My Very First Shop and Why It’s Important

A lot has happened in 2018. My family life leveled up and so did my shop. And as the year comes to an end it’s only fitting to do yet another shop tour of my current shop. I’ll cover that next week most likely. This week I wanted to hit the pause button and go back to where it all began. So many people like to complain about bad situations for their hobby or let small circumstances get in the way of them doing what they want to do. Or not having this tool or that setup to get the job done. The truth is that we all start somewhere and the beginning rarely smells like roses. This article will cover the first space that I was able to call “my shop.”

Before I talk about my first shop I want to give a little context of how it came to be. For years I was a back seat subliminal sponge to the debt free teachings of Dave Ramsey. “Where debt is dumb, cash is king, and the paid-off home mortgage has taken the place of the BMW as the status symbol of choice.” Over…and over…and over…and over I had to listen to Dave while being a kid stuck in the back seat. When I was 18 years old my mom started charging me rent. Wasting money on rent? As an 18 year old I thought it was crazy. It’s a never ending payment. A bad investment! So I got a job and saved up as much money as I could. I bought an acre of land and found an old house trailer that was in such bad shape that the owner said if I move it I could have it. I did the necessary work to put borrowed axles and tires under it, removed all the blocks and tie downs, and paid a moving company $440 to move it onto my property. It was a 2 bedroom one bath single wide piece of junk that was dropped off in the middle of my property with the tongue sitting on a stack of cinder blocks. My uncle and I positioned it on my property with my grandfathers old beast of a pickup truck. At 19 years old I was a land owner, owned the leaky roof over my head, had two junky vehicles and was 100% debt free. The life of a king :)

There’s a catch to the “roof over my head” statement. The trailer was (and still is) in horrible shape. If I lived in the city limits it would probably be condemned. When the moving company moved it a 6′ wide section of the exterior wall tin flew off. It was on the back of the trailer in the master bedroom. Just 2×3 wall studs and the open air outside. I never fixed it. At the time I didn’t really know how to and honestly did not care. I put a tarp over that missing wall section and another tarp over the back side missing windows in the living room. I lived in that trailer for six years listening to the tarps flap around every time it got windy. The tarps were on the back side of the trailer which was pushed up against a tree line. They never received sunlight and held up quite well. The master bedroom was used for miscellaneous storage. And the living room was gutted on the inside before I got it. 100% of the floor in the entire trailer was spongy and falling in from all of the roof leaks. I spent a little more than $700 to cover the entire floor with 3/4” CDX plywood, patched the roof leaks as necessary, and heated and cooled the small bedroom and the bathroom. Everything else was was left unimproved. I was a bachelor, debt free, only had an electric and car insurance bill every month, had a low paying job making more money than I was spending, and nobody could take it away from me.

I looked for any pictures of the trailer and this is the only one I could find. Sometime in 2013 I used Photoshop to put my old logo on it. I think this photo is originally from 2010. There she is. Home sweet home.

Inside the living room used to be a pool table. I had a 1960’s (I think) 6-1/2′ slate top bar box pool table. It was really tight but allowed me to stay in stroke shooting corner to corner. That’s me on the right and my long time friend Jeremy on the left. You may have seen him in a few recent videos. To this day we still shoot pool and I’ll still give him the last two (I hope you see this, Jeremy hahah)

Shooting pool was my life. I didn’t gamble much because the risk was too much for the amount of money I made but I did play in a lot of tournaments. I got to a point where I was making more money playing in pool tournaments and replacing cue tips and ferrules than I was making at my job.

In 2008 the economy crashed and nobody could afford to play pool anymore in north Mississippi. My hobby no longer provided income so I took an unplanned path. I sold my pool table, cues, and 7×10 mini metal lathe setup for replacing pool cue tips and ferrules and bought woodworking tools. I went to Lowes with around $600 in hand and bought a bunch of Skill brand tools. I came home with a benchtop table saw that scared the crap out of me, a router table that I didn’t understand how to use or why I needed it, a 9” bandsaw that barely cut, and a few other items that I can’t remember. I knew I previously saw variations of all of these tools on The New Yankee Workshop show with Norm so they had to be used for something. I was going to figure it out.

The benchtop table saw was dangerous. It vibrated around so much that I had to put my foot on the lower horizontal member of the flimsy metal stand it came with while making a cut. I had no idea how to use a table saw and did no research on safety but I do recall never standing behind the blade while cutting. Not for safety but rather to prevent the sawdust from being thrown in my face. I remember having the saw setup in the middle of the living room with me facing the end windows and my wife (girlfriend at the time) and step-dad behind me watching a hockey game in the kitchen area with their backs to me. I told them it was going to get loud for a second while I made a cut real quick. I turned on the saw to cut a piece of plywood and without realizing what even happened the small square of plywood kicked back and shot across the room behind me. It didn’t hit me or anyone in the room but I was terrified. I didn’t even know what kickback was at the time. I turned the saw off and asked them if they saw the piece of wood that went flying. They were so immersed in the hockey game that they had no idea what I was talking about. I quickly developed a greater respect for a table saw and researched why that event happened. To this day that is the only time I’ve been scared at a table saw. Live, learn, and proceed more intelligently next time.

