things that cannot be stored in
the shop!

It is my belief, and lifelong ambition, that a woodworking shop should be "pure." Nothing should be in the shop but you, your wood, and your tools. And finally, after years of shops in shared-space garages, shared basements, and even shared barns, I finally have a true dedicated space. I have become positively militant about keeping everything unrelated to woodworking out. To the tiniest detail, even the tiniest item, I disallow anything that is not strictly related to woodworking.

For example, the sign says "no" to clothing, especially shoes. You would think no one would really want to store clothing in a dusty workshop, but you would be surprised. My Imelda Marcos wannabe spouse only knows how to acquire shoes, never dispose of them. But even if I have to turn a spare bedroom into a stockroom for shoes, that's okay… they are not going into the shop!

Holiday decorations are expensive, so I try to save them from year-to-year, but I refuse to give up shop space. If they will not fit in the basement, they get tossed. I will replace them next year. The expense will hurt for a few days, but their presence in my shop will hurt for eleven months.

Obviously power equipment like mowers, tillers, leaf blowers, and snow blowers take up a lot of space. Until I got a storage barn prepared, those pieces of equipment were chained and padlocked to trees with tarps to protect them. It was a lot of trouble every time I needed to mow the yard, but a small price to pay for the extra space.

We use a lot of windshield washer fluid up here where winter road salt is the state flower. We caught the good stuff on sale a while back and bought six bottles. My wife started to put the bottles in my shop. I smiled, shook my head "no," and pointed at the sign. It's not like they were going to freeze if left outside…

And speaking of sales, those giant packages of paper towels are a bargain, but only one roll at a time is allowed in the shop… the rest have to go somewhere else. Once, after a trip to the warehouse club, a giant package of paper towels stayed on the living room couch for close to a month before I figured out a place to store them. Anywhere but the shop.

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