Woodworking and Nightmares


Last night I had my first nightmare about writing. I was given 30 minutes to write a poem about the churches of my hometown in Fort Smith, Ark. It was to be published on the front page of the newspaper, and I was writing it on a manual typewriter where the keys had weird symbols on them instead of QWERTY.

I wrenched awake at 4 a.m. while trying to rhyme something with “Garrison Avenue.”

The experience made me remember a conversation I had last year with some woodworking friends. Even though I’ve been woodworking every day for almost 20 years with plenty of stressful moments, I’ve never had a woodworking nightmare that I can recall.

You would think that woodworking would be perfect for the “nothing goes right in a process” dream. Boards are too short. Joints are too gappy. Finish won’t cure. But I’ve never had anything like that.

Are there typical woodworking nightmares? You know, like the near-universal one where you take an exam for a class you never attended? Or you’re falling, being chased or caught enjoying a Justin Bieber concert?

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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32 Responses to Woodworking and Nightmares

  1. KampWood says:

    Getting stabbed by my shop forman.

  2. David Herzig says:

    My woodworking nightmares are actually “daymares”. They occur every time I am in the shop.

  3. Almost 10 years out of college, I still have that stupid “didn’t study for a test” nightmare on occasion. But no, I’ve never had a woodworking nightmare. I have had dreams about woodworking, though; usually about meeting some of my woodworking influences…Peter Follansbee comes up a lot, oddly. Crap, now he’s going to be avoiding me when I attend Greenwood Fest this summer.

  4. Dave Reedy says:

    Never had a woodworking one, but have the falling nightmare occasionally. BTW: revenue, and pervue (sp?) come to mind.

  5. paulstraka says:

    While serving in Iraq we had to come up with a field expedient table saw. So we plunged the blade of a circular saw through a sheet of plywood and bolted it in place. We then flipped the plywood sheet over and voilá instant table saw. No guard, no fence just 48 teeth waiting for wood or flesh. No OSHA inspectors in combat zones – so we were off the races. My buddy and I started ripping sheet goods down to make some tent furniture (think of campaign furniture – made by Homer Simpson). The nightmare was not the crappy wood working we did, but that on several occasions I jumped up onto the “table saw” to guide the material through the blade as it kept binding. To this day I have nightmares about jumping onto that sheet of plywood, held up by two very rickety saw horses, with a circular saw blade waiting for me to slip, trip or just plain fall onto its hungry teeth.

    Since then, I have turned more towards hand tools, although I do own a table saw, a SawStop table saw.

  6. Ricky Irvine says:

    Reoccurring dream at Justin Bieber concert, him on stage rhythmically planing a board while singing, choreographed dancers in the background waving handsaws, sawdust falling like confetti, me with my toolbox frantically cutting through the crowd to hand him the next tool he’ll need.

  7. Ted Hoeft says:

    Chris, after working construction for nearly 30 years, I build in my sleep…every night…some nights I can’t find my tool chest (Yikes), other times the Ramrod/BossMan is a yelling type of person…and I ‘Pull the Pin’ (those dreams I ALWAYS find my tool chest!)
    Later Chris,
    Ted from Lone Pine Tool

  8. greenebelly says:

    Only so much as that I’m at work, and thinking about something at home in the shop that I’d much rather be working on.

  9. Brian Clites says:


    What a truly fascinating observation. Although I have only been relying on the trade-as-income for six months, I have yet to have a nightmare about a project. If anything, I go to bed dreaming of the next step in the process, and soothe myself back to sleep by designing new pieces in my head. And when I can’t fall back asleep at all, its down to the shop. (Tina lets me use hand saws and hand planes while they sleep – but everything else risks rousing the babies from their slumber.)

    I have nightmares about money, about teaching, about writing, and recently even one about Instagram. But not about the designing or building.

    Finally, I’ll echo the “daymeres” several others have already alluded to. Yesterday, as I was sharpening a chisel, I winced at the memory of amputating my pinky in September. It was a chilling, visceral memory. I finished sharpening, cleaned up the shop, and edited some photos. But I couldn’t touch an edge tool for the rest of the night. Fortunately, I woke up cured of the aversion this morning. Coping saw in hand, I’m sawing out the pin sockets right now…


  10. Avenue rhymes with “old wood pew” next time that dream pops up.

  11. Never had a woodworking or home renovation nightmare although I sure kept myself up late on dozens of occasions trying to answer design or “how am I going to do that” questions.