The 9” Skill bandsaw didn’t last more than a few days at my place. I returned it because it barely cut anything. At the time I didn’t realize how much of the performance problems were due to the blade. I just thought the saw itself wasn’t good. I returned it and didn’t have another bandsaw until I got the Grizzly G0555LANV in the apartment shop a few years later.

Those Skill brand tools were the start of the woodworking infection for me. I slowly upgraded here and there until I got a pretty decent set of tools to work with. The following images represent the best state of my first shop. Here is my entire first woodworking shop setup in the living room of my first home. The ceiling was sagging, the interior walls stripped, a tarp over the back wall windows, the floor sinking in the back right corner, but the roof kept water out and it had electricity :)

This is my very first miter saw station. I found an old dresser of some kind and put some 6” industrial casters from my grandfathers junkyard on the bottom. The saw on top is an old 10” delta belt driven miter saw. That miter saw was HEAVY but it worked great. I secured a couple elevated platforms on top of the station. The miter saw down below is a lightweight Makita 10” miter saw. I don’t recall how I acquired that one or where it went. The best thing about this miter saw station was the dust collection. When cutting the saw would shoot the dust through the missing window, bounce off the tarp, and fall to the ground outside.

Moving past the miter saw station I had some miscellaneous wall storage and a metal rack for chemicals. One spark and this corner would have probably burned down my entire home. Keeping all of these chemicals open like this wasn’t smart at all.

The end wall of the trailer had a collapsing bay window and a bad floor below. I built a workbench in this corner to stop me from stepping in the weak spots and to store a bunch of crap below. It’s hard to tell but I think I had a shopvac, air compressor, and a few tool boxes below. Plus a few boxes of hardware here and there.

Moving to the right was my radial arm drill press, my “nice” table saw, and a wall mount storage bin system. These windows went to my front yard and for privacy I spray painted them black. It was cheaper than blinds. Disregard the dangerous electrical wires everywhere…

About that drill press.. This was an interesting machine. I don’t recall what brand it was but the head moved forward and backward with the same style mechanism as the table platform. I didn’t have the same standards for tool precision back then as I do now but I do remember it drilling quite nice. The base it came on had a shelf for storage. I built a small rolling base for it and loaded it up with junk.

You can see the base got modified a few times.

This is the best image I have of the best table saw I had in that shop. It was an old Delta Super 10 table saw. The fence was horrible. I used a straight edge against the blade to draw a line on the cast iron surface and then had to measure away from that line on the front and back of the fence and lock the front and back independently. It got the job done but was by far this saw’s weak link. The saw was a huge upgrade from the Skill that I bought brand new and the best part was that I only had a few dollars in fuel invested in it. I won a propane grill at my work’s company picnic and traded it for a Marlin .22 tube fed gun and 40 or so pieces of 1′ x 4′ x 3/4” CDX plywood and then traded the Marlin .22 even for the saw. Even though the saw was old the blade ran smooth and it cut great.

I saw this mobile base design on the internet. It worked rather well. The pipes would force the casters down and locked in the middle. To lower the saw the pipes would be pulled out from the center lock and the casters retracted.

Those are the few pictures I have left of my first woodworking shop. It wasn’t anything special but it was a lot of hard work and sweat that allowed me to really make stuff for the first time. So when I hear that “it must be nice” to have the tools I currently have or “I can’t do this or that because I don’t have this or that” it upsets me. Not because of any negative energy towards me but because people are losing their sense of pride. People are settling for less and complaining more and more about what they don’t have. If you want something then get off your butt and earn it. It’s hard work, everyone’s journey is different, and anyone can do it. And yes, it’s pretty damn nice to look at my shop now and see the results of hard work.

All of the tools in that shop were eventually sold to fund rebuilding the engine in my truck. I had no oil pressure and found out the cam bearings were shot. I couldn’t afford to have it fixed so I sold off everything in the shop to avoid debt and my uncle and I rebuilt the entire lower end of the engine. It wouldn’t be until building the apartment shop 3 or 4 years later that I got back into woodworking. I’ll leave you with the few pictures I have left of projects made in that shop.


  1. Hey Jay,

    I’m not someone who is prone to commenting much, but I have to say, this was nice to see. I think you and I are similar in age. Nice to see where you started and where you’ve come to. I had a terrible Skill brand table saw too that nearly cut my hand off. I threw it away that day, and have been upgrading ever since.
    Smile at your accomplishments that you have done. Thanks for doing what you do. Some of us who have no want or desire to ever make a video, love seeing someone doing it and giving us inspiration.

  2. Jay
    Great Story. I too am a fan of Dave Ramsey. I attended FPU when he and his wife, Sharon, use to be the only teachers. It was at a Holiday Inn, off I-65, I think, in Nashville TN. Thanks for putting out the content that you do. I watched the Sofa Table with Hidden Storage – Sketchup video yesterday. I learned mode about sketchup from that single video, than a dozen other ones I have watched.

