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Shop visits

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Because I live in a small town in the middle of nowhere, all my woodworking friends are located elsewhere. Getting to visit one of their shops, which I did this weekend, is always a treat.

My buddy Joe Cress falls into the friend category in two ways: Not only is he a fellow Civil War reenactor, but he’s also a full-time furniture maker ( We correspond frequently, usually by e-mail, but in the 12 or so years that we’ve known each other we’ve only managed to get together three, maybe four times.

Joe’s shop in Abingdon, Va., is only a few minutes off the interstate, so when we visited Sally’s mom this weekend in Bristol, Tenn., on our way back home yesterday we gave him a call from the car and headed over to his place for a short side trip. He had been planing down a load of walnut and cherry when I’d called, so the shop was fragrant with wood aromas as welcoming and attracting as a fresh-backed pie cooling on a windowsill.

We couldn’t stay long – we had a six-hour drive ahead of us and he was in the middle of a work day – but we caught up on things, got a quick tour of how he’s updated his large shop (he recently began teaching woodworking classes and has partitioned an area as a classroom), and checked out some recent furniture projects I’d previously only been able to see in photos.

What is it about visiting a friend’s shop that makes you want to get back out into your own? I have several non-shop items on my to-do list, and in fact wasn’t planning on spending enough time out there this week to even bother turning on the heater. But after visiting with Joe yesterday I find myself mentally rearranging the week’s task load to work in some shop time later this week. And this will be the best kind of shop time – nothing to do with any assignment or job I have to get done, but personal shop time where I’ll work on something just for me. I don’t know just what it’ll be yet, but I’m sure that whatever I decide to do it’ll be pure enjoyment.

Till next time,


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