Planning the Workshop – Part 1: The Journey

Planning the Workshop - Part 1: The Journey

What makes the perfect workshop? Is it a fully stocked dedicated work area with all the name brand tools? Is it a toolbox with the basics that you take out on the kitchen table on occasion? Or is it the knowledge and assorted tools acquired over many years?

Growing up, I was always around tools of some sort in what I would call “makeshift” workshops. Whether it was in my family’s garage which my dad had all the essentials (and then some) or in my Pépère’s garage which had just that much more. We made do with what we had and that is where we learned how to be resourceful, create, tinker and fix things.

Building a Knowledge Foundation – Learning from my Dad

For as long as I can remember my dad was always fixing something rather then discarding it for something new and shiny. I would say that this was possible due to the work space he created in our double car garage (and yes, it did house our family vehicles) and the resourcefulness he learned through his rural upbringing.

I can safely say that my ability to work with devices and learn how to use them is based on the foundation that I learned from my dad from an early age and will be forever thankful for that.

Building the Tool Chest – The Basics

When Christine and I got married, all we had were what I would call the basics:

Screwdrivers, Pliers, Socket Set and Hammer

  • Toolbox
  • Hammer
  • Screw Drivers
  • Socket Set
  • Pliers
  • Measuring Tape
  • A few other odds and ends.

These apparatuses serviced us well for the first few years of marriage. We could easily store them in our condos and they provided us with the ability to assemble furniture easily, hang picture frames and do the odd necessary repairs.

Expanding the Tool Chest

Once we moved into our house in Calgary, we quickly realized that we were going to need more “whatchamacallits” to help service this new-to-us home. We had so many projects on our list, each requiring one or more new tools we didn’t have to complete them. Now we had the space to store more and a reason to expand our collection, but where to start?

An endless budget wasn’t in the cards, so we needed to be careful what we bought. Decisions to buy tools that would serve us not just for the current project but also future projects were made a priority. We also waited for them to go on sale rather then paying full price when buying new and borrowed from family when possible. If renting was an option for specialty tools and more cost effective then buying, we rented.

Toolsets for painting, demolition and woodworking were needed to complete our projects. Here’s a list of a few we acquired at this stage of our journey:

Chisel Set

Pry Bar Set

  • Hand Saw
  • Circular Saw
  • Corded and Cordless Power Drill
  • Angle Drill Adapter
  • Pry Bar
  • Wrecking Bar
  • Orbital Sander
  • Level and Speed Square
  • Earth Tamper
  • Drill Bits and Auger Bits
  • Various Shovels and Yard tools
Applying Knowledge – Learning by Trying and Doing

Trained as a Mechanical Engineer, I love to learn new things and the art of solving problems. That is what makes me tick. So, when it came time to find a solution for fitting three children in two bedrooms my problem-solving skills kicked into high gear. Will the two older kids share a bed, will they have each a single bed or should it be bunk beds? When looking at the room size, bunk beds were the right solution for us. Our research was getting us nowhere for the budget we had set aside and the quality we wanted, especially considering our children’s safety.

Solution: I decided to design them myself with a lot of research. I made up hand drawn plans so I could show Christine what they would look like before going too far. Once we had the general direction agreed upon, I proceeded with cost estimates, cut lists and hardware and material selection. The build process was a huge learning experience, especially when it came to following my own designs (which I did change throughout the build), making effective use of the workshop I had setup and utilizing the tools I had.

Looking back at this project, here is what I’ve learned:

  • Gather your research information and determine which is accurate (not all sources are to be trusted) and apply it to your design and/or build process.
  • Determine what tools you have and compare to what tools will be required to complete the project. (I ended up buying a router and chisels for this project… The router being less useful once I got into the build process.)
  • Determine the logistics of the build. (I had to constantly adjust my workspace as I had to share it with our vehicle.)
  • Determine whether you can build the project in your workshop and move it or will you need to reassemble it elsewhere. (I needed to build the bunk beds in the garage, disassemble them and reassemble in the upstairs bedroom. This required the ability to disassemble the beds.)

Single Twin Top Bunk with Double Bottom Bunk - In ProgressBunk Beds Complete with Staircase and Additional PlatformToddler Demonstrating Safe use of Staircase and Handrail

Expanding Knowledge – YouTube, Google, Blogs, Etc.

Throughout my journey I’ve used different ways to expand my knowledge. I’ve asked my dad for advice on what worked for him and I’ve used online resources and platforms like YouTube and Blogs. You may choose to find a mentor and learn from them or you may simply want to learn from books (yes, they still exist!). Below is a list of the YouTube Channels (all active at the time of writing this post) that I’ve found very helpful, knowledgeable and entertaining in helping get to the next level of my woodworking hobby/future business.

To Summarize

Bunk Beds second edition with Two Twin Top and One Double BottomThere is nothing more satisfying then encountering a problem, researching solutions to the problem and then solving it without having to hire someone to do it for you. Gaining a good solid foundation on how to work with tools and within a workspace is essential. In my case, this was learning from my dad but in your case, it can be anyone. Acquiring or having access to a basic tool set is also critical in starting to apply what you’ve learned. The best way of solidifying what you’ve learned is by trying and doing. Then, as with anything, continuous knowledge growth will help you get better and try more complex projects.


Check back for weekly posts on a wide variety of topics, including country living, gardening, sustainability, homesteading, family, recipes, and more. We can’t wait to share our lives with you, hear your stories, and gain friends along the way.

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Being Responsible with Our Resources

Being Responsible with Our Resources

Canada is an amazing place to call home. We couldn’t be prouder to be Canadians, able to live our lives in relative freedom and comfort. We are blessed. But being blessed with such an amazing life also gives us a big responsibility. Just because we are free to live our lives how we please doesn’t mean we should squander what we have.

