Operation Bookshelves

In my ongoing campaign to discover more space in my house, I’ve decided that I really need more bookshelves. Now, if I was married to an ordinary man, I would go to the store and I would buy me some shelves. Two hours shopping, three hours assembling. Done.

But I am married to a woodworker.

Knowing that, you’re probably thinking that getting a simple bookshelf should be even easier.

(insert manic laughter) No. To the wife of a woodworker, even a project as simple as a bookshelf is very complex.

Before such a project can be embarked upon, any existing projects need to be completed. The current project gathering dust developing a natural patina in hubby’s shop is a lovely little desk being custom-built for a nook in the hallway. It will be my bill-paying desk, and will also give me some needed bookshelf space. It was begun…oh…a year ago, and should be done..well, someday. I’m so excited about it. It will be lovely. Someday.

Don’t get me wrong. My man is a great, energetic man. He completes many projects. And he does so in the midst of working full-time, and running kids to youth group, and shopping, and fixing the innumerable things that break in a busy house full of kids, and even cooking us pancakes for breakfast once or twice a week. But furniture takes serious time. No sense starting on any given day if you know you’ll have to go run errands in a couple hours. No, woodworking projects are best saved for days unbroken by any other time commitments.

Once a job is mentally committed to and an encouragingly barren block of time found, the shop must be cleaned. Two days minimum.

Then the job must be measured up. My man has an artist’s eye, and does beautiful work. But he doesn’t just leap in. Each project must be thought deeply over and really envisioned. Usually we end up arguing at least a little, too, before the project ends up taking a shape that we both feel good about. I know I should just leave him be, but somehow I can’t help myself.. I just have to get my two cents worth in, even when it slows the project down.

Once the desired shape has been established, the wood must be planed. There’s tons of wood already in his shop: oak…walnut…lovely stuff. But it’s all rough-hewn. It takes a whole weekend of wood-planing to make a pile big enough for a bookself.

Another weekend will get the wood cut to length, and if I can finangle him enough time free of kid-chauffering duties, maybe some of the body will take shape as well.

Another weekend will get the job assembled and sanded. If I want the project to actually be finished, with polyurethane or an oil finish or whatever, I’ll have to wait another weekend or two. But often I am so eager to finally have my item that in it comes, sanded but unfinished. I’ll finish it myself later, I always say optimistically to myself. (Ha. If I took some time rght now to finish all the projects I thought I would, I’d still be varnishing on Valentine’s Day….)

I feel for his dilemma, really I do. Because I know how short his time is, I will sometimes just jump in and buy something that he could make. I’ve been thinking of buying a boot-bench for our front entry just because of the time crunch. I don’t want to always be asking him to add yet more projects to his already-full to-do list. But when I jump in and buy something he could build, it disappoints him. He genuinely loves to build things.

“Why didn’t you wait for me to make it? I could’ve made this….” he rocks whatever thing I’ve recently purchased, “and it’d be better than this cheap thing.”

Bless the man, he honestly WANTS to build the things we need in our home. I just don’t know how to let him do it without screaming with impatience during the wait…..

So, bookshelves….do I really need ’em? I dunno. Maybe I’ll do some gentle nudging about the state of my little desk before I make any mention of bookshelves. I don’t want to totally derail that project.

Or maybe I’ll run down to Lowe’s tomorrow, grab something serviceable, and hang the consequences. We could always find another spot for those Lowe’s shelves after he gets the chance to make me his pretty ones. Whenever that happens.

Woodworkers. Gotta love ’em.

And wives with never-ending projects…? They make woodworkers sigh…..


  1. I recognise this well! All the men I know seem to have this failing. They love to make beautiful things, but have no time, and hate spending money on things they could make better. And pay someone to paint/ construct / fix/ customise??? You have to be joking! Buy the cheap thing and tell him it is for the garage or basement, and that it can “temporarily” used in the house while he makes his masterpiece!

  2. Oh my word – are you sure you’re not sitting in my brother-in-law’s house? It’s not like that in our house – can’t carrying all that equipment all over the world… We only try to cut wood from desparation, after we absolutely cannot find the perfect thing we can’t live without. Most of the time, we decide we can live without it….

  3. Hahaha. My husband is the same way – why buy things when we could MAKE THEM? Of course, we have no time, so nothing ever gets done, but the plans that man makes!

  4. So I was going to start a blog, . . . but I think I should just direct everyone here. You write about my life better than I could! First the Twinkie thing and now wood. (Though I will say that when my dh went to med school, I told, no, BEGged him to retire the tools for a while . . . so we’re living in temporary store-bought bliss.)

  5. I am feeling your pain. Roger is a handyman by trade..only commercially. He can literally fix anything to maintain and lengthen it’s life. My food processor (circa 1981 found at a yard sale for $3.00) went out..thought it was a good excuse to get a new one. Apparently I was greatly mistaken. Roger fixed it, it
    works better than before. Let’s just say, that while I am proud of his talents and abilities…..I would much rather have a new food processor.

