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Oh, you mean it's actual work?

How many times have you heard this? "I would really love to have a chance to work with my hands."

"You are so lucky to be able to be your own boss."

"I love wood. It would be so great to be able to make my living working with wood."

If you run a woodworking shop, you have probably heard those comments and many other variations on them a thousand times. More often than not, when I hear comments like this they are coming from someone with zero experience trying to convince me to hire them. And here I am, jaded, crotchety old geezer, failing to appreciate the enthusiasm of this young (or maybe not so young) man standing in my office so eager to get out there and work with wood.

The problem? Well, the problem is that once you get past the fantasy of soul satisfying creative endeavor and the joy and love of wood, it's wonderful smell, it's amazing tactile quality, you find, all too soon that working with it is, well, work. Real, hard, dirty, "actual" work.

Once we were in a restaurant and wanted an omelet. The waitress had just informed us that their omelets were made with reconstituted dehydrated eggs and when we inquired as to possibility of having an omelet made with real eggs, the waitress looked puzzled and asked "You mean ‘actual’ eggs?" Yes, actual eggs from actual chickens; that's what we want. And that's what you get in the shop laddie, actual work.

Once you get past the ooing and ahing over the grain and how cool the design is, you have to go out there and hump all that lumber around. All that sawing and planing and sanding and clamping. So if you don't get at least as much joy out of the idea of coming home with sore muscles, with every nook and cranny filled with sawdust, with being sweaty or cold all day depending on the time of year, to tweezer out the splinters, large and small that you didn't even notice until you were on your way home, as you get from the thought of "working with wood" ... well, maybe you better think about a different line of work.

I only bring this up now because I have the feeling that there are going to be a fair number of guys thinking about trading in their white shirts for blue (or God help us, plaid). Guys who would love to work with their hands. Who always wanted to work with wood. And who just might have a serious wake up call in store.


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