Lost & found

side frame test-fit

Roy Underhill is a bench-clutterer. There, I said it. But, I am as well. As hard as I try to not be – I am. Once I asked Roy about Peter Ross’ shop – it’s so neat & organized. “Why can’t we be like him?” Roy told me he asked Peter the secret one time and got the answer: 

“Never put anything in a temporary place.” 

I have no idea if Peter really said that. (maybe he’ll let us know…or maybe it’s better just thinking it’s true.) But I think of it all the time. Like today when I spent easily 90 minutes looking for a plow plane iron. The chest I’m building has 2 different size grooves. One for the oak panels, about 2 1/2-sixteenths. And one for the floor of the chest and the rear pine panel – about 1/4”. 

plow plane setup w 1/4″ iron

I was working on a video about plowing the floor grooves last week or even the week before. I switched out my standard panel groove-iron and put it in a safe place. Inserted the 1/4” iron, plowed the floor grooves, finished the video. And set up to work on some chairs I had kicking around. 

Today I went to resume the chest project, shooting the next video segment – about framing the rear section of the chest. So I cut the joinery for the side frame & panels – where they meet the rear stiles. And went looking for my narrower plow iron. I thought I had put it in a top tray in my tool chest, tucked in with some carving tools. Didn’t see it. Maybe the window-sill. Nope. On & on. Pulled the bench out away from the wall & swept under it. Lifted the tool chest up on some blocks and swept under it – that never happens.So the whole time I spent looking for it, I kept thinking this is what I get for not putting things away. Wondered did it get swept into a bag of shavings. Thought about going in & ordering a new (old) set from Patrick Leach. Then gave up & plowed a slightly wider groove in the rear stiles – it’ll work but it doesn’t match what meets it. 

two different-width grooves

Then I found it. I had looked right at it, right where I first thought it was. 

well at least it wasn’t in the shavings

Yup, I’m a bench-clutterer and a moron. 

29 thoughts on “Lost & found

  1. Whenever some very competent woodworking expert/author/teacher espouses the importance of a clean shop and makes me feel guilty, I think about you and Roy and a few others. I may be a moron, but at least I’m in good company.

    Now where’d I put that…

  2. Yeah—I’ve been in Peter’s shop many times and I can so easily imagine he would have said that! If he is looking for a “bit” he goes right to a metal drawer in another room of the shop, no hesitation!

  3. Could have written this myself! But mostly I wander off with things and have no idea where I set it down. I spend 7 of every 8 hours searching

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  4. We’ve been looking for the battery and charger for our electric lawn mower for two months.

  5. I fully understand this.
    My shop is set up with a near zero rummage factor. Meaning I don’t have to hunt for a tool, it’s right there. And most importantly it is easy to put away. Otherwise I lose stuff.

  6. There is a difference between “put in a safe place” and “put in its place”.
    My wife like to put things out of sight (no clutter) but then she doesn’t remember where; while I tend to remember the last spot where I have used the item I need.
    We should both learn what is “its” place.

  7. My father suffered this same condition but he learned his son was better at finding misplaced things. Growing up on a farm with 4 children, this was a regular activity of mine. Another set of eyes is the best helper sometimes. My basic rule, try to look in a different way from everyone else. I really enjoy your posts.

  8. On the bright side, Peter, one day many many years from now, some young 17th century furniture expert will be trying to figure out why the builder of this chest used a different size plow iron. And they may spend even more time trying to figure that out then you spent looking for the narrower iron. And finally they will mutter “the only people who know must be dead.” PS enjoying the videos, the chest is coming along nicely!

    • Kevin,
      That is so right on, I had to laugh. Might answer many enigmas!
      I am also guilty of the same in my shop.

  9. I sympathize with your bench cluttering ways. For me, tool organizing takes a back seat to the project or procedure at hand. I’ve found working from a central bench and putting tools on a “wall bench” behind me I keep the main working area cleaner. That is until the bench behind me looks like a mountain of tools. A close friend once told me that organization is a function of retrieval. If you can find where that widget is in the jumbled mess, you’re organized.

  10. can totally sympathize! as a teacher, i discovered long ago that if i don’t obsessively make sure everything is in its place i might as well not look for it later. it will either disappear or go home with one of the students, intentionally or accidentally. so now even at home i avoid putting anything down unless it’s put away. a hard lesson to learn, though. i resisted it for years…

  11. The lab I worked in I kept neat. My desk space at home and work is kept neat. The woodshop is kept neat. It’s mostly a habit of how I work and a choice (I intensely dislike clutter). Everything has a place (and no I don’t outline them in pencils). I work for a bit, do a few operations, and then when I take a natural pause, I put the tools back where they belong and do a quick sweep up. I don’t find it that hard to do and mostly have a way of working that has many quick mini-organizations throughout the dayl

  12. Hello my name is Todd and I too am a bench clutterer and a moron. Well maybe Peter Ross can tell us but i think being aware is the first step. A big thanks for letting me know I am certainly not alone.

  13. Hi Peter, I have a question I haven’t been able to find an answer to. How long after an oak comes down can it pragmatically be rived and worked green?

    Had a windfall a couple weeks ago and I like to try and get some boards out of it. As it often does life is doing its best to interfere. How long have I got before the wood is too dry to work “easily?”

    • Wesley – with oak you have plenty of leeway. The heartwood will stay sopping wet for months & months. The sapwood will rot – but you don’t want that anyway. One problem is summer – bugs can get into it if the bark is still on. So I tend to try to process it within a month or two in summer. Winter, take all the time you need.

  14. Peter, I love this post. I’m sorry, but I do. This is a familiar scenario, and I certainly wouldn’t wish it upon you but you’ve already endured it. I like Kevin’s idea about potential earnest head-scratchings of future students of furniture making–

  15. I am one of those neatnicks who puts everything back in it’s place, and yet , I still can not find things sometimes. Sadly, dear brother, it is a sign of age more than of clutter. I have figured out that if I give up looking and buy a new one, the misplaced one miraculously appears.

  16. OH thanks for this. I don’t feel so alone anymore. I am glad I was able to find my laptop so I could send this response.

  17. Yup.

    My ‘favorite’ type of moronic behavior is when something gets moved <6” from where I thought it was, and it apparently turns invisible. Whole shop gets overturned, drawers and cabinets I haven’t touched in forever get ransacked, all because the infernal thing isn’t where I was sure I’d left it. It’s out in plain sight, just… 6” from being where it was supposed to be.

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