Book Review: ‘Good Clean Fun,’ by Nick Offerman
As you’d expect, Nick Offerman’s latest book, “Good Clean Fun: Misadventures in Sawdust at Offerman Woodshop,” is funny and inspiring – and that is key in attracting new woodworkers.
Let’s face it: Many of us are often far too serious and prescriptive when it comes to tools, techniques and talking shop. A little levity – along with solid instruction – goes a long way in helping folks to understand that woodworking is not only satisfying, it’s a lot of fun.
In his chapter on the tools and machinery in his Los Angeles-based shop, for example, not only does he give a thorough rundown of the whys and whats of the Offerman Woodshop equipment, he peppers his text with engaging personal asides. On sanding equipment: “Famously, woodworkers hate sanding more than any other activity in the shop, but I often love this process, apparently because I am dumb.” On the planer: “When I discovered that I could mill my own wood to whatever dimension I desired, rather than depending upon the only sizes available from the home improvement store, I felt like I had just been equipped with an incredible superpower.” (For me, that moment was when I realized you could glue two or more boards together to make a bigger board. Whoa.)
And while the Offerman Woodshop setup is decidedly enviable, the projects presented in “Good Clean Fun” are, for all but a few, achievable with but a modicum of equipment (and there are multiple tooling solutions presented for most) and doable for even the rank beginner. And that’s the overriding message of this book: Anyone can do this; you just have to try – so here’s a handful of fun ways to get started and build your skills.
The contemporary projects, presented with easy-to-follow step-by-step photos, illustrations and instruction, range from the quite simple, including a bottle opener, coasters and a kazoo; to the intermediate, among those a three-legged stool, a side table and a canoe paddle; to the more challenging, including a dining chair and bed.
But what I find perhaps most engaging about “Good Clean Fun” is that it celebrates the community of woodworking and making: Only two of the 13 projects are from the author; the others are from members of the Offerman Woodshop: Matthew Micucci, Krys Shelley, Josh Salsbury, Ric Offerman (Nick’s father), Jane Parrott, Matt Offerman (Nick’s very funny brother), Thomas Wilhoit, Michele Diener and RH Lee. Offerman goes to great and entertaining lengths in this book to underscore his belief that woodworking (and making anything) is more than the tools, wood or finished project; it’s about the rewarding friendships that are developed through craft.
To that end, along with the projects (and bios of the above-named makers), the book includes engaging profiles on just a few of the people Offerman finds inspirational and integral to his woodworking education: Laura Zahn, Jimmy DiResta, Mira Nakashima, Christian Becksvoort, Ted Moores and Joan Barrett, Laura Mays, Peter Galbert and Garry Knox Bennett.
There are also a few Offerman Woodshop recipes and beverage pairings for the perfect shop group meal – which Offerman writes, “…adds greatly to the well-being of our hearts and brains, not to mention our pocketbooks.” It’s simply another facet of building community while making something. Then eating it.
While “Good Clean Fun” is not the most authoritative or comprehensive woodworking book available (you’ll have to consult others to learn, for example, how to set up a table saw or handplane, or make the “ultimate router table”), it is by far the most entertaining woodworking book I’ve ever read. There are, after all, plenty of good (and some great) books available on woodworking tools, machinery, joinery and theory – there are very few that celebrate in such an engaging way the joy of woodworking.
In short: Highly recommended.
Want to hear more from Offerman himself? Check out the audio interview below.