Does Your Workspace Inspire You?

I would estimate that I am doing 85-90% of my work with hand tools these days. Because of that I am constantly looking for better lighting so I can truly see my work. Lately I haven’t even been turning on my over head fluorescent lights instead favoring to turn on the incandescent work light right over the bench. I point the light at the white ceiling and work with only the reflected light. Sometimes, I’ll turn the bulb right on the work for a spotlight effect. It is really amazing how little light you need to woodwork, and I can’t help but think of my forefathers in the cabinet shops working in the waning light of day.

I can’t really put my finger on it, but there is something very calming about working in a semi dark shop. It feels more intimate and just feels wrong to be making a lot of noise like I might wake up someone so it seems that this low lighting actually lends itself to hand work. The weather is still a bit too cold for me to open my garage door and the two windows I do have shed some natural light on things but not quite enough; hence the incandescent task lights.

All of this preamble leads up to an experience from this weekend. I was working in my shop most of the day on my Wood Whisperer Guild build table with only this one light on over the bench. I continued to work until just before the sun went down when I took a break to walk the dog. That led to dinner and a few other things in the house and I was not able to get back down to the shop until it was fully dark outside. As I walked through the door into the shop I was greeted by this sight:
Roubo Shrine

Behold my shrine to hand tool woodworking! How can you not be inspired to produce your best work when confronted with this setting!

7 Responses to “Does Your Workspace Inspire You?”

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  1. An interesting post, Shannon. I scored a bunch of 4-tube commercial light fixtures about 6 months ago and my shop, finally, is bright enough to see all the dust :-) If nothing else it makes taking photos a lot easier.

    But you’re right; the overly bright room isn’t nearly as inviting as my older lighting set up. I might do some experimenting with this myself. Thanks for the push.

    Cheers — Larry

  2. BedrockBob says:

    Nice post Shannon,
    I have a room that I am using as a hand tool shop; it is still a work in progress. Looking forward to the day when it is as inviting as your picture. The room has a nice window that when the sun is shinning bright gives off good light. When it is a rainy day or night time the light is horrible; need to work on the lighting as I believe it is an important part of woodworking.

  3. Morton says:

    Thx for the pic and idea. I’m currently putting up (4) new 2-bulb fluorescent fixtures to provide a lot *more* light to my assembly table. But I like this idea for the future when I build my new handtool workbench.

  4. Larry says:

    I haven’t tried this in the shop yet but I know when I sit down in the evening to watch a good movie I like the lights off, it does create a calming atmosphere. I am going to try this in the shop with just the window near my bench for light while using hand tools. Should be a type of meditation.

  5. Brian C. Brazil says:

    Nothing beats working with the garage door open, especially when doing hand tool work.

    My little shop is in an old, one car detached garage right on a side street, where people go walking in nice weather. It makes me feel like I’m working at Colonial Williamsburg or something. :)

  6. kosta says:

    I would say that 95% of my work is done with power tools.

  7. Chris says:

    I may be biased as I am a professional lighting designer, but to me the most uninspiring thing is fluorescent lighting. Especially if you are using hand tools–where is the romance in that?
    My shop is lit with overhead cans w/ incandescent bulbs and several clip lamps for project areas, and a window provides natural light.
    I understand why people use fluorescents, safety is certainly a factor, but most people don’t have them in their homes, why would you want them in your favorite room –your shop?

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