A small confession: While I thoroughly enjoyed Nick Offerman as Ron Swanson in Parks & Recreation and again in his similar role promoting Diageo’s scotch brands (Lagavulin scented car tree? Yes, please!), I’ve never been moved to read his books.
I’m not sure why that is. He’s entertaining and seems to indulge in a lot of the same interests that I do: not shaving, red meat, scotch … and woodworking, the last of which is exactly what his new book examines closely. Good Clean Fun: Misadventures in Sawdust at Offerman Workshop, out this week, is 344 hardcover-bound pages of projects, interviews, and humor, all surrounding the men and women that work in Offerman Workshop, located in East Los Angeles.
If you’ve dipped your toe in woodworking, you know that, while there are plenty of books out there, the best way to learn is to have someone show you. It’s this intimate learning that gives you the time-won tips and knowledge that are tough to glean from a book. Maybe that’s because most woodworkers aren’t writers. Offerman is. And page after page, Good Clean Fun explains in a way that feels more like “showing you” than any woodworking book I have collecting dust in my shop.
Good Clean Fun starts at the beginning of a woodworker’s journey, which means helping you set up a shop, instructing you which tools you need and which ones you can skip (for now). There’s also great information on what to look for in wood, how to pick out lumber, and, ultimately, how to mill your own boards.
It’s an educational and instructional work, but much of the book is punctuated with Offerman’s trademark wry observations and creative use of language and vocabulary that are hallmarks of his performances. The humor arrives often and is a welcome detour from other woodworking books.
As fun as it is, it’s still a serious book. Lessons move along through the use of projects. At the beginning of the Good Clean Fun, you’ll learn how to make a simple bottle opener, using just some scrap wood and a nail. (Now would be a good time to point out that the book contains lots of photographs, as well as some great illustrations by Ethan Nicolle, Pat Riot, and John Hartman.)
In between projects, there are all kinds of other bits. Offerman talks to big name woodworkers like Mira Nakashima (daughter of the legendary George Nakashima), Christian Becksvoort, a master of Shaker furniture, or traditional chairmaker Peter Galbert. There are recipes that the Offerman Workshop enjoys when cooking out after the sawdust has settled. There are odes to John Prine, a comparison of beards at the Workshop, and some workshop fashion evaluations with Offerman’s wife, Megan Mullally. Offerman’s father and brother even make appearances. It’s a constant intertwining of education and entertainment.
The book progresses through projects, ending up with some more challenging woodwork, like a mortise and tenon bed and a really gorgeous lamp. At no point do the projects seem outside the realm of possibility — the photos and instructions make the finished products well within reach. That is, until you realize your garage or basement doesn’t have 1/64 the stock, tools, or space that Offerman Workshop does.
No matter. Good Clean Fun does what the best craft books do — it inspires you to challenge yourself and try a little more. You build something you didn’t think you could, level up, and work toward the next challenge. Good Clean Fun does all that — and will have you laughing while you’re at it. Makes me wonder why I waited so long to read a Nick Offerman book! Good Clean Fun is available now.
Disclosure: GeekDad was provide with a copy of this book for review purposes.