‘A labor of love’

Published 7:11 pm Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Self-taught woodworker has unique home workshop

Mitchell Scott never had any formal training in woodworking – not even a high school shop class.

What he knows he learned from reading, watching TV and from experimenting with tools his wife, Patricia, gifted him when the two got married.

“I built a couple of small projects and I liked it,” Mitchell said.

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Twelve years ago, Mitchell and Patricia made a deal.

She’d let him put up a detached building in their backyard to house his growing collection of tools – complete with the built-in sawdust collection system he’d wanted – if he agreed to build her a new kitchen.

He’d been working out of their garage at the time, keeping his tools on castors against the wall.

“I could only roll out one or two tools at a time,” Mitchell said.

Now, the resulting 1,600-square-foot outbuilding at their Rushmere home will be featured in the May edition of WOOD Magazine, a sister publication to Better Homes & Gardens with several hundred thousand subscribers.

Each edition, the magazine invites woodworking hobbyists nationwide to submit photos of their shops, and selects one to be featured in an upcoming issue. Being selected as one of this year’s handful of subscribers to be featured was “just a blessing,” he said.

Mitchell hired a contractor to erect the shell of the building, but he did the interior framing and electrical work himself – working alone in the evenings over five years after he would get off work from his job with Dominion Energy. He retired about four years ago after just over 33 years with the electric utility.

Mitchell then did the plumbing for the built-in air compressor system that powers his nail guns and spray-finishing equipment.

“I just read some things on how to solder some pipes,” Mitchell said.

For the building’s sawdust vacuum system, he hired a company to calculate how much each tool requires in terms of cubic feet per minute of air flow and provide him with a drawing – then bought the specified parts and assembled the system himself. Without the system, the amounts of sawdust his tools generate would be a health hazard, Mitchell explained.

The workbenches and cabinetry in Mitchell’s shop are also his handiwork.

“I didn’t have any benches; I didn’t have any tables,” he said. “There’s nothing in here that’s made out of wood that I didn’t construct.”

Mitchell also found time to keep his promise to Patricia and build her a new kitchen, complete with custom cabinetry and – at Patricia’s request – a large island. He ended up outsourcing the granite countertops and tile backsplash but assembled everything else, including the pendant lights over the island, himself.

Originally, Patricia had asked for an electrical outlet on the side of the island to plug in her electric mixer, but “because I spent so much time building these cabinets, I just couldn’t bring myself to cut it,” Mitchell said.

Instead, he located the outlet inside one of the cabinets and designed a pop-out shelf for the mixer that retracts into the cabinet automatically when it’s not in use.

Sitting in his shop’s finishing room are two armoire dressers and two nightstands that will eventually replace the couple’s bedroom furniture.

“Most everything is for us,” Mitchell said.

He’d tried exhibiting his works for sale at arts and craft shows some years ago, but found he much preferred actually building things to sitting under a tent waiting for customers.

“I kind of got out of that scene when my tent blew over one weekend,” Mitchell said.

He’s also particular about the type of wood he will use. He prefers hardwoods like oak, maple and walnut, and some exotic woods.

“It takes just as long to cut an inferior board as it does a great board, so I don’t want to spend time cutting boards that years down the road I look at it and go, ‘I wish I hadn’t used those,’” Mitchell said.

“Even the drawers and inside of the drawers, I don’t use particle boards and things like that,” he added. “You never have to worry about the drawer de-laminating and coming apart.”

On the downside, the pieces he creates for the couple’s home use are often very heavy to carry into the house.

But “it’s a labor of love,” he said.