  3. HI Jay, First, this is a very good bio-brief about you and I just loved it. I have been following you and a subscriber for a long time. Second, I have great regard for your skills, creativity and most of all a very down to earth and yet modest lifestyle. All these are a very rare combination of attributes that makes ordinary to extraordinary. I had a lump in my throat when I read your “humble/modest” beginnings into the adult world. I have a lot in common although it was a very different place and time frame. I am sure many people in this world have similar circumstances and yet only a select raise up to be all round, responsible, decent human being more appreciative and see the silver linings than all the darkness they imagine or dwell on.

    Anyway will continue to follow your work and what you share with us. Wish you all the best to you and your lovely family. Rama

  4. That’s great, thank you for sharing. I get a bit down about some of the things I wish I had, and don’t, and the projects you were able to make in such a humble shop are very inspiring. Keep up the good work!

  5. Hey Jay!

    You know! This post made my day. I love seeing other maker’s workshops and this one is spectacular!

    Doesn’t matter what it is as long as it works for you.

    Thanks for posting and keep up the great energy!!

  6. This is a fantastic article. I have been woodworking for around 3 years now, and started with a hand drill, a used circular saw, and a used jigsaw. I built a “tablesaw” that used the circular saw flipped upside down, and a straight edge as a fence, much like you did. I picked up a bench top drill press from harbor freight, and borrowed a friend router and router table. I made many projects with those tools, but took my time, and took pride in what I was doing. I have made some tgings that really impressed me, and even took on some client work. I have steadily purchased tools as I go, making sure each tool purchase is a sound one, and also one that I actually need, or can justify the cost of. I recently upgraded to a delta table saw, and I am now enjoying the ease of an accurate, real table saw, while knowing that I have the knowledge and skill set to make things with less tools. The road I am taking can present more challenges, but ultimately will yield a finer woodworker for it. It is so cool to see where you came from, since I see you as one of the finer woodworkers today. It not only gives me fuel to keep pushing forward, but also gives me a know complete picture of how you are who you are, and where you are now. Thanks for taking time to share this.
    – Chris


  8. Absolutely awesome to see the pics and read about your story. I would love to hear you tell the story and review the pics on YouTube. Maybe you already did that somewhere and I missed it. Best Wishes and thanks for sharing your journey!

  9. Thanks Jay, Well said. Thanks for sharing your journey with the rest of us. It is humbling to see how you don’t have to have much to get started.

  10. Great respect to you and your hard won accomplishments. What you’ve done is inspiring to me. I very much agree about your philosophy of making do with what you have and staying out of debt.

  11. Thanks for sharing!! I quit my engineering job last year to become a stay-home-mom and woodworker. I love to learn, but recently become depressed whenever I watch videos because I know I produce great things, but don’t have a table saw, planar or jointer yet. I’ve saved twice now for half of my $2500 Saw Stop that I have picked out. But life and house projects get in the way so building the things I want always seems so far away. So I use my circular saw, make sure my designs are all with standard size width lumber, route small chamfers between boards so you can’t see they are uneven and try to pick the straightest boards possible at the lumberyard. But seeing your beginnings gives me hope…hopefully before I’m a grandma! Thanks!!

    • Alysia, I have a nice Grizzly Hybrid table saw now (like the one Jay got rid of). But I built this one from John Heisz as a second saw and also use it as an outfeed table. It’s a really good table saw, and had I built it before might not have purchased the Grizzly! I may use the basic plans to build a router table. Next on my agenda is a jointer…but I can do a fair job with my table saws.
      Great plans! Well worth the effort! He has many other projects like that. Perfect in addition to Jay’s videos.

  12. Jay,

    Thanks for sharing and keeping it real. You are a blessing to the woodworking community as well to us sideliners. I don’t get to play with my tools as much these days so I always look towards people like you for inspertation and a chuckle from time to time.
    As Kaleb said… Thanks for what you do and being willing to share.

    Many blessings to you and your family,

  13. Jay, wonderful story, well told. Would you mind sharing what the first few, or first major paying project you built that made you a professional woodworker? You’ve come far, in a short time. Congratulations.

  14. Very nicely put – unfortunate that it’s becoming a more and more rare thing to see. Folks who work for what they want and don’t see themselves as victims because of obstacles in front of them, but rather opportunities to be had. Keep it up, Jay – nice work. My first shop (I have to admit) wasn’t as primitive, but nonetheless it has been quite the evolution and I’m very proud to see the change in environment, but also my projects.

  15. Thanks for that Jay. Your case is a lot more extreme (on both ends, your first shop, and your current shop), but much the same as mine. When people say “it must be nice to be able to spend all that money”. And I primarilly have old vintage machinery that I buy used. But yes, yes it is nice, and I’ve done it over a number of years, and I buy some stuff, clean it up, refurbish it, sell it, put that money towards something else, etc. I started with only hand tools, and all vintage hand tools, because I couldn’t afford (justify) Lie-Nielsen tools, in the spare bedroom of my apartment, with a canvas drop cloth (later upgraded to vinyl carpet runners taped together). I enjoyed woodworking all the same, even if getting 8′ of a 1″ thick 6″ wide cherry board turned into 8′ of 3/4″ thick 4″ wide board meant 3-4 hours of work, I managed to find a way to do it with out a $2000 jointer, a $3000 planer, and a $4000 table saw. You just have to think about things differently, avoid the “I need” and focus on the “I have”… Add a little gumption, and you’re golden

  16. Hey Jay, I enjoyed the article! It reminds me of my first “shop”. I had an old 8” Craftsman table saw that nearly killed me with a kickback of cherry right in the nose! Got rid of that at first convenience. I’ve been upgrading when it’s called for.
    Thanks for your inspiration and the many skills I have learned from your videos!

