Life & Business

Q&A: Some Good Clean Fun with Nick Offerman

by Erin Austen Abbott

Nick Offerman for Design*Sponge

Let’s talk a little about wood. If you’re familiar with the TV show Parks and Recreation, you know the character Ron Swanson, played by actor Nick Offerman, was not only the endearing (even though we’d never tell him that to his face) director of the Parks and Recreation department, but also a carpenter and woodworker. This characteristic of Mr. Swanson is actually pulled from the real life of Offerman, who has been an avid woodworker for many years now. He’s out with his third book, Good Clean Fun, teaching readers everything from the tools of the trade to tips to get you started, including a range of interviews with fellow woodworkers and DIY projects.

This book is sure to fit nicely in your library and next to you, in your wood shop, whether you are just picking up a new hobby or looking to dive into a career of carving and turning wood. We could all get and give a little good clean fun to get us started this holiday season. Please enjoy this Q&A with Nick about his favorite craft. —Erin

Nick Offerman for Design*Sponge

Portrait by Emily Shur | Book cover by Penguin Random House

Design*Sponge: What tools should one have to get started when building their own wood working workshop? 

Nick Offerman: It depends on the scope of your projects. You can begin with some hand tools like a nice Japanese pull saw, a hand drill, a few chisels, a block plane, and a spoke shave. Throw in a couple clamps and you’re looking at an old-fashioned sawdust party.

What’s the one piece of advice that you wish you had heard when you began your own art? 

Mistakes are not only okay to make, they are required for improvement. Forging ahead into uncharted territory can be much less painful once one embraces the fallibility inherent in being human. If you preemptively plan to make mistakes, and set aside scrap wood for that express purpose, then your learning is hard-earned and substantial.

What was your biggest takeaway from writing Good Clean Fun? What was something that you learned, that you might not have known before writing the book?

There’s a vast difference between telling another person how to execute a project and teaching via the written word and photographs. Together as a unit, the Offerman Woodshop elves and I learned a great deal ourselves about good habits and bad, in committing our instructions to paper. It made for a very challenging but fun group undertaking.

How do you stay ahead of the game and stay original when creating new work? 

I ignore “the game” as much as possible, so that my chosen projects are as organic as possible. Whether it’s acting, writing, or woodworking, I follow my nose and my gut to the next chapter in my fields of interest, and this technique seems to keep my calendar quite full of chuckles.

Nick Offerman for Design*Sponge
Photo above by Josh Salsbury

What are songs/bands/podcasts that you love to listen to when in the studio?


Tom Waits

Petra Hayden sings The Who Sell Out

Judge John Hodgman

Iron & Wine

Nancy and Beth

The Mills Brothers

Laurie Anderson

Good Clean Fun is available through Penguin Random House, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and many independent book sellers throughout the country.

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  • Nick Offerman is my hero. So happy that two of my loves collided for this interview! This is super fun. Can you do more of these?

  • Nick Offerman is such a delight.

    If you haven’t heard him laugh, I highly recommend googling it. It’s so goofy and adorable.

  • “Mistakes are not only okay to make, they are required for improvement.” If this doesn’t apply to pretty much everything in life I don’t know what does. Love this!

  • I read this and then immediately went to Barnesandnoble dot com to purchase it as a gift for a good friend, who is also my recently former boss, and with whom I attended a two-day, hands-on carpentry skills workshop this past summer (at a carpentry school for women, in Trumansburg, NY).

    I love Nick Offerman (she surely will, too, after reading this); my friend loves biographies about interesting people, learning, and is interested in getting more into wooodworking – this book is the perfect gift for her.
    (Maybe she will even let me borrow it sometime ;) )