E N Curtis

Woodworker. Artist. Teacher. Chucklehead.

My Workspace

Honesty is the best policy, I've been told. But it's true. It's true with relationships, both personal and professional. And it's true in this blog. This is a place to share information, honestly, so that we all might learn a thing or two. As such, a fair assessment of my creative space is in order.

It's not pretty. It's not where I want to end up. But it's where I am, and I've been creatively successful there. I have dreams of a bigger, brighter, more beautiful place to work and spend my days. But all buildings need a foundation to be built before any aesthetic work begins. And that is the stage of life in which I currently reside.

I am, by some definitions, a "hand-tool woodworker." Meaning that, in my daily work, I utilize hand tools for almost all of my work beyond the milling process. Consequently, I don't need many of the large machines that others rely so heavily on—machines such as slot mortisers and shapers. These machines, while wonderfully efficient and a perfectly legitimate way to work, promote a lifestyle that does not sit well with me for two main reasons. The first is to say that all things need to be done as quickly as possible. The end is the goal, not the process. But the furniture itself is not why I became a furniture maker; rather, the process of making the furniture, from design to finish, is what I enjoy most. There is a satisfaction at the culmination of my work, not just in the thing having been conquered. 

The second reason is that advertisers often promote the machines to non-professionals who then feel they need the best toys to keep up with the "pros." But do they? Brian Boggs started making chairs with just a chisel and spokeshave. In fact, the story is that he didn't even have a chisel, so he put an edge on a slotted screw-driver. The only chair of his I've ever sat in was incomparably the most comfortable chair I've ever put my butt in. 

Mostly, I just enjoy the way I work. I enjoy the romance of the quiet days of planing and sweetening curves with the spokeshave. The sounds of the mallet hitting the chisel and the smell of scraped oak. The glimmer pine has once the ol' #4 has purified its surface. I simply like life more in those moments than when the motors are humming.

I wanted to give you all a glimpse into my working life so that you can recognize that you don't need the perfect space to start working wood. You simply need to find something that fits your situation. This fit mine. My three major milling machines—the bandsaw, the jointer, and the thickness planer—are all within 8 feet of each other. My table saw outfeed table holds my chop saw and its extension beds and doubles as a finishing table. My dust collection is a portable Rikon collector and an air filtration system from Jet. Before I could afford those, it was a dust mask and an open garage door.

We'll discuss all these things in more depth in due time, but for now, go get a chisel and spokeshave and make a chair already, would ya?