  17. Jay, I enjoyed the article! It reminds me of my first “shop”. I had an old 8” Craftsman table saw that nearly killed me with a kickback of cherry right in the nose! Got rid of that at first convenience. I’ve been upgrading when it’s called for.
    Thanks for your inspiration and the many skills I have learned from your videos!

  18. Jay,

    I have been following you from the beginning on YouTube. I have always liked your style and even when you started to move up the ladder with success it always seemed that you appreciated it and didn’t take it for granted. Today, I just found out why that is. You have done well for yourself and started with humble beginnings and true American story to have nothing and turn into something with HARD WORK. You had to innovate yourself out of situations and not rely on someone to bail you out which is whats wrong with so many peoples attitudes these days. I have learned a lot from old Dave Ramsey and worked to keep everything paid off and my business debt free for many, many years but I have found in these last few years that you have to go into debt sometimes…….. to move forward. Thank you for sharing your story today Jay. My grandmother told me something when I was a kid and she told it to many times and it was only until I got older that it made since to me. She would say TRUE HAPPINESS IS LEARNING TO APPRECIATE EVERYTHING, EVEN THE SMALL THINGS IN LIFE. Hope you and your family have a Merry Christmas coming up.


  19. This is the most interesting article I have read in some time. Thanks for it and I am glad you stuck with it.

  20. Really liked this video Jay. Im 10 – 15 years older than you and had many of the same experiences you wrote about. I don’t make videos but love to watch several of you that do. I think I first started watching you around the time of your horse bench … even bought the plans and have several others since then. Bottom line, you do what you do well … you seem to have a great family going …. stay true to yourself and your family …. and keep up the videos.

  21. This is a great article. Thanks for sharing. “From humble beginnings…”

    I had to laugh at the dust collection for the chop saw–out the broken window!

  22. That’s a great story and I was especially impressed with your attitude as a 19 year old. It is the way to get ahead. Nothing comes easy or free (mostly) and time is the friend of those who work at it. Congratulations on a life well spent and thanks for the share. A great back story.

  23. Nice story. Proof that Perseverance, hard work and ingenuity pay off. You have a lot to be proud of and are an inspiration. Thanks for Who you are and what you are doing.

  24. One day, you will be very happy to have this article for your daughter to read and have a better understanding of why dad does and says what he does. :)

  25. An interesting chronology of your woodworking journey. And very well written! I took high school woodshop for four years and never had an actual evolving ‘shop’, or even a permanent place to work until I retired in 2002. My work career involved many moves and working internationally and my ‘hobby’ was work. I have surprised myself with how much I retained from high school, but YouTube videos from folks like you have become invaluable tools for me. Never too old to learn. Keep it up!

  26. Appreciate you sharing this. I started with a homemade workbench, hand drill and Craftsman circular saw about 45 years ago. I know what it is to make do with what you can afford. All the best to you and your family!

  27. Holy shit Jay. I have been following you for a while. My first project build was from a video you did in your apartment shop. I had know idea you started like that. You are a true inspiration. You definitely worked your ass of for what you have now. You are a role model. More people, especially those who are quick to say “must be nice,” need to read this. You are what current society needs to see.

  28. You’ve got a heckuva lady. Just like I do.
    Even though she saw your stripped out trailer/workshop, she didn’t care.
    Just like my wife.
    We lived in a trailer just a little bit better than yours for the first few years of or marriage. She complained on occasion, but shes still here after nearly 29 years.
    We (my wife and I) started woodworking about 1 1/2 years ago under the carport of our house. Now we’ve moved up in the world and into an entire 200 sq ft shop, and loving every minute of it.
    We won’t ever forget that ol trailer, the shack as she calls it now, way too many memories made in that place.

  29. I think I outfitted my first shop (that was the balcony and/or storage room of the apartment was in) with my complete tool kit. I worked for Sears at the time and there were not too many places to buy tools, so mostly Craftsman. Hand saw, 3/4″ chisel, hammer, tape measure, couple of screw drivers, combo square, #4 plane, and a $20 Skil drill. It all fit in a “pear box” with lots of room to spare. Still have most of that stuff and use them. (The pear box had been what I packed stuff in to go to college and ended up being my nightstand before I converted it to a tool box.) The next 4 or 5 years, I was moving every year for work and had two kids, so it was a while before I got anything else — a B&D jig saw and circular saw.

  30. Jay-

    This is a great story, and yet from what I’ve gathered about you from your videos, none of it surprises me. Though I couldn’t have guessed the details, you come across as humble, knowledgeable, and grateful for your success. That’s why I watch (that and I learn a lot from you!).

    The other thing I find refreshing about your channel is that you do good work without owning every top-of-the-line tool. I watch other creators give the impression that if you don’t own everything Festool makes and your shop isn’t full of mustard colored machines, then you can’t do the project. It’s sad, and quickly drives me to other channels. As for Norm, I don’t recall him ever picking up a hammer. But he was awfully good at taking credit for what other people were doing.

