Wonderful Workshop Wrecks


Tanks friend, Dick Thompson’s shop has that casual air so compelling to Tank.
What treasures are buried there?

I’ll admit I’ve got a fetish of sorts. It involves workshops. It started when I was about five years old while exploring my Pap’s toolshed on the farm. The smell of grain mingled with the classic aroma of oil, filled your nostrils when you peeked in. The year’s excess grain was stored upstairs in burlap bags for feed, and a large greasy 55-gallon drum of oil, complete with hand pump, was always at the ready.

An old hickory stump held a century-old anvil that must have weighed 500 pounds, along with hammers and tongs scattered everywhere. The shop’s atmosphere told you this was a place to “fix” things, and fix them fast — not putter-around, putting everything away, all nice and neat, in designated spots.

Treasure Pile

The main centerpiece of the shop was the long workbench running the length of the wall. Cluttered — it was mesmerizing, especially to a curious cub like me. Motorized grinders were bolted to the heavy hand-hewn bench top, along with large, heavy, greasy vises. Hand tools like tractor-sized ratchets, wrenches and other wonderment were scattered across the top, ready for easy access. Numerous screwdrivers the size of small pry-bars, rounded out the affair.

You just knew by the aftermath, Pap fixed what needed fixing, dropped his tools and got back to his farm chores. Repairs didn’t count as work — they were setbacks, keeping him from working.

No sense wasting anymore time putting stuff away, when there was real work to be done. Here lies the key to “workshop wrecks.” Maybe I subconsciously stored this memory for later, when I had my own workshop? Whatever it was, it’s true, I’m the “king of clutter” when it comes to my work areas.

Be it bench-top, bookshelf or reloading room, my projects lie where I leave them, to be conveniently picked-up later. Prior projects eventually get piled over, leaving their remnants to be re-discovered at a later date. Unfortunately, projects have a tendency to propagate; leaving several layers of previous projects piled deep and high.

Have no fear! I find comfort in such monstrosities and can appreciate another man’s shop clutter.

Common Core?

While recently visiting my buddy Dick Thompson, this very thought hit home. Dick and I regularly discuss cast bullets, loads, calibers and guns on a regular basis. Looking at this reloading room with the probing eye of an archeologist, I can decipher each and every project scattered on his benches.

Loading presses, bullet sizers, molds and lubers where seductively scattered everywhere. Large coffee, bean and cookie cans were all filled to different levels with different cast bullets, for future use. Old books and magazines on our favorite subject of cast bullets are nonchalantly stacked in shelves and crevices screaming “pick me up.”

Again, I found it pleasing, taking-in another’s “shop-slop” display of scattered ideas in the form of tools, equipment and half-finished projects strewn across the bench. Every night, before bedtime, I’d go in for ten minutes, taking it all in, observing something new from the previous visit.

This new pre-sleep ritual was better than reading; it was real stuff, something to think about as I drifted off to sleep. I know some of you know what I mean…

Roys shop: His Editorship confesses to a certain organization in his shop and Tank may
not be too far off when he says it’s due to the fact Roy needs to keep his wayward writers
organized. Force of habit? Here, he’s showing Tank and Doc Barranti how to silver solder.
But he did clean up the mess right after!

The Neat Freaks

Then there’s the neat freaks, you know, the guys with everything in its place, lined-up, smallest to largest, in alphabetical order, or by dimension. While visiting His Editorship recently, his shop reflected this theme to the “T.” Thinking about it, it only made sense.

An editor’s job is to compartmentalize, nip, tuck, cleanup, throw-out, smooth over and sometimes, simply make things disappear from the sometimes hair-brained, disarranged thoughts of some of his writers. Uh, well…at least one writer.

While not as appealing or interesting to me, Roy’s workbench was still useful, it put me to sleep with his OCD ways, it was just so organized. Funny thing is, he seems to spend less time in his shop, accomplishing more on his projects. Hmmm…maybe, just maybe, there’s a correlation or something to a neat and clean shop? Nahh…!

Where it all comes home, at Tank’s shop. Although there’s plenty of clutter, or as Tank say,
“Layers of projects,” do we see a bit of “organization” in the dies and loaded cartridge shelves?
The heresy!

Tank’s Tortastrophe

My shop resemble my brain patterns, scattered, flying in and out of my cranial cavity faster than I can capture them, sometimes. Oh, what’s a tortastrophy? It’s what my wife calls my workshop, a cross between a tornado and a catastrophe. It doesn’t bother me any; I know where everything is, at least most times.

I try cleaning up every now and then, but it seems the shop quickly reverts back on it own, back to its tortastrophe ways. Either way, putting things back takes valuable time away from the more important matters, like shooting the loads born from that strategically stacked pile of shooting utensils.

Albert Einstein famously quoted, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”
Neat or clean, just keep puttering at your hobby. That’s all that matters. As for me, I’ll keep following Pap’s lead; it seemed to work for him — and for me.