Friday, February 17, 2023

Don's man cave

A wise neighbor once told us, "It takes three years to move." What she meant is, after officially moving into a new home, it takes three years to figure out its "flow," its idiosyncrasies, how best to store and organize things, to build up the necessary infrastructure to suit one's lifestyle, and other considerations.

All this is a long-winded explanation of why the barn is still a hot mess and Don didn't have a proper shop.

The barn, if you recall from when we moved in, was a large empty space, full of promise.

The barn actually has a larger footprint (1800 sq. ft.) than the house (1400 sq. ft.). This structure was actually integral to our decision to purchase the property, since it had so much potential to be modified into what we wanted: shop space, hay storage, cattle infrastructure, etc.

For obvious reasons, one of the first things Don did was build a shop, a building-within-a-building. In this space, he put his big tools (table saw, compound-miter saw, belt sander, etc.) that we've used for years on our woodcraft business. In the above photo, he boxed in the left-hand corner for that purpose.

Then Older Daughter took over the woodcraft business, which meant Don effectively lost his shop space. No problem, we have plenty of room in the barn. He decided to build his own shop in the right-hand corner of the above space. If you peer closely at the photo, the previous owners had a workbench already in place. Don decided to incorporate that structure.

And see, that's an advantage to this "three years to move in" rule of thumb. It allows for changing dynamics (such as Older Daughter taking over the woodcraft business) and gives us a better understanding of what kind of spaces we need.

What Don wanted to do was build an area that would allow him to organize and store his vast array of smaller tools, while still having a "central aisle" in the barn for parking the tractor. He also wanted a sturdy loft above, where we could store things we seldom need but want to keep handy (such as Christmas decorations).

Last summer, he constructed the second shop, making it extremely sturdy.

But about the time he finished the second shop building was about the time our litany of plumbing woes began, and his attention was distracted elsewhere.

Bottom line, it took him until late winter to finish the infrastructure for his own personal shop (building a second workbench, shelving, hanging peg boards, etc.). And even then, because we always seem to operate on a crisis mode with multiple projects, he just shoved his tools willy-nilly into the space in hopes of sorting things out later. This was frustrating because he knew he had such-and-such a tool in his shop, but no clue where it might be.

So, over the last couple of weeks, he's been organizing his shop. And oh my, I don't think I've ever seen him so happy. He felt like I felt when I finally opened and shelved our books that had been packed away for two years – it was like greeting old friends. He was able to find a home for every tool, edit duplicates, and discover missing items ("Hey guess what, I found the box of packing slips at last!").

Organizing the shop took at least two weeks, working at a leisurely pace. Each evening Don would come into the house and happily report on his progress, the items he was able to find, and the space he created for each category of  tools.

A couple days ago, he finished (more or less; it's always a work in progress) and called me out to take photos. And here, ladies and gentlemen, is Don's man cave.

Every detail is as organized as he can make it. While he knows it's unlikely to stay this neat – his tools are in constant use – it's nice to start with something close to ideal.

With duplicate tools he uses frequently, he's building a tool bag for when he needs to do work around the farm.

He's got things divvied into stations. Here's the battery-charging station.

He put up peg boards to organize and categorize the smaller tools... well as some of the larger ones. At the center-top is the wooden-handled hammer he inherited from his father, who passed away when Don was a young man in the Navy. He cherishes that hammer.

Do you know how often he couldn't find needle-nosed pliers when he needed them? Now all his pliers and nippers have a home.

Don later joked that the only thing left to do to turn this space into the Ultimate Man Cave is a keg of beer, some 50s pinup girlie calendars, and radio reception.

He has none of those things (including radio reception), but sure seems like a happy dude for what he has.


  1. That is why the Home Depot is the Hobby Lobby for men.

  2. I laugh at the radio reception part of that. My husband’s man cave at our new place doesn’t have power but it has a radio antenna put up “for better reception.” 😂

  3. I love all the tools as much as I do my sewing tools and supplies. I have a wooden handled hammer that belonged to my father. It is my favorite.

  4. Don has something that few men have though. Not just a loving, understanding wife thankful for his manly skills, but a wife who can document and tell the world of his excellence as a husband! Yall make a great team and a great example.

  5. 3 years? We're going on 5 years and the barn/shop STILL aren't functioning 100%. Don should be happy at 3 years.