See their saws at American Workshop

Winter’s shorter with the smell of freshly cut sawdust. Credit: Photo by Linda Koutsky

American Workshop, 1170 Cliff Road East, Burnsville
Hours: Monday–Friday, 10 a.m.–8 p.m.; Saturday, 8 a.m.–6 p.m.; Sunday, noon–6 p.m.

Perc was his usual cheerful self refinishing his vintage cross country skis and all I could think about was how cold it was outside and that the last thing I wanted to do was go out there for fun. I know it’s not as cold as last year but we’ve barely seen the sun since October and I can only take so many D vitamins. I know I should be a better Minnesotan and get out there and enjoy the winter wonderland but it just isn’t working for me this year.

So it occurred to me to get a new hobby. I heard one time that we have more artists and creative people per capita in Minnesota than nearly anywhere due to our long, cold winters. We like to keep ourselves busy indoors. Lucky for me, I just happened to wander into American Workshop. With the crisp scent of pine and gently falling sawdust in the air — who needs snow?!

American Workshop was founded in 2011 by Tim Watts. He wasn’t a professional woodworker but always had a few tools and pieces of equipment and liked to build things. One day he figured there might be a lot of other people out there who’d like to make things too but who don’t have the space or equipment. The pay-by-the-hour workshop was originally called North Country Workshop but Watts decided to franchise the concept and changed the name to American Workshop for greater national appeal. A second location is open in Iowa and a third, in NE Minneapolis, is rumored to open this year. (The Burnsville’s building signage still says North Country so keep an eye out.)

The 10,000-square-foot shop in Burnsville is packed with table saws, drill presses, belt sanders, planers, and everything that’s needed to build projects that range in scale from cutting boards to entire bedroom sets. Members buy punch cards in varying increments from one hour to unlimited time. The workshop has kits available, will consult on your own project, or will let you run free with your own designs as long as you’re safe with the equipment. Training and classes are available. Group also can reserve space for project parties for scouts or birthdays. A full-time education director helps plan classes and project kits. See her own home improvement projects at her popular blog:

The day I was there I saw a father and son, father and daughter, and several other individuals working hard on their projects. Popular projects include footstools, kitchen cabinets, wood pens, and Little Free Libraries. Check out for classes, rates, and custom work.

Grandfathers on both sides of my family were involved in making furniture. I’ve been looking at plans ever since I left there. Stay tuned for the spring line from Koutsky Furniture.           

DINNER BREAK: It’s like you’re far away on a cruise ship vacation. But that’s why they called it the Mediterranean Cruise Cafe. This has to be one of the largest restaurants in the metro area! Go for dinner and stay for the belly dancers. 12500 Nicollet Avenue (salsa dancing Saturday nights at 10 p.m.)

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