OK, so I’m probably taking a 100-year step backwards here, but I’m left with few options.

Prior to moving to Italy, I put my woodshop on a trailer and had my Dad haul it back to his place, both to hold it for me and to keep it in usable condition (since he’s done his fair share of woodworking too). I put the shop on a “3-year loan” to him because I didn’t think I’d have the space for it in an Italian house, and I had also heard nightmares about European electricity. My foresight paid off… sort of. Turns out the power issue is an issue: our circuit breakers pop everytime the laundry machine is going while the computer is on (and… the voltage is different too). So, power saws and tools would probably just sit and collect Italian dust. On the other hand, we ended up with plenty of space in our house.

I always hate looking at wood furniture because I always catch myself thinking “I can probably build that for half the price.” Then it’s just a matter of getting motivated and finding the time to do it. That very thing happened for a kid’s play-table for Matchbox cars and trains (in particular, Brenden’s love of Thomas the Train and his toy train collection). Pam talked about getting him the table for his birthday (like the one below), but I didn’t want to pay that much for it. So I set out to build it instead.

manufactured Train Table

Upon checking into Italy, I noticed that the base had an immaculate woodshop. Everything industrial-sized, everything I needed (and more). So with a shop like that at my disposal, I spent almost every Saturday for two months building Brenden’s play table. I got my hands on rough-cut Mahogany and Beech to build it. I even managed to use all wood-to-wood joinery, without a single nail or screw. It turned out better than anything I can buy if I do say so myself (note the dovetail wood-to-wood joinery on the pull-out bins!):

home-built train table

Soon thereafter, I set about building a plywood substructure, with tunnels and bridges, for an “O” Scale train to go around the Christmas tree (this was a huge hit with both kids).

And in the 4 or so months that I was spending my Saturdays in the shop, another issue began to surface: shop-time was taking me away from what little time I already had to spend with Pam and the kids.

And then I deployed…

Of course, my mind always day-dreams better while I’m at my time-share. In the past, it’s been telescopes, flying or photoshop. I think this rotation will be the woodworking one, and I think I came up with the perfect plan to reestablish my woodshop at home.

It kinda started by dreaming up a Morris Chair as my next project when I return home… two matching ones actually. Threats from Pam (“you better spend all your time with me when you get home”) got me thinking: maybe I can build the chair using traditional style hand-tools while I’m at home. Like chisels, hand planes and saws. So I bought a book on it – which convinced me that this idea was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Here’s why:

  1. I don’t have to plug anything in. So the Italian power issue is now a non-issue.
  2. I can do this at home with the family around.
  3. It doesn’t make that much noise… (think of the screaming that power tools make).

So I’ve got a few chisels, hand-planes and saws meeting me at home by the time I get back. My first project, to both act as a tool to use my tools on and give me time to break in the hand tools, will be a work bench. It’ll also give me a good opportunity to practice mortise and tenon joinery on something that’s not furniture quality. Here’s the design I’m looking to follow.

21st Century Work Bench

To be continued…

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