Going Green-ish

I personally don’t like the phrase “going green”. People tend to think that “going green” means you’re becoming an extremist or are paranoid about climate change. Gaby and I have opinions about these ideas, but that topic is better left for another post. Instead, I’d like to focus on a phrase that we can get behind.

We believe everyone should be responsible with the resources they have. Mindful of our tendencies towards consumerism and the waste it creates. Good stewards of the land and to be conscientious of how we live. Changing habits and lifestyles takes time, and to try and do everything all at once would be futile. Lasting change only happens when done slowly, bit by bit.

Our Stewardship and Accountability

We have three areas that we are focusing our efforts on. First, of course, is our family. We want to teach our children to be aware of the products we use and the foods we consume so they can live a healthy life. Second is our homestead, to make it as energy efficient and chemical-free as possible. Third is the community that we’re building. We want to model a lifestyle that appeals to others and write about what we’re learning, knowing that we’re gleaning wisdom from the group as well. And by letting you know what we’re trying to achieve, we are making ourselves accountable to you to help keep us on track.

Our Current Responsibilities – What We’re Working on Now
  1. Composting – We’ve been composting for just over a month. Its an incredibly easy thing to do, but also a habit we must foster. Just this last week I found myself diving into the garbage to retrieve some egg shells that should have gone in the compost container.2017 Container Garden
  2. Growing Our Own Food – There is something so satisfying about growing your own food – the taste and knowing where the food came from are two fantastic benefits. Our garden is still small this season, but next year it’s going to be impressive. Our goal is to grow at least 60% of our own produce, and hopefully bump that up to almost 100% once we build our year-round greenhouse.
  3. Reducing Plastic from Consumables – I’ve been obsessed with trying to eliminate plastic from consumable products in this house. Right now, we are either avoiding or recycling at least 95% of plastics from the products and foods we consume (like bags for shopping and produce, food products contained in plastic, as well as other things that we don’t eat, such as garbage bags and plastic wrapped items like toilet paper, detergents, soaps, and shampoos). The unfortunate part is that our local program doesn’t take a lot of these kinds of plastic. I am currently researching where we can drop off them off for recycling. Even better, though, would be to find the products we need that don’t use these plastics at all.
  4. Reducing Electricity – When we made our move to Manitoba, we bought a newer, energy efficient home. That doesn’t mean, however, that there isn’t room for improvement. Simple tasks that we can do and teach our kids as well, such as using LED lights and shutting them off when leaving a room, reducing water consumption when bathing and brushing teeth, and hanging our clothes to dry instead of using the dryer.
  5. Buying Used – A great way to recycle is to buy used items. Due to fashions going in and out of style so quickly, clothing is being cheaply made and most donated to thrift stores is ending up in landfills. I thought I was just being frugal when I was shopping at consignment stores, and I was happy to learn that I was also doing my part in recycling. When I do buy new, I try to pick classic, high quality pieces that will last a few years. Other items that we by used are vehicles (making sure the cars we buy well made and fuel efficient), furniture, toys, and more. My favorite places to shop are Once Upon a Child, VarageSale, Kijiji, and local Facebook auction groups.
  6. Chemical Free Cleaning – This is the newest item added to the list. Many cleaning products we use for our homes, bodies, and clothes contain harsh chemicals.
    Norwex Dusting Mitt
    Norwex now has a dusting wand, but until I’m able to add it to my cleaning arsenal, I’m using their dusting mitt attached to the end of a Swiffer wand. No more bending over to dust my baseboards!

    I love companies, such as Norwex, who’s mission statement is “Improving Quality of Life by radically reducing chemicals in our homes”. I’ve used a lot of their products in the past, and love how they work. It will be an expensive endeavor to switch from my current cleaning methods, but one I’m willing to undertake. (We are not affiliated with Norwex, nor have they asked us to post about them. I just wanted to give them a mention because I love their products and what they’re doing.)

Future Plans
  1. Solar Panels – Manitoba Hydro has options for grants and loans to help offset the cost of buying solar panels. Once we’re ready to take that step, we will be looking further into these opportunities. Our goal would be to create enough power for our own needs and to also put electricity back into the grid.
  2. Water Cisterns – As discussed in our previous post, “Planning the Homestead”, our goal would be to collect enough water to meet all our outdoor needs.
  3. Food Forest – Those of you following us on Facebook know that we started our food forest this week with three honeyberry (Haskap) bushes. Our plan this year is to increase the amount of berry bushes on our property by also planting chokeberries and raspberries. The future will bring fruit trees such as apple and maybe pear.
  4. Greenhouse – The greenhouse is the biggest project on our list and will probably take the longest to complete due to the costs involved. Once built, however, we hope to meet almost 100% of our produce consumption year-round.

I know that our list isn’t exhaustive, and that there is much more that we could add. But, like I said in the beginning, trying to do everything at once is futile. Slowly but surely, we’re making lasting changes, becoming more responsible with our resources and better stewards of our land.

What are your thoughts? We’d love to know what you’re doing in your homes with your families. Leave us a comment or get in contact with us on the contact page to start the discussion.


Check back for weekly posts on a wide variety of topics, including country living, gardening, sustainability, homesteading, family, recipes, and more. We can’t wait to share our lives with you, hear your stories, and gain friends along the way.

Like what you’ve read? Subscribe to our blog by adding your email address to the form on the right. You’ll be the first to hear about weekly updates! Have questions or comments? Leave us a message in the comments section, and we’ll be sure to get back to you. We can’t wait to hear what you think! And as always, you can follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram by clicking the links on the right.