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shop heat

One of the real treats in my life is a heated shop. I have a lovely collection of tools and workspaces enabling me to putter with woodwork, metalwork and a bit of mechanical maintenance. I am not great at any of it, but pretty darn good at solving the little challenges and opportunities life sends my way.

I have spent some time turning my Jack-of-all-Trades persona into a way to make an honest living, but only at the wrong place at the wrong time. The Fixer business did not blossom, but my website The is still kicking around as a place where I document some of my creations and share ideas I have come up with.

I wish I had been able to keep the cool cell phone number I was able to capture in Grangeville. You can see on the side of my pickup and might guess why I liked it.

Back to the retiree putzing around in his comfy shop…

I live a mile from the local building supply, hardware store and roofing truss manufacturing plant known as Darby Distribution / High Mountain Truss. What High Mountain Truss does is purchase huge quantities of lumber units, cutting off the ends to make heat for my shop.

Their business objectives might be stated differently by the owner, but I get as many kiln-dried mill ends as I want – assuming I welcome the free deliveries in late spring and early summer before normal people begin thinking of stocking up on winter heat supplies.

This great supply of naturally stored carbon molecule energy bonds takes a bit more time feeding my fires than whole or split logs do, but they arrive in my yard with no effort on my part and no payout to firewood harvesters. I mix my consumption, reserving the whole or split log chunks for times when I don’t want to, or am unable to tend the fire frequently.

Of course the wood-burning stove in the corner of my shop is a key ingredient. Mine is second-hand without the nifty glass windows the one in my living room has, but if I want to see what’s going on inside the fire box, I run it with the doors open as in this photo.

My normal ritual is to bundle up for the Montana cold, trundle out to the shop, light a fire in the woodburner, fiddle with it long enough to assure a long lasting burn, then head back to my warm house to restore my body temperature. A bit later I will go back to the shop, tend the woodstove and begin whatever project is on my agenda – which oftentimes includes processing wood into kindling and burnable bits.

The barn that came with the place we purchased got consumed with my metalworking table, shelving units and a modest amount of working space. I added on an extension to enable me to move full sized vehicles into the ‘air conditioned’ spaces, and added some storage. THE ANNEX does not get heated as well as the main shop. You might notice the snowpack on the annex is quite a bit thicker than the main heated space.

Speaking of snowpack, that season has just arrived… to my dismay, but I cannot pretend to be surprised by the snow maintenance chores. They simply go with the turf.

If I really prized easy living I would move back to where all the lazy people congregate.

I keep a time and temperature monitor in the shop, primarily in case I have some scheduled chore or appointment. I do like to track the temperature on it as well.

After a half-day of woodburning, it is up to a nice working temperature of 50-degrees Fahrenheit. At this point I am wearing two layers top and bottom plus a vest – quite comfortable with mechanical, wood or metal work.

I would turn this luxurious shop into a side hustle if I could find a niche others are not filling.

Perhaps the next iteration of the USofA economy will present that opportunity.