    You found your bootstraps, pulled hard, and deserve all your success. Keep up the good work.

  31. Jay, you were destined for greatness from when I first saw you way back when (I was “The Voice Reason on YouTube) and watching you pushed me forward. I am now Protect Your Digits Creations and you were one of the pivotal people in my evolution. Thank you, Jay and May God Bless your now complete family.

  32. I own a 12 x 36 shed that I am sharing with all the lawn stuff, but I have to shut up about the conditions of my shop room, so thank you, sir, for your inspiring and disciplinary commentary RC

  33. Jay, Seeing your journey is very impressive. I know it was not easy street, but you sure deserve all the good that comes to you. I have enjoyed your video sessions greatly and will continue. You have been an inspiration to all of us.
    Many blessings to you and your beautiful family.

  34. I’ve been putting off starting a YouTube channel because I don’t have a decent PC to edit video.
    Luckily I have money now. Honestly I could’ve started without it.
    Now I just have to find my GoPro.

    • If you really want to save money buy a used PC/laptop with decent parts and use Linux Mint or Ubuntu or numerous other great distros… Linux has excellent hardware support now and the debian based have some great free video editors that are surprisingly feature laden Actually there is Ubuntu Studio … Google it… if you are unsure or need help/advice look me up on facebook Bryan Patterson or I can get you my E-Mail address

    • One day Josh I’ll get there too. I want the world riddled with my concealment furniture! You of all people I know can appreciate that!

  35. Outstanding Jay! You sir are an inspiration!!! Keep up the great work, good things will continue to come your way!

  36. I’ve seen a lot of shop tours but this one is by far the most interesting and the commentary was an enjoyable read.
    Reminds me of the way I started out tool-wise although I had half of a two car garage shared with my wife’s car.
    The trailer was a real classic proving you can make due with whatever you’ve got. Glad you took so many pictures.
    I i have always been a follower of the work, earn, save, and pay cash for what you want. Much more enjoyable than “owning” things on credit. I have been enjoying your videos since way back when I discovered your trash can cyclone dust collection build and built it for my shop. Keep up the good work!

  37. My first shop was in an apartment house basement. I had to build a used plywood wall to separate it from the laundry room. My first table saw was a circular saw mounted under a sheet of 1/2″ plywood that sat on saw horses. The only good tool was a Craftsman compound radial arm saw that was missing threads on the arbor, so I used spacers to keep the blade tight. I still have faith in the older Craftsman tools. My table saw is a 1950’s ear, my jointer is a 1960’s era, and they both still work great. I want to upgrade both, but when something works, why fix it? I’m slowly upgrading the rest of my shop, I now have a dedicated 20×24 building, with many extension rooms for sandblasting, vinyl plotting, and my homemade CNC machines. It’s been a fun ride. You have one of my mirrors, but now I’m taking the shop on the road to help homeowners “Get that honey-do-list done!” Takes2 is a dream coming true, but the shop will remain for custom cabinetry and other jobs that require the need for it. We are looking at purchasing our own home, and the one I fell in love with has a 24×75 building that will be my new shop. Adding welding, fabrication, and other stuff sucks up a lot of space. :) I’ll post a shop tour video soon.

  38. Truly a rags to riches start-up story here. The come up for you Jay had truly been a rough one for sure. I’ve got a lot of inspiration from you Jay and all the projects I’ve watched you build. I’m starting up just like you with nothing. It’s a long hard journey but it’s worth the ride. I’ve learned a lot from your videos. I think you explain things just right where it’s not too boring and on the overkill side like most do. Keep up the good work and congratulations on the new family and continue to grow.

  39. I still remember some of your first videos. You have come a VERY long way my friend. You have impressed me at every turn, and doing that even once is no small feat. I have watched you grow from a novice into a true Craftsman in every respect. The thing that has impressed me the most is how balanced and humble you have remained. You are a very rare leader, a true gentleman, and one of my personal inspirations.

    You helped keep this old Vet together through some rough times just by reminding me of what was important when life kicked me in the ribs. Your friendship helped me find my feet, and knowing you were watching was a good part of my motivation to stand back up, dust myself off, and go forward again. Thanks for being there and helping me get my head on so I could get my life back.

    Give your wife a big hello from me and a big o’l bear hug from you. Tell her I said thanks for sticking with you all this time. Y’all are one awesome family. I was like a kid at Christmas when I heard about your family addition. The two of you deserve every happiness. Here is wishing You and yours the very best now and always.


    Michael S. Olsen

  40. Wow Jay, what an adventure.
    A Radial Arm Drill Press !
    Well I never…

    Amazing Jay. Thanks for the tour.
    Much Respect dude.

  41. I can definitely relate to your beginnings. Why? Well I’m in a sense living it now. I don’t own a run downed trailer but my entire shop is outside under 2 lean- twos that I built, in which are not attached to the property. I am constantly refinishing my surfaces on my major tools because of rust, but so far e how I definitely make it work. I wish I could send you some pictures of it but I swear to you it’s all true and you really don’t know how much you hit home for me. Thanks! I hope others can draw from what you presented here in this post. If you would like I could surely send you some pictures of my current situation so others can see it acn be done you just have to put forth the effort.

