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Like baking, woodworking has its share of pleasant aromas. For me, two rise above all the rest.

There are dozens of smells that originate in the shop. A few aren’t good – burning cherry or maple while cutting, a motor overheating, me after several days of constant work on a difficult project – but generally speaking the smells that come from the shop rival even the gentle wafting scent of a bakery full of fresh donuts.

Wood itself smells good when cut, and since we cut a lot of wood that scent is always there. Some woods smell better than others, but for my money the aromatic champ is Western red cedar. I just completed a Mission-style picnic table project in cedar for a magazine, and my shop still smells so good that I’ve been making excuses to go out there even when doing office work just to drink it in. And because the bag in my dust collector is half-filled with cedar chips and shavings, I’m guaranteed to keep enjoying it for a few more weeks.

And while I suspect I’d get no argument on the superiority of the smell of cut cedar, my other favorite woodshop aroma may be a bit weird. I certainly doubt it’s a favorite for many woodworkers, but I become positively intoxicated with the smell of a freshly rubbed out oil finish. I gave a recent drop-front desk project several applications of boiled linseed oil, followed with a coat of paste wax. That combination, to me, is the best woodworking aroma of all.

That desk is in my small library at the front of the house, and every time I walk in the door I swear that if I close my eyes I can float into the house on that wonderful scent alone.


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