  6. Awww.. my husband is similar. He wants to do things himself instead of spending money on stuff, but he has no time whatsoever! I love that he makes the attempt when he can.

  7. My hubby too!! If I tell him we need whatever – he says “oh I can build it for cheaper”

  8. Martina Fahrner says:

    Ok, the new book shelf is only a “placeholder” until hubby has time to build… not the real , manly, beautiful shelf that he going to build — eventually. It’s only one thing that you try out for size, see how a book shelf would look there, if the kids really need a shoe bench…. only a placeholder!

    Another way to deal with the floods of book is to weed out…Until about 2 years ago I could never imagine giving/selling/donating books… but we just have to darn many… so I sell them back to our excellent bookshop Powell’s and actually get enough money out of it to buy new ones…

  9. Ah, my husband is not yet a woodworker, but as a home-improvement guru, he follows the same strategy. Our walk-in closet in the master bedroom took him 3 years to finish – but it is absolutely PERFECT. Couldn’t ask for a better-designed closet for that particular (very awkward) space.

    Gotta love ’em. Honestly, I think he’s this way because God knew I needed to work on my patience.

  10. Just start putting thses things all over your house, he’ll get the idea soon enough:

  11. LOL! Oh how I can relate to this! My husband is a building contractor and I’m sure you have heard the phrase about how a mechanics car nevers runs very good. Well that is the case with our home. Having a carpenter for a husband, our home may never be done. We built our home in 1999 and still have several things that aren’t finished.

    But when he has worked in that trade all day, it is the last thing he wants to do when he gets home. So I try to be patient and pray that ….one day it will be done…… or I guess one day it just won’t matter anymore!

  12. So true. MY husband is a carpenter. I can’t buy ANYTHING that I want because he’ll just say, why did you do that, I could make one way better for cheaper? only he works insane hours and never has time to make it. He is more spontaneous though. I”ll come home on a weekend and find him up to his ears in sawdust assembling a bed that I”ve been waiting for. (He makes all of the kids beds.) BUt I’ve never gotten a book shelf. I’ve actually started making things for myself. I made ou table and the benches that go with it. I made my own desk. I basically draw my plan and then ask him if it will work and he tells me what kind of wood I”ll need, and fasteners and all of that other stuff and I make the thing. AH well, at least it gets made.

  13. Sounds just like my husband!! Living with a painter is much the same as living with a wordworker, I’m afraid. A good man, and very busy with his “paying” work and daddy-duties. So I try to just take care of things to avoid another project for him to do. We purchased two unfinished dining chairs and had them for over a year before they were sanded, stained and finished. Just a couple weeks ago, the fireplace mantle got sanded, stained, finished and installed (which his parents gave us for Christmas 2005), and it was such a beautiful success that now he has all sorts of ideas of other projects. I love his desire to make beautiful things for our home. I’m just trying not to get too impatient …… [:-)

  14. LOL “insert manic laughter” and “developing a natural patina” over gathering dust…FUNNY stuff! This is the truest of posts. Carpentry and all fix-it activity is a layman’s sport, not a professional career. But it’s so worth ithe wait (and extra lumber purchases for the mistakes in measuring/cutting and whatnot) to see him smile when he builds/repairs our stuff himself. The wait is often so frustrating, but it IS worth it to see him in a toolbelt, I’ll give him that. I loved this and am still chuckling.

    Melanie 🙂

  15. *pats you*

    My husband has said the exact same thing… in fact, I’ve quit buying furniture because I hate to see him look at it and frown. The things he makes are gorgeous, and I love them, but I do find it hard to wait the years it takes for a project to be completed.

    My hubby is an electrical contractor as well… ask me how long I went without a doorbell (5 years), or if the lights in the kitchen work (they do not)… I feel your pain.

    …I have so much to do…rearranging for the new baby, moving my toddler to a different room…and I’m 17 weeks…you remind me of all the things I need to get done…

  17. I wrote this comment THREE TIMES this a.m. and it wouldn’t post. Trying one more time…

    …ask this photographer’s wife how many family pictures we have? We could never do the cheap Penney’s or Sears portraits because why would we spend money on that soul-less, mass-produced bad quality stuff when we could have beautiful one-of-a-kind black and white portraits? ANd we do have a few, and they are gorgeous, but. It’s so complicated and time-consuming to set up lights and backgrounds, block out time for developing and printing, etc. You get the picture–pun intended. 🙂

  18. My dad could build and fix anything. As a result I don’t think my mother ever had a new fridge, dishwasher or bookshelf. The good thing was the money he saved us, the hard part was waiting 6 weeks for the dishwasher part to come in.

    I feel your pain! Nothing beats IKEA for bookshelves….except homemade.

  19. My husband and I play the opposite roles. I am designer and he frequently needs an item or two designed (business cards, brochures) and I frequently put it off. What is that saying about the shoe cobblers children. . .

  20. This made me laugh out loud. My hubby is a very talented woodworker, and we have a fixer-upper house. Though much has been accomplished, I don’t think it will ever end.