  42. Your journey is inspiring and I wish more people would realize the joy that comes from being happy with what you have. I am a new follower of your stuff but I have quickly grown to be more and more interested in your content. Thanks for all your hard work. Keep moving forward!!

  43. At first I wanted laugh. Then seeing inside I see how epic it really was. You have come a long way Jay! To boot, it makes me actually think for the first time, seriously, why didn’t I start my woodworking side business earlier! I’m pretty sure this is the first or second time I’ve commented here. I just want to say what an inspiration you are to the maker community.

  44. You continue to be an inspiration! My journey was much the same, however a completely different path. The key is too “never give up” in the words of Winston Churchill.

  45. Great come up story! I started in a room behind the basement livingroom that was 4 ft deep by 20 ft wide sharing that space with the water heater and sump hole. Basically a utility closet. For our first Christmas together my in laws gave me a cordless drill, and a table saw the next year. I was PROUD of that shop. Now my shop is 1300 sq ft+ and STILL not large enough (hear that before?) ;)

    Keep up the great work Jay!

  46. Outstanding story Jay & a great inspiration for folks to do what they can with what they have. Great advice on staying debt free for as long as possible too. I do enjoy your videos and it is great knowing that you got there from here. Thank you for sharing the back story.

  47. Thank you Jay, for sharing your inspiring adventures in life and woodworking. I really enjoyed reading this and seeing what you started with. I’m currently saving up and then buying my first tools along with clearing a space in the garage to get started on this awesome hobby. Doing it without debt, too!

  48. Jay
    Thanks for all your videos etc. I really enjoyed reading about how you got started. I can kind of relate. I have a workshop (500sq ft) 1/2 my basement.
    Your first workshop was a lot neater than mine. My dad helped me acquire my general table saw, jointer,etc. I recently acquired a lathe 12″ and am having a blast. I first made pens and other little things, and once I joined Hub City Turners, I started turning bowls. Now my table saw sits collecting sawdust, but I will get back to making furniture. My dad was a cabinet maker by trade and when he realized that his boys didn’t want to follow in his footsteps, he very begrudgingly decided that I ( a woman) could also do woodworking. I learned safety from him, thank goodness. I love seeing and watching your videos. Makes me want to get back to building furniture again

  49. You sir have a lot to be proud of, great story. Thanks for sharing. I must say that when I first got into woodworking in the late ‘70s I bought a radial arm saw, some hand tools and a sander. Besides a drill there were not many power tools. As time went on I remember getting grumpy watching the new yankee workshop because he had a special tool for each and every little step along the way on his projects and I was unable to learn much since there was no way I could afford any of those tools. These days watching you and others via YouTube has given me inspiration and a lot of knowledge. I hope I can make some nice things as well as I play in my retirement.

    It’s great to see you so happy!.

    Many thanks for what you do,

  50. Jay, my son (11 yrs) and I have been watching your videos for years. He has helped me build your mitersaw station and a lot of your other projects.

    This article was awesome in more than 1 way. I gave him my phone this evening and had him read this article. Of course he was excited because you did it. Afterward, we discussed it. When asked what he learned, he said “dad, there were so many things in there”. He talked about dealing with what you have, and then he blew me away by relating it back to school, athletics, and karate and some areas he’s been struggling with in those. He talked about not overspending and about something he’s been saving up for. He also talked about having pride in your name and what you do, which is something I push a lot with my kids.

    I am extremely blessed to have him and I wanted to share this and let you know that you have already been a big inspiration for him as well. Amazing how you can touch people’s lives that you have never met. This article provided a great discussion area for us and as my boy said, provided many lessons that I think a lot of kids, and adults, can learn from. Thank you for putting this out as it’s so important to know where we come from and all the lessons we have learned.

    Merry Christmas from Lubbock, TX!

  51. Great narrative & history. First, Ramsey won’t lead you wrong and didn’t. Wish I’d learned those lessons at the age you did. Second, your description of your early miter saw “dust collection” gave me a great laugh and, at the same time I’m thinking, “Yeah, that totally works!”. Thanks for sharing your history.

  52. Thank you, Jay I have learned a lot from your videos my first project was the benches and side table made out 2×4’s I made several for my family, friends and my pastor if you could see their happiness reflected on their eyes.
    Thank you sr. May God bless you and your family, sincerely Ruben.

  53. That’s great and very inspirational. I am fortunate to have the tools that I do in my shop and have been fortunate to have the help of my parents along the way. Yes I would love to have some better tools than what I currently have but what I do have works pretty well. I’ve been wanting to start selling things that I make but haven’t gotten that far yet really even though I have been doing woodworking for over 8 years now. It was initially just a hobby but I love doing it and the few things I have sold I got great pride out of when people have said no you couldn’t have made this now honestly where did you get and to see their faces drop when I tell them that I really made it. Anyway thanks for the story, very inspirational.

  54. Jay, this is SO encouraging! Thanks for taking the time to share this. Like so many others, I’m in a super small storage room doing my projects. This makes me want to do more than ever before. Keep up the great work!


