The other day I yawned and a thick cloud came out of my gaping mouth, floated around my face for a moment and then disappeared, sucked into my nostrils as I inhaled my next breath. For a moment I assumed it was a cloud of pipe smoke, like my grand mother used to puff out in rings above her head to impress us kids on special occasions and weekdays. But since I don't smoke, I knew this was something more serious.
*(Tired of reading? Listen to Stumpy read this for you below. Or read on like a stuck up, smart-alec. It's your funeral...)*
Now, as you can tell by looking at me, I'm the type of guy that likes to take care of himself. Sure, I eat a lot of cheese and drink my share of malted beverages, and my wife's share too. And my idea of exercise is to sit in a lawn chair in front of the shop swinging a flyswatter and yelling at the neighborhood kids. But just because I neglect my waistline and my arteries doesn't mean I'm not concerned with my lungs. If I can't breath, I can't talk. And if I can't talk I can't order at drive through. So this is a health crisis.
The first thing I did was visit my doctor. And by doctor I mean Randy the shop boy. I make him smell my breath several times a day, so if anyone knows my breathing habits, it's him. Now, I could go into detail about what Randy said and how much garlic I had eaten that morning but I'll cut to the chase. Randy is an idiot and I've got dust in my lungs. Yes, you heard me right. My chest cavity has more filth in it than most internet videos, woodworking ones excluded. I should have guessed the problem months ago when I was kicked out of the wine club for saying everything was oaky. I wrote that off as a case of a bunch of fru-frus who can't stand to see a chubby guy shotgun a bottle of Cabernet with his shirt off. (Another joke, I drink only in moderation and only out a brown paper sack.)
Anyway, my mailman told me that what I needed was a good lung dusting so I went to see a real doctor and was immediately admitted. Now, the best part about intensive care is the food. They get a whole different menu from the rest of the hospital. And I quickly learned to take advantage by sneaking into that wing and looking for the comatose patients with unguarded trays. That's when reality really hit me, a real bottom of the barrel moment. Here I was sitting next to a recently deceased old woman eating tapioca from her trash can and I had to ask myself, was this all worth it? Wouldn't it be better to just get a new dust collection system and avoid this whole rigmarole altogether?
I mean, we all spend vastly more time sweeping the sawdust from the floors and blowing dust from every surface than we spend with our children, and only half the reason is because we woodworkers hate kids. Am I right.. huh? I'm winking, nodding and elbowing you like an idiot trying to make a point right now, and the point is this: My dust problem has overgrown my shop's ability to suck. Not that my shop doesn't suck in a lot of other ways. I don’t have cable for one thing, or an omelet bar. But neither of those is as important as getting that dust away from my giant nose and into some sort of filter like God intended. Chip collection isn't doing the job any more, my raw windpipe and splintered nostrils can attest to that. I tried to battle the dust clouds by opening the shop doors and windows and installing fog lights on the table saw. I'm tired of chewing after every breath. I'm tired of burrowing through the shop like a hamster. But most of all, I'm tired of being tired… which I've been told is caused by the low oxygen levels in the shop, and if there's one thing my Union employees demand, it's oxygen. And a break every ten minutes.
So, right then and there, on the cold tile floor of the late Mabel Butterfield's hospital room, I decided to change my life. No longer would I be a slave to the sawdust and wood chips that a good deal of my projects became. From that moment on the only thing I was going to sniff was glue fumes because nobody was ever harmed by those. I fell to my knees, took a final swig of ensure and swore to myself and Blue Collar Woodworking fans everywhere that I would design a dust collection system of such beauty, such efficiency, such unparalleled genius that Einstein himself would sit up in his grave, take a snort of my workshop air, wipe a tear from his eye and say… "Stumpy, you complete me."
In the next three episodes of Blue Collar Woodworking history will be made. Will you be there to witness it?