Nick Offerman Explains the Psychological Benefits of Woodworking–and How It Can Help You Achieve Zen in Other Parts of Your Life

The world may know him as an actor and come­di­an, but Nick Offer­man also loves wood­work­ing. And he does­n’t just love it in the evenings-and-week­ends, some­thing-to-do-with-my-hands-while-I-lis­ten-to-pod­casts way: he’s actu­al­ly devot­ed a seri­ous chunk of his life, per­son­al and pro­fes­sion­al, to mak­ing things out of trees. As neat­ly as it may dove­tail with the musky, tra­di­tion­al­ly (and some­times buf­foon­ish­ly) mas­cu­line char­ac­ters he plays, the wood­work­ing aspect of Offer­man’s life exists inde­pen­dent­ly of his oth­er craft — not to say, of course, that you’ll find the web site of the Offer­man Wood­shop com­plete­ly devoid of humor.

Though pride in phys­i­cal work well done is its own reward, Offer­man believes that his wood­work­ing also made it pos­si­ble for him to suc­ceed as an enter­tain­er. “Peo­ple often ask me, how can I get my kid involved in show busi­ness?” he says in the Big Think clip above. “And I always say, I would advise that you take up wood­work­ing, because it’s addic­tive,” a “craft that is so sat­is­fy­ing, that doesn’t require the input of any cor­po­rate enti­ties.” This in con­trast to the Hol­ly­wood audi­tions where he always found him­self per­form­ing for “a room full of bankers” and leav­ing bewil­dered, think­ing, “ ‘I have no idea how I did,’ which gives you a lot of stress and a lot of agi­ta.”

This stress and agi­ta sent him straight to his wood­shop, where he would “just start sand­ing a wal­nut table.” Before long, “I would see the tan­gi­ble result of this work that I had done. The thing is, there’s no way to describe the sen­sa­tion. There’s mag­ic in it, whether you’re work­ing with glass or met­als or food or knit­ting or wood.” He cred­its that pow­er­ful and empow­er­ing sen­sa­tion, which he describes, in a per­haps unchar­ac­ter­is­ti­cal­ly Cal­i­forn­ian man­ner, as hav­ing “an incred­i­ble med­i­ta­tive or Zen qual­i­ty,” with giv­ing him “a mel­low demeanor to the point that I no longer cared as much about the TV shows.” And by car­ing less, he found that he could han­dle all of the per­for­mances show busi­ness demand­ed of him that much bet­ter.

You can get a tour of Offer­man’s Los Ange­les wood­shop in the sec­ond video from the top, a clip from This Old House. Begin­ning with his impres­sive wood stock, it con­tin­ues on to his even more for­mi­da­ble set of inde­struc­tible-look­ing vin­tage tools. “The less elec­tric­i­ty you can use,” he tells the host, “the more plea­sur­able your wood­work­ing will be.” He shares more wood­work­ing advice in the video just above, answer­ing ques­tions from the would-be wood­work­ers of Twit­ter: Is an apron real­ly nec­es­sary? Yes. Does oak require a pre-stain con­di­tion­er? Don’t stain oak at all. When one fel­low request­ing help iden­ti­fy­ing a joint type address­es Offer­man as “Mas­ter Crafter Wood,” Offer­man cor­rects him: “I’m a stu­dent of the form, but I appre­ci­ate your opti­mism.” That sums up what wood­work­ing offers: a con­di­tion of eter­nal stu­dent­hood, and if not opti­mism then at least a help­ful equa­nim­i­ty. “Zen” may be the right word after all.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Mes­mer­iz­ing GIFs Illus­trate the Art of Tra­di­tion­al Japan­ese Wood Join­ery — All Done With­out Screws, Nails, or Glue

Watch Japan­ese Wood­work­ing Mas­ters Cre­ate Ele­gant & Elab­o­rate Geo­met­ric Pat­terns with Wood

Watch the Mak­ing of a Hand-Craft­ed Vio­lin, from Start to Fin­ish, in a Beau­ti­ful­ly-Shot Doc­u­men­tary

Watch “The Woodswim­mer,” a Stop Motion Film Made Entire­ly with Wood, and “Bru­tal­ly Tedious” Tech­niques

Just 45 Straight Min­utes of Nick Offer­man Qui­et­ly Drink­ing Sin­gle Malt Scotch by the Fire

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

by | Permalink | Comments (0) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.