    I guess the woodworking is too comforting.

    Never even had one of those weird time-warp dreams where somebody from 10th grade and Mickey Mantle walk into my shop just to chat and I’m in the middle of a glue-up and out of beer!

  12. Paul Knapp says:

    I recently picked up some gorgeous, old growth doug fir 6×6, dead clear 10 footers for a workbench build. This is some of the nicest fir I’ve seen in 40 years. That night I dreamt I used the timbers in a kitchen reno to hold up the ceiling. Unfortunately, I cut them all too short and the ceiling ended up being only 5 feet high so everyone had to crouch in the new kitchen. Clearly I’m worried about messing up such beautiful wood.

  13. wooditbeso says:

    Here’s a Garrison Avenue rhyme:

    “It’s not on Garrison Avenue, That well-worn, storefront site, We mused about granting it life anew, Stout benches on oak, the smell of glue, Shavings that fell from boards we hewed, Windows on our work for all to view, A gathering place for friends all true, Just down from where the beer’s abrew, But not on Garrison Avenue….on Willard.”

    Sent from my iPad


  14. Anthony Wilson says:

    I have nightmares about work but never working wood. I guess if woodworking is our true passion it won’t ever betray us in our dreams.

    I used to wonder why all the fuss about Bieber, but man…his new album really proves his musical talent. Am I allowed to say that aloud?

  15. captainjack1024 says:

    Not nightmares exactly, but I sometimes get anxiety dreams when I’ve got a project that’s overdue. In these dreams, the recipient becomes disdainful of my ineptitude and often tells me to “not bother” anymore and forget about making anything in the future. I usually have to give myself affirmations in the mirror the next day to put it behind me (as well as actually getting the darn thing finished).

  16. MattC says:

    I have a recurring dream that I discover a room in my house that I never knew existed. (apparently this is a fairly common dream) Anyhow, the room usually is very large with tall ceilings and windows, the perfect workshop. Sometimes it is even filled with a few old tools. As always I awake dismayed and depressed.

    • What? This is a common dream? This is one of my favorite recurring dreams. I’m always so disappointed when I wake up and find that the room doesn’t exist! And it’s always bigger than any room in my house (usually a basement).

      • Dudes, read some Jung. He had the same dream about the time he split from Freud and interprets it in the book. I think the book is Memories, Dreams, Reflections but it’s been a decade or so. Spoiler alert: the extra room in your dreams really exists! Once when I had this dream it was a whole 19th century WING of my house and I had to roof it really quick because rain was coming!

  17. fitz says:

    Home reno carpentry nightmares just every night, involving cats, bats and floorboards. And still sometimes dream the cabinets are going to fall off the kitchen wall in the old place. Whee!

  18. With Garrison Avenue? From Eros, a bienvenu.

  19. Paul Sidener says:

    What’s a Bieber

  20. All of my dreams are totally normal.

    That is possibly the weird thing about my dreams…

  21. rockysstuff says:

    Justin Bieber was recently quoted as saying that his main goal in life is to be like Jesus. Not in the “being Savior of the world” sense but he just wants to be like Jesus. To really be like Jesus he would have to know how to work wood (with hand tools) so maybe you could volunteer to teach him how to build an Anarchist’s Tool Chest.

  22. Kevin Thomas says:

    Enjoying Justin Bieber? Now that would be a nightmare!!

  23. jenohdit says:

    Garrison Avenue?
    I poured glue on my shoe as I clocked that last screw…

  24. Ryan Cheney says:

    Getting caught at a Justin Bieber concert wouldn’t be a nightmare so much as being AT a Justin Bieber concert, or anywhere he can be heard or seen, for that matter.

  25. Dot”t know if related, jusr GAVE AWAY MY TABLESAW……

  26. gblogswild says:

    You know, I have never had a woodworking nightmare OR daymare. But now that I’ve read a handful of the responses. I might.

    Thanks, guys.

  27. “President Harrison, haven’t you
    gone to church on Garrison Avenue?”

    The real trick is finding something to rhyme with Presbyterian.

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