In Praise of the Workbench

We’ve got some wasted space in our bedroom closet.

It’s not much space, really. 31″x21″x20″ About 8 cubic feet we’d guess. In a Baltimore rowhouse though, closet space is a precious commodity, and the waste of any of it is silly and shameful. For one such as the Chop, who shops for clothes regularly and likes the room neat and orderly at all times, maximizing closet space is imperative.

So we went to Home Depot and looked for a shelf. We didn’t expect we’d find one that was exactly 31″x 21″, but we were dismayed to find that we couldn’t even come close. We couldn’t seem to find any shelving broader than about a foot.

You can accomplish a lot with a good workbench. Just ask this guy Edison.

It was then that we strolled over to the lumber aisle and found some really nice planks of maple. ‘This’ll work.’ we thought ‘We can cut this to size, use the cut piece as a shelving front, and attach it to the walls, et voilà, custom shelving. We’ve even already got some antique white paint at home to match the trim, or stain and lacquer to match the furniture.

But we quickly realized just how impractical this plan is. Why impractical? Because we haven’t got a saw. Buying a circular saw isn’t out of the question, although it is a very small project to justify the purchase. Even if we had a saw though, we’d probably cut a hand off with it- for we have no workbench.

We don’t even have anything even remotely resembling a workbench. No old folding tables, sawhorses, nothing like that. Without a proper workspace, even something as simple as joining two pieces of wood becomes much harder than it should be. Ditto for painting it, so we’re setting aside the shelf idea for now.

When we enumerated our New Year’s resolutions a few weeks ago, there were a few of them we left out for brevity’s sake, and one of those is to build a workbench area in the basement. We’ve been wanting to do this since before we moved in. Even touring the house with our Realtor we thought that sectioning off a part of the basement for a bench was a great idea. Then roommate moved in, and our basement filled up quick with toys, action figures, T shirts, and sundry other junk which should have found its way to eBay or the dump a long time ago.

Having a bench handy will not only enable us to build and repair things around the house, it will also enable us to build up a decent collection of tools as the need for them arises. As it is now, our humble set of tools is in a box. Not a toolbox, mind you, but a cardboard box. They blend in very nicely with the rest of the junk down there, and we’re hesitant to bring home anything for which we don’t have a place.

Aside from all the practical concerns though, we’ve got to admit that we’re also drawn by the sheer goddamn manliness of the workbench. While we’ve been able to knock out every repair or improvement we’ve faced so far, we anticipate many more in the future around here, and having the right tool for the job and getting it done in a space you’ve designed and built yourself has a deep inherent satisfaction, and we suspect that chasing that satisfaction will have us spending more of our Sundays accomplishing home improvements, and fewer of them sulking around, listening to Belle and Sebastian and looking at the sex stories and personal essays on nerve.com.

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1 Comment

Filed under A Day in the Life of the Chop

One response to “In Praise of the Workbench

  1. Genny

    My husband and I also live in a Baltimore row home, with no work bench. With 2 kids, and a LOT of stuff, taking up nearly every inch of space (including the basement), a separate work bench area is not an option for us. We do, however, have a great table on our patio that doubles as a work bench. A drop cloth covering the top spares it from glue, paint, and dings/scratches from projects.

    My husband is one of those guys that does maintenance for office and retail buildings, so we have lots of tools, and friends and neighbors borrow what they need pretty regularly. We have another neighbor that builds houses, so we borrow from him what we don’t have. Not sure about your neighborhood, but where we live the neighbors all talk and help each other out. For us, we see it as one of the perks of city living.

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