Working Vacation?

There is a stereotype about Americans that shines a light on our addiction to work.  The stereotype was explained to me by a friend from Honduras and it went something like this, "you (Americans) work too much and don't take vacations, and when you do they are either lame (think "Wow!  The worlds largest ball of string!") or they are plagued by a fat guy in an American Flag tee-shirt searching for a McDonalds in the Caribbean."  When I personally think of a vacation my mind wanders to Europe in the winter, the American North East in the fall, or the American North West just about any time of the year.  When my wife thinks of a vacation she thinks of the beach in the summer, or the Sahara in July, or Death Valley in August (sense the trend?).  The last couple of years we have compromised (read: I caved) and we have gone to the beach in the summer.  Being the amazingly wonderful mediocre husband I am, I typically oblige by kicking and screaming.  It's not that I hate the beach, or fun for that matter, it's just that the beach is hot and humid in the summer and I get bored and uncomfortably hot very easily.  That's why this year, I planned ahead.

Packing For Vacation!

Sometimes when we travel, I plan little stops around local woodworking attractions, small tool stores, or people I know.  My wife doesn't mind because she does the same thing, her locations just center more around expensive shoes.  This year, rather than stopping at attractions, I planned a wood-working-vacation. With about 40 minutes of prep work before we left, I was able to pack up enough projects and tools to keep me busy for a week at the beach.  This allowed me to spend some free time woodworking in between making a reclining chair out of sand for my daughter and I and roasting sun-bathing at the pool.

Setting Up A Workbench Is Hard Work, So We Made A Chair
It Didn't Even Need To Be... 'Sanded'?  AAHAHAHAHA!
I must admit, I am not a disciple of Mr. Schwarz' tool chest movement (I can actually hear woodworkers giving me the finger and closing their browser window).  I love how they look, and they seem extremely functional but I can't seem to get past the rummage factor.  No matter how many instructions he gives on the proper way to bend over and get tools out of the chest I just can't get past the fact that I have to bend over and dig through the chest every time I need something.  I am much more a drawer and cabinet kind of guy.

That being said, I do see an enormous value in the Traveling Tool Chest touted by the Woodworking Anarchist.  I haven't historically needed to bring enough fine woodworking tools to a job site that to warrant need for a chest.  Most of my rough carpentry and construction tools are electron powered and can be dumped in the back of a pickup truck.  Even for most finish/trim carpentry, a block plane, a coping saw and some sharp chisels are about the extent of non-powered tools on site (I LOVE MY MULTIMASTER!).  However, for some reason I find myself placed in a growing number of incidences where having these tools on hand is a necessity, this vacation was no exception.  As a result of this happy situation I have found need for a traveling tool chest.  Just by coincidence I have recently also come into possession of my grandfathers old Air Force footlocker.  The footlocker is an ugly gargoyle of a box (which is probably why I like it so much) and I have decided to re-purpose it as a traveling tool chest.  For it to be functional, however, it needs some modifications because as it stands, it's just a box.

Just Stuff Dumped In A Box...For Now...
I am making a traveling workbench that will strap to the bottom of the box and stand on some lightweight saw horses, some small tills for the inside and a spot to strap down some handsaws.  I intend this final product to be very utilitarian in nature and it will likely never be a looker (it'll always be ugly) but it will serve a much needed purpose, to carry my hand tools to and from a location without damaging them.

Gray Air Force Footlocker With Soon-To-Be Traveling Workbench Top
AKA-Mobile Workstation
Working With Lots Of Natural Light Is A Dream
(Yes That Is A Tablesaw I'm Using As A Bench, It's Quieter This Way)
On a related note, I have found some additional benefits to making so much of my monster workbench accessories interchangeable by mounting them to lengths of board.  I found that I can pack up and use my vises, Foley retoother and several other items that I have mounted on boards and clamp them just about anywhere and put them to good use.  My parrot vise is no exception.  I was able to clamp it to what will be the my mobile benchtop (currently just another scrap of Ikea butcher block countertop) on sawhorses and work on a Kenyon style saw handle that I roughed out before the vacation (more on that soon!!).  

No Rest For The Wicked
Kenyon Style Tote Taking Shape

Also, if you are curious, a beard at the beach brings sand home...gross.


  1. I love working with old-fashioned tools. All though I take advantage of the cutting edge technology society has to offer, I never fail to go back to basics. You can never go wrong there.