Habit forming

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Last time, I talked about my worst shop habit: never putting things away up to the point where my work is affected. I also asked you to fess up about your own bad habits. Though my worst habit is not putting things away, I’ve also done a couple of yours more often than I’d really like to admit. So this time, let’s flip it around and talk about good shop practices. Bet you didn’t see that coming.

Fortunately, in addition to my bad habits I also have some good ones. For one, I’m almost religious about cleaning brushes. I tend to use disposable brushes for staining, but for top-coating my work I buy top-quality brushes and I take very good care of them.

I also save a lot of scrap. In his comment on the previous blog, Butch Ruggiero confessed that saving too much scrap was his bad habit. The habit may compromise his work, but I find that it enhances mine. I make a lot of small projects, and I rarely have to go out to get material for them – I always have plenty.

Another good habit is that I inventory my supplies regularly. Maybe it’s because I do most of the grocery shopping in our house, but I’m in the habit of keeping small lists of things that are running low. Just as I’ll scratch down milk, eggs and canned tomato sauce on my grocery list, I always know when I’m about to run out of sandpaper, glue or 1-1/4” screws. (And, yes, on more than one occasion I’ve reached into my shirt pocket at the local Home Depot only to find a list that reads, “ground beef, ketchup, Frosted Flakes…”)

But I guess my best habit is that at the completion of every major project, I do a complete shop cleaning. And when I say “complete,” I mean exactly that. I put everything away in its proper place; every tool, every supply, every pencil, everything. I’ll sweep and scoop up every last bit of chips or sawdust, then run the shop vacuum for an hour. I vacuum the light fixtures and garage door opener, stationary equipment, cabinet faces and work surfaces, and finally the floor. This cleanliness doesn’t last forever, of course, as my clutter habit and the natural course of woodworking will mess it up again, but between major projects my workshop is a space that I can show off proudly to any and all.

OK, that’s my best habit. Again, what’s yours?

Till next time,

A.J.

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