To say I have a man-crush on Nick Offerman might be something of an understatement. My admiration for him began with his gleefully libertarian puzzle-loving government-worker-who-hates-government character Ron Swanson on the NBC sitcom Parks and Recreation, whose stoic nature and glorious mustache belied a caring man with a heart of gold (and plenty of actual gold buried around his property and various other locations around the town of Pawnee, Indiana). A poster of the Swanson Pyramid of Greatness hangs proudly in my work office, reminding me that old wooden sailing ships are beautiful and that there are only three acceptable types of haircuts.
But it was solidified when I read his first book, Paddle Your Own Canoe, during a trip to Montreal in 2013. It was a memoir of his time growing up in rural Illinois, finding his feet in both theatre and in woodworking at university, and his steady rise through the television industry. His second book, Gumption: Relighting the Torch of Freedom with America’s Gutsiest Troublemakers, also became holiday reading, as my wife gifted me a signed copy (inscribed “To Work”), along with an Offerman Woodshop T-shirt and a wooden birthday card, as an early birthday present prior to our trip to England in May 2016.
Unfortunately, Offerman’s third book will not be associated with travel for me. But I couldn’t resist picking up a copy of Good Clean Fun: Misadventures in Sawdust at Offerman Woodshop when it came out earlier this week. Given what I had read about the book prior to its release, though, and the interview Nick did on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, I knew it would not quite be in line with his other books. This would be more of a how-to book, filled with tips and tricks, yet still written in Offerman’s inimitable style and sprinkled with witty anecdotes. Even the size and physical format of the book was more suggestive of a cookbook rather than a memoir.
At first glance, that’s exactly what it is — and so much more. Offerman’s love of his craft shines through from the first page. It’s this kind of enthusiasm that inspired me in large part to start this particular blog. There’s one passage on page 2 that encapsulates his mindset, and the one to which I aspire:
One of my absolute favourite series of novels was the Little House books of Laura Ingalls Wilder, in no small part because they reminded me so much of my parents’ resourcefulness. When these Bell Road superfriends found the household wanting some necessary implement or accessory, they taught me my siblings and me that there was a quicker and cheaper way to acquire things than shopping for them: One could make things.
The first 35 to 40 pages of the book consist of Offerman’s introduction and a guide to setting up one’s own woodshop. The striking thing in the setup guide is just how committed Offerman is to safety. In fact, there is a full page set aside to extol the virtues of the SawStop table saw and its flesh-sensing technology that will detect a wayward finger about to wander into the path of the blade and bring said blade to a halt in microseconds. Offerman also bemoans the fact that this technology has not yet become standard with table saw manufacturers, and quite rightly points out that spending an extra $800 on a SawStop saw could save a woodworker thousands of dollars in bills and penalties when a worker lops off a finger or three on a regular table saw (my insurance-claims-adjusting wife would wholeheartedly agree).
In the setup guide, Offerman does wander into some woodworking jargon that a novice like me wouldn’t have the foggiest clue about — talking about rabbets and dado troughs, for example — but I feel like that’s simply his enthusiasm for woodworking coming through, and I assume these are things he will come back to later in the book. Meanwhile, I am more than happy to chuckle at the illustrations (some by Ethan Nicolle of Axe Cop fame), humorous how-to guides, pokes at woodworker fashion and other “assorted tomfoolery,” as it is so eloquently put on the cover, contained therein.
I’ll admit, I haven’t read much of Good Clean Fun yet, but I can already tell I’m going to enjoy it. Hopefully it can serve as further inspiration on the journey toward greater self-sufficiency that this blog is taking me on.