A sports medicine physician shows-off his shop and tools handed down through generations.
Photo of Hill's workshop
With an engineering mind, John designed the shop, made all of the cabinets and tool stands, and built the lumber rack with adjacent cubbies for storing cutoffs.

Walking into John Hill's workshop is like walking into a museum. You won't find many shiny, new stationary tools. Instead, scattered around the shop is old, gray Delta iron. Three prior generations of woodworkers have left their mark. John's great-grandfather and grandfather were professional carpenters. His father joined the ranks later as an accomplished woodworker. John took a different path. He became a physician specializing in sports medicine. But a strong background in engineering and construction helped him to design his new shop. His father, Sonny, once said to him, "Aw, John, you're wasting your time in medicine. You would have been a good carpenter."

Drawing of shop

John cherishes the memories of working alongside his grandfather, Jim Hill Sr., in his shop. "My job for as long as I could remember was to clean the shop with a steel dustpan and a hand broom. I still use them."  His grandfather purchased the vintage Delta tools in used condition. 

Photo of multifunctional cabinet
This multifunctional cabinet features a hinged wing along one side for storing C-clamps, glue, dowels, and other accessories. A fold-out clamping station fronts the main cabinet.

Grandpa Jim passed away in 1969, but Sonny continued to use the shop. Eventually, he spent much less time in the shop, so the family sold the property. With so much woodworking in the family tree, it was only natural that John move the tools into his new shop. 

Photo of vintage Delta tools
Well-maintained, vintage Delta tools, some dating back to the 1930s, work as well today as they did when they were new.

Along with the tools came a workbench built by grandfather Jim. It's tucked under one of several large windows that provide plenty of natural light. Grandpa built the workbench around 1951 out of Douglas fir 2×6s, back when a 2×6 was really 2×6". The face of the bench, the doghole strip, and the back of the workbench are made of hard maple. He built the bench before he owned power tools, so he sawed every board by hand. Each board and the assembled top were hand-planed with a 21" jointer plane, which John owns and still uses on occasion.

When a cabinetmaker friend snagged a deal on a railroad car full of quartersawn white oak, John used it to build all the cabinets in the shop, including dovetail joinery on every drawer. "I am a doctor with a tendency toward perfectionism," he admits. 

Photo of John and photo of vintage hand tools
Vintage hand tools passed down from John's grandfather and dad maintain their edge in this handmade cabinet. As a medical doctor, John relishes the times he can spend in the shop putting his creative skills to work.

Perfectionism also benefits John in shop organization. He takes advantage of every cubic inch of that cabinet space. He uses cabinets to store clamps, finishes, and hand tools like chisels, spokeshaves, and vintage hand planes. A sink cabinet in the corner houses a low-speed grinder bolted to the countertop—an ideal setup for a sharpening station. Grandpa Jim built the hardware storage cabinet of drawers on top of yet another cabinet near the lumber rack. Jim, Sr. also built the base for the lathe. It's still rock-solid even after falling off Grandpa's truck during a move.

John's self-diagnosed obsession for organization carries over to other areas. Magnetic bars make ideal holders for hand tools near the workbench and above the lathe. Space beneath the tablesaw outfeed table keeps saw blades and accessories in order and readily accessible. Custom-welded brackets serve as a heavy-duty lumber rack for storing hardwoods. Softwoods and dimensional lumber reside in a covered rack outside. Cubbies provide a home for cutoffs. On the end of the cubbies, John added pegboard to hold mallets, hammers, saws, and other accessories.

The shop draws power from a 100-amp subpanel connected to the 200-amp main house service. Dust collection ductwork connects to a 12-amp, 220-volt double-bag collector residing in a separate room. John relied on an electrician to configure the circuits so the dust collector automatically switches on when a stationary tool is powered up.

Photo of JOhn's grandpa's workbench
Grandpa's handmade workbench resides in a prominent spot in John's shop and childhood memories.

John says that over the years he has built things as small as cutting boards, but prefers building large pieces of furniture like chairs,  cabinets of every shape and size, and entire rooms. When using all those vintage tools, John often reminisces about the times spent in the shop with Grandpa and Dad. He strives to put the magic of those memories into every project he builds.