Woodworking for two

It’s incredibly productive to share a project with someone. Even though the manpower is doubled, the level of productivity actually increases by a much larger factor.

In what will be one of the last times you’ll hear about my storage-shed project, the shingling of the roof is finally complete. The roofer I mentioned the other day apparently decided the job I had for him was too small, and I never heard from him again. Fortunately, a co-worker of my wife’s volunteered to step in.

Randy teaches building construction at my wife’s school (the local technical high school), and has been roofing for decades. Unlike me, he was as much at home up on the shed roof as one of the legendary Flying Wallendas. With him up top and me on the ground, we quickly fell into a cohesive team. I brought up shingles as he needed them (I managed that much ladder work easily enough), and cut shorter lengths of shingles as he called out dimensions. In between, when he was merely pounding away, I cut and prepared shingles for the ridge cap. Working this way, we sped through the process quickly, finishing the task in not much more than an hour.

I’d forgotten how productive this could be. I alluded earlier that two people sharing a task more than doubles the efficiency – in this case, all my work on the ground eliminated any need for Randy to climb up and down the ladder. Plus, as he neared an edge, he’d take a measurement and shout it out. By the time he got to that edge, I’d have the shingle cut and ready. We did separate tasks simultaneously that culminated in a single result, cutting the time spent working to a fraction of what it would have been otherwise.

The other thing I’d also forgotten was how much fun it is to work as a team. It’s been more than four years since I worked on a project of any kind with my buddy Lee back up in Connecticut (I think that was the two of us installing my dining room floor; or maybe it was when we built a bookcase/stereo cabinet for his living room), and even longer since my dad and I worked on something together.

Solitary woodworking is fine, and I enjoy it immensely, but from time to time you just can’t beat a shared experience. I not only recommend it highly, I’m making a promise to myself not to wait so long before doing it again.

Till next time,



  • Lee Gordon says:

    Thanks for the shout-out. Some people may find it hard to believe that installing a hardwood floor could be fun, but it was. Constructing a 7-foot tall entertainment center was too.

    I wish I could have been there to pitch in (no pun intended) on your shed roof project. However, to validate your decision to seek assistance, I will remind you that, even while at ease on the high wire, several of those Flying Wallendas plunged to their untimely deaths while on the job.

  • I agree completely. Even just having someone to “tail” the table saw or surface planer as I feed pieces through will reduce the amount of time used not just by half but down to a third, maybe even a quarter of the time needed to do the job alone because I’m not having to run around the machine to pull the piece off the back side, lay it on a table, run back around front to feed another piece through. Very time consuming… and tiring as well.

    As for the camaraderie angle, that depends on who you’ve got working with you and whether they know what they’re doing (or at least are willing to pay attention and learn). I’ve played this scene many times and from all the angles; being the experienced one teaching a rookie what to do and how to do it, being the rookie being taught, and as part of an effective duo of skilled workers. The latter is definitely the more satisfying.

    I’m glad your situation worked out so well, and that you will now be able to benefit from your labors.

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