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I’m sure I’m not the only reader who is astounded by the pristine, seemingly unused shops that frequently appear in this department. Here are a couple of pictures of my shop, showing the carnage after turning two salad bowls and sixteen serving bowls as wedding gifts. Piled in front of my bandsaw are left-over scraps from sawing the logs. Under the saw is sawdust. Stacked not-soneatly behind the saw are short pieces of wood that are too beautiful to burn. The old filing cabinet in the back is full of machine manuals, paper, patterns and other shop essentials. I found the stacked blue tackle boxes—now full of square drive screws—at the town dump.

I took the lathe photo after removing most of the mid-calf pile of shavings created during the bowl-turning. As any turner knows, you need lots of sandpaper—check out the yellow Klingspor bargain boxes. The old hospital light (I’m an ER physician by day) provides great illumination for bowl turning.

My outfeed table consists of two soapstone chemistry lab tables that I rescued from the old high school. Dead flat and impervious to mallet blows, they also make excellent assembly tables.

Visitors always ask why my shop is so untidy. The answer is simple: My six-month backlog of projects and orders doesn’t leave a lot of time to spend cleaning. So please give ordinary woodworkers— those of us who don’t clean our shops daily—a taste of glory. Those clean shops scare me! –Roger Lafleur

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Showing 6 comments
  • pirollodesign

    A clean shop might be scary to you but when it comes to insurance and fire risk, clean is much preferred. Could these messes be what is driving woodworking insurance premiums up and causing ins. companies to deny woodworkers insurance. Not a good message! I’m not a clean shop zealot but take precautions against having a large buildup of sawdust and shavings. It doesn’t take much to keep a clean, tidy shop with a few minutes at the end of a workday. This is how it’s taught in woodworking curriculums and woodworking schools. There are so many benefits to a clean, tidy shop. Let’s get the correct message out!

  • jdkulluk

    I am in total agreement with your thoughts. How does anyone make anything with wood with no sawdust or shavings or other wooden things on the floor? Some of the shops in the wood magazines are so clean they look cleaner than my house! Keep up the good work.

  • mdgarnett

    When I was a young engineer, my employer (a large oil tool company) was in the process of selling the company. Whenever we learned the buyer was coming for any kind of inspection we had to get everything put away and our entire lab cleaned up.

    After several visits the buyer asked if we ever did any work because everything was so neat. That comment changed the situation but not in the way we’d hoped – from then on we had to clean up and then carefully stage everything for all the visits.

  • Clair Hesselton

    As the task for today was to clean my shop and watch football on the shops tv (maybe watching football is the priority and cleaning shop is secondary) . The floor is often cleaner then yours only because if it isn’t my wheelchair can’t make it to the lathe. But the young man I found to help me this year still doesn’t understand why there are boxes of wood pieces. I told him he would learn that each piece has value and a hidden treasure and it is our job to bring it out.

  • jeppe53

    I told my wife, facetiously that someone had posted a picture of my shop on the internet. I struggle desperately to break the habit of just walking in and dropping my tools, left over materials from other projects around the house on my saw or the nearest flat surface.

    That, and I am an inveterate saver of stuff that might be made into something else.

    Ah ha, maybe if we had no flat surfaces in our shops I would be cured!!

    Good Luck!!! to all who face this challenge.


    Truer words were never spoken! Even “clean”, my shop is never without stacks, piles, and sawdust somewhere. Can I rent the cleaning elves that must inhabit those picture postcard shops somewhere? 😊

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