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Self-portrait, Lewis Miller (1796-1882) - Collections of York County History Center, York, PA


"I'm a quiet man, Cephas, a man that needs a peaceful shop where he can get away from the comforts of home now and then, without shirkin' his duty nor causin' gossip."

From The Story of Waitskill Baxter by Kate Douglas Wiggin, 1913

My wife and I moved into a condo shortly before I retired at the end of 2020. I spent the next few months setting up my new - and probably last - workshop in the basement. Because I only work with hand tools, the 300 square feet is more than adequate for my needs.

Although these photos were taken immediately after completing the shop, I do not subscribe to the idea that a busy shop means a messy one. I habitually sweep up at the end of a day, return tools to their respective storage locations when through with them, and vacuum/mop regularly. Maybe I'm a bit anal, but I can't see any value in being up to my ankles in shavings or having to search for tools.


One end of the shop holds a workbench, lumber rack, and tool cabinet, while still allowing good open space for sawing and assembly.


The other end of the shop has plenty of easy access tool storage. The use of French cleats means I can rearrange things without having to drill new holes or fill old ones. The three ceiling mounted LED lights provide 10,000 lumens of raking "daylight" for working at the main bench. Those fixtures, along with the judicious use of task lighting, have proven adequate thus far.


My main bench consists of the base from a cheap one purchased when I didn't know any better and a maple top scavenged from the maintenance room of a former employer when they closed up. Over time I've added  weight, bracing, vises, planing stops, and holdfast holes. Despite its modest roots, it is quite sturdy and does not move or rack when sawing or planing - proof you don't need a fancy-schmancy $2500 bench to work wood.


This old pine cabinet holds my planes, files, braces, bits, and other sundry items. Aside from the files and rasps, most everything you see is in excess of a hundred years old.

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Close up of my utility bench, used for tasks that require a higher work surface, such as carving, sharpening, and sawing dovetails. It's also a handy place to store larger items I don't use very often. 


This 1947 Delta-Rockwell lathe, which I picked up at an estate sale for $75 with tools, is still rock solid after 3/4 of a century. One could argue it's a power tool, and therefore outside my approach to the craft. But to me, it's simply a wood rotator. The actual work is still done entirely by hand using gouges, chisels, and scrapers.

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