  55. Jay, I have been following you for several years, I’m not sure how long, but you were still in the apartment when I started. You have come a long way since that first trailer/shop. You have been a huge inspiration to me and without knowing it helped me design my own shop. Thank you for sharing this, I’m sure you are overwhelmed by the comments. Keep up the good work, I cant imagine where you will b!e in another 10 years!

  56. Thank you for sharing your story. It was inspiring and I agree with you, nothing in life is free. The harder you work, the more you appreciate whatever you gain. Be it skills, knowledge, money, love, happiness. Continue working hard and being positive.

  57. Your journey is a great story. I started up with woodworking as a hobby after I returned from a deployment 2 years ago. I been following your youtube channel and site since that deployment. Making a few things here and there. Your story is inspiring to me. I’m on a cutting board craze right now. It is so gratifying to turn nothing into something beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

  58. Jay, thanks for the perspective. As a new woodworker it can be pretty discouraging to see all the folks whose videos I follow start making everything on CNC machines, while I’m still trying to properly and safely use a router and table saw. This was a good reminder about enjoying the process and making do with what you have as best you can.

  59. I can only endorse the previous posts and say thank you for sharing your expertise and knowledge. Happy trails.

  60. Jay,
    I hope you thanked your mother for making you the man you are today instead of enabling you by letting you live rent free.

  61. That’s incredible. Great story, and accomplishments. Hard work trumps everything else. You should be proud.

  62. you made some nice peaces,with inferior tools it is mainly the person making things and not the tool value, look at the ancestors they only had a sawblade some string and a chisel

  63. Jay I have been watching you since the apartment shop. You’ve always been a great inspiration. Thank you for all your content.

  64. Jay, I have great respect for you, everything that you touched turned to gold by your own hand. A wise man once told me that there are two measures of a man, the first is what a man can make with his own two hands, as in the end when the chips are down, that may be all that he has. The second measure is that with your talents, how many lives you have reached in a positive way. I can rightly say that in the beginning about 5 years ago, watching your videos convinced me to start my shop. So with that said, because of you, as long as I have a piece of scrap wood in the shop, I will be able to build something that I need.
    Dave Ramirez

  65. Jay,
    Thank you for sharing your experiences from your humble past, I really enjoyed the stories from your trailer past.
    I think the lessons for the younger viewers to learn is” do what you can with what you have on hand instead of complaining about what you don’t have.”
    keep up the nice work my friend and enjoy the family.

  66. Jay,
    Inspiring life story. Thanks for sharing it with us. Hard work and perseverance! It will put the fire into everyone who reads it, that yeah he can do it I can too.
    I am recovering from kidney, heart cancer and following up with chemo. I have been able to work much. When I feel good, I have been building your miter station with my son. When I don’t feel well am surfing your channel for inspiration. Man this was real treat reading about your story .Thanks and keep up the great work.
    Kelly Leffingwell

  67. Awesome story with a “no kidding” moral. Too many people would rather complain then get off their butt and go make it happen.

    • Ditto, earning what you got is too oldfashioned for too many people. Success isnt given it is earned. Setbacks and failures are challenges to overcome but a person who keeps trying will go further and respected for not quitting! This humble beginning is a great example.

  68. Thanks for sharing that story Jay. My story may not be quite that humbling, but i began in a 1 car garage with hand me down/craigslist tools. Really enjoy the work your doing, keep it up. I aspire to make it to level 10 some day; the “Jay Bates Chess Board” some day! I made the “Jay Bates spray paint rack”. That was and is an awesome idea, great creation, and I love that thing. Keep goin’!

  69. Great personal story and a good lesson in working with what you have. I’ve been following your work for a few years now a always enjoy your step by step approach to projects. I finally have a workshop of my own instead of a bench and some shelves in a garage shared by a car and have loved being able to work at my leisure at various projects in my retirement. Keep up your good work.

  70. Jay, I love your willingness to help share your knowledge about woodworking and related topics. It is always fun to look back where we started. I am now 53 and I am finally getting close to having my “Dream Shop” completed.
    I too started small. My first shop was a 10 ft. x 10 ft. storage shed with a Montgomery Ward radial arm saw in it. (Worst saw I ever owned) in my parents back yard that I was able to purchase after two years of saving money from mowing lawns and painting houses when I was 13. Unfortunately I didn’t own a camera back then, and people didn’t waste “film” on taking pictures of their tools back then so, no photos. :)
    Thanks again for all that you do to improve the woodworking community.

  71. I love this post! So true! Some people will find the ‘problem’ and excuses for why they can’t do one thing or another. I just had this correspondence with Izzy Swan when he posted on Instagram an earlier project he did with only a couple of tools he had. Jay, I have so much respect for your talent but most of all, your authenticity. Thank you for inspiring me and others with your extensive knowledge.

  72. Thank you for your journey. Very impressed with the work you produced then and I remember watching videos from the apartment shop. You’ve come a long way in woodworking and now with your beautiful family. I look forward to seeing more and continuing the journey. Merry Christmas and I hope 2019 holds even more great things for you.

  73. Very nice story Jay, you should be very proud of yourself. I know people get a bad rap for showing off the two car garage with all that room and tools. I now have a greater respect for you and what you have worked so hard for. Keep going your doing great.

