Canadian Woodworking

My Neighbours

Author: Don Wilkinson
Illustration: Mike Del Rizzo
My Neighbours
My Neighbours

I don’t like my neighbours! I think I just heard a: Well…Duh! from pretty well everyone who knows me, but let me clarify that statement.


I’m quite sure there are sev­eral people out there that are very nice in their place, as long as it’s their place they’re in and not mine. And as long as I don’t have to socialize with them. Or talk to them. Or wave at them when they walk by on the street. That’s what cur­tains are for.

Now, before you think I’m just a crotchety old man, I do have a valid reason for not liking my neighbours. It’s simply that they all have better workshops than I do. When I was in Whitehorse, my shop was over 3400 sq. ft., not including the lathe room. Or the lumber storeroom. It did include the bathroom however. My current shop is the size of a single-car garage. In fact, it is a single car garage. An Austin Mini-sized garage. Unfortunately, my table saw takes up almost half the available floor space. My two 14″ Delta band saws, two drill presses, auxiliary table saw, 16-inch planer, General Lathe, Beaver-Rockwell lathe and the shaper take up the rest. Don’t even ask why I have two identical band saws. I haven’t a clue anymore.

What really bothers me is that although none of my neighbours’ shops are even close to being as well equipped as mine, they make up for their short­comings by having enough room in which to use the tools they do have. And any tools they don’t have, they bor­row from me.

Living on one side of me is John. John has a two-car garage attached to his house. He owns one car. He is currently building a second two-car garage in his back yard. He still has only one car. His plan is to dedi­cate that garage for use as a workshop. I don’t like John anymore.

Malcolm lives on the other side. He recently built a two-car garage for the sole purpose of rebuilding old cars and trucks. And possibly just to irritate me in a general way. One quar­ter of his shop is hermetically sealed, so he can recreate the wooden portions of the cars he rebuilds without getting saw­dust on the oily bits. I leave old screws and bolts lying around in random places whenever I visit him. I also have a tiny squirt bottle filled with old engine oil that I dribble under his latest project. It drives him nuts trying to locate the leaks.

Another neighbour is a long-distance truck driver. His shop is completely outfit­ted with every automotive tool known to man and has a separate wing for his wood­working hobby. He is away from home for several days at a time, but do you think he’d give me a set of keys to his shop?

I asked him: “What’s the big deal? It’s not like you’re using it when you’re away?” His reply was something about using my wife whenever I’m away. I’m presuming his wife isn’t as good a cook as mine is.

I do have one neighbour whose shop doesn’t bother me and he is the one you might least expect I’d be okay with. I am, of course, talking about Carl, even though his shop is approximately four times the size of my shop, and he prob­ably has more of my tools in his than I do in mine. What makes me okay with Carl’s shop is the result of a flood last spring when the creek overflowed its bank and undermined the floor and back wall of Carl’s shop. His shop used to be quite dark inside, but now that the wall has split wide open it’s quite light and airy. However, there’s a downside now, as raccoons, small children and other vermin can easily squirt through the large gaping chasm that zigzags across the floor. The upside is that there is now more than enough ventilation so that any sawdust he might generate is naturally vented right through the wall without needing to turn on a noisy dust extractor. And when the next spring flood occurs, possibly in the spring, the woodchips will be flushed right out and down to the river where the beavers can use them to line their apartments.

I see it’s starting to rain again. Maybe I should go over to Carl’s and borrow some of my tools back.

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