  74. Great story Jay, thanks for sharing. It would appear that the “being stuck in the back seat listening to Dave Ramsey” sort of took hold on you. That’s a good thing. And it looks as if you’ve only just gotten started. You’ll do.

  75. That is so awesome! You really put my space and time into focus! Not sure if some of the parts were suppose to be funny but i can relate to some of them and found a bit of humor.
    Thank you for sharing your life events with us.

  76. This brings back memories. In 1979, while my wife was pregnant, she brought home a Better Homes And Gardens book of furniture plans. Since she couldn’t find a crib she liked, she wanted me to build one from the plans in the book. For tools at the time, I had a B&D jig saw, a B&D 1/4″ single speed drill, a set of Craftsman mechanics tools & toolbox, and a workbench that she talked her dad into building for her to give me tfir Christmas the year before, our first Christmas together. (The bench was just a piece of 5/8″ plywood with a 2×4 frame under it with folding 2×4 legs. I still have it.) All of that to say that we lived in a single wide trailer (in better shape than yours was). To build that crib, I would open the window of the second bedroom, take the screen out, and stick a board out the window just to be able to cut it. But I’m a little proud of that crib. Four of my five kids slept in it, and the only reason all five didn’t was because we had 2 in a crib at the same time toward the end. It hasd plexiglass ends so that you could see the baby from the door without waking them, slats on the sides, and one side slid up and down. (Current crib don’t do that, for safety.)

  77. Only in America! You are an inspiration to this old (67) GA boy. When I first found you there was “down to earth”written all over you. Bless your parents for bring you up right. I seriously believe there there are going to be workshops in Heaven.

  78. Thanks for the share Jay and CONGRATULATIONS on the newest family member. You are doing some really nice work and I love the posts. Please keep it up.

  79. Thanks for your inspiring story of bootstrapping your way to excellence. I discovered your site thanks to a link for your sketchup material on Matthias Wandel’s website, which also has some great stories.

  80. I come from a very rural, small town, farming community and I wouldn’t change a thing, I learned early on the only way I could get something was to earn it.
    I actually didn’t know how humble these beginnings were (everyone I knew was just like us) until I graduated high school and enlisted in the navy.
    But then I traveled overseas and saw first hand how it was for people living in 3rd world countries and I realized that I had grown up rich after all.

    I have watched as you (and some other YouTube content creators) have progressed through your tool hierarchy.
    I have seen many comments being jealous and critical of y’all.
    Never have understood that kind of mentality.

    I really have enjoyed seeing you (and the other content creators) have success.
    I hope it continues for you.

  81. Good job Jay, you are the perfect example of how this country was made. Hard work never hurt anyone and no one is entitled to anything but sadly “entitlement” is this generations motto. Thanks for sharing and keep up the good work. Merry Christmas!

  82. I really love this article and the part about Dave Ramsey i learned about being Debt Free from Larry Berkett (before your time) but have also listened to Dave Ramsey.
    My husband and i built our house paid it off in 6 yrs. have been married for 30yrs. with no debt for the past 24yrs. used a 2 car garage for woodworking that also was used for 2 cars so had to move cars out and tools around to make stuff now this yr. in 2018 we had a Amish guy build us a 22×26 2 story Gambrel Barn and we worked hard and saved the money and had it built with no debt, feels great

  83. I absolutely loved this article Jay. I’ve been letting the unheated aspect of the shop get me down recently (which is silly to complain about considering how nice a shop I have!), and this was a good reminder to just quit complaining and do what I can. The fact that you and other friends of mine are debt free, and talk about, is a real encouragement. I’m not there – but these reminders keep pointing me back to aiming for that goal.

  84. Jay – I always liked you. This article makes me respect you even more. What a story. Thank you for sharing. Preach on!


  85. Hey Jay,

    Happy New Year, truly enjoyed watching the End of Year Shop tour. 2018 I started outfitting my garage/workshop. I thought I had enough space and slowly seeing how it fills up quick. I need to keep learning the craft and hoping with the tools I do have I can make some Jay Bates projects. Thanks for the motivation and look forward to learning.

  86. Fantastic story! I really like your website and videos. Being located in Mississippi how did you become a Detroit Lions and Red Wing fan?

  87. I love your story and your “never give up…find a way” attitude. I’m impressed with you and your work. Thanks Jay.

  88. This is so inspirational. I first found you after 731 Woodworks made mention of you. I envied your shop so much so it’s awesome to see where it all started. I just went part time at my job to devote more time to woodworking. I watch your videos all the time and they help tremendously. Keep it up, I hope to one day be on your level :)

  89. Thanks Jay! You brought back a ton of memories from years ago when almost all of my tools and equipment were from garage sales and auctions. I operated out of one side of an old 2 car garage that had no head or A/C in southwest Missouri. Not as humid as Mississippi but plenty cold between December and March! My wife knew that when the black plastic was let down the middle of the garage I was busy building Christmas gifts for her and the kids.
    And we too are Dave Ramsey followers. Although it began 41 years ago by practicing the principles learned from Larry Burkett – who came before Dave.
    You have a great site and I wish you all the best, especially with a new little one in your family. Our 3 kids grew up in the shop building their own “age-appropriate” projects and still love to “make sawdust” on occasion!

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