In Your Shop: Studio or Cell?


Over the last quarter century, I’ve taught perhaps a thousand people how to build an aircraft engine from a Corvair motor. Some of these builders chose to also consider what else I might have to share on the greater topic of aviation, such as these bitter lessons: Risk Management reference page. The words below are addressed to a still smaller subgroup, the builders concerned with how the hours in the shop might protect ones sanity and provide some clarity and peace in a society which values neither. 


I wrote the words below in 2013. They address what you might find if you treat the hours in your shop as time spent in a creative studio, where you are investing in yourself. Far too many people approach experimental aviation as a consumer experience, and the look at every hour of building as a trade of time for saving the cost of buying a factory plane. These people are sentencing themselves to time in a prison cell.


As the months pass, the builder who is working in a studio will develop new skills and find the peaceful time to cleanse what modern life soils. He looks forward to the hours of self investment. The customer who’s only goal was to own the appliance will soon discover he is in a prison cell of his own choosing. He will stay only until a frustrating day arrives and he ‘self-paroles’ by quitting the project, unaware that homebuilding had much more to offer than having an airplane. -ww.


” If you have never met me, but beleive I am charmed with myself, you got it all wrong. I know countless humans who are better people. They are kinder, smarter, and harder working. I can’t sing nor dance, I learn slowly, and I can’t stand to hear my recorded voice nor see my image on film. If I was once handsome, all trace of it is gone along with my uncorrected eyesight. I can be a conversational bore, and I deeply wish I had given my parents more moments to be proud of me. At 50 I look back on my life with a very critical eye and stand on the far side of a very wide gulf from the heroes of my youth.


Honest evaluation leads to harsh thoughts like that. I spend a lot of time alone and have long bouts of insomnia, which can lead to thinking about things excessively. But here is a secret, shared with anyone who feels the same way at times; I have a sanctuary where I am insulated from much of my self-criticism. It is a place where at 50, I am much better than I was in my youth. When I am building things with my hands in my shop, I rarely feel poor. Although I now need glasses to do any close work, and my hands have lost a lot of dexterity, I am a far better craftsman than I ever was in my youth. I am not a great craftsman, but over a very long time I have worked to develop these elements in my life, and I compete with no one, except who I was last year. While all else fades, these things flourish. It is a gift I am most thankful for.


This did not come into focus until 1999, the worst year of my life. (The plane crash and burns were 2001, a picnic compared to 1999.)  Feeling dangerously low, I sought the council of a guy I knew. He had come back from such a year. He is an artist, working as an incredibly detailed wood carver. He told me to forget everyone and everything else, go back to my shop and tools and work with my hands. Give up your apartment, but never your studio. Explore all the things you can’t forget, have stolen, give away or loose. At the moment, I was having a hard time picturing surviving another week, and I asked him how long it took him to recover his sanity.  He thought with great care a slowly said “two, no really three..” I was jolted and blurted out “Three months?” he looked me in the eye and said “No. Years. It’s probably your only way out.” It turned out to be a painfully accurate prediction.


In the years since I have read letters or posts from many people in a tough spot, who are selling their project or tools. I often think their ship is sinking and they have just traded their life jacket for five more minutes on the deck. They are blindly committing a very self destructive error.  I have also met a number of successful builders who have said that when everything else in there lives was broken, they had a place of refuge in work and creation. Of the thousands of people I have met in aviation, these people are truely brothers, for we share the same salvation.”



Above, a very rare night run of a Corvair engine at Corvair College #22 in Texas. The engine belonged to John Franklin. It ran after dinner on Saturday night, and he had many fellow builders to cheer on his achievement. It was a great moment among builders with similar perspectives.  These hours are a rarity in homebuilding. The vast majority of the time is spent alone.  The quality of these hours is solely determined by the builders attitude, which will determine if he is working in a studio or a prison cell.




The Next Event on the Schedule:

FlyCorvair/SPA – Joint Workshop/Open house, May 18,19,20

Read the link now and make a plan today.



About William Wynne
I have been continuously building, testing and flying Corvair engines since 1989. Information, parts and components that we developed and tested are now flying on several hundred Corvair powered aircraft. I earned a Bachelor of Science in Professional Aeronautics and an A&P license from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and have a proven 20 year track record of effectively teaching homebuilders how to create and fly their own Corvair powered planes. Much of this is chronicled at and in more than 50 magazine articles.

4 Responses to In Your Shop: Studio or Cell?

  1. John Woods says:

    William, I felt compelled to comment, as I understand your words completely. I have been hanging on to the dream of building my own aircraft for over 20 years. Not really a dream, but an innate desire, a part of me that I wouldn’t let go of because I knew it would be a part of me that I couldn’t let die. I’ll be turning 60 in a couple of months’ time and I can’t let my life end without having undertaken this journey that has always been my desire but I have always put on the back burner for the benefit of others. Not anymore. I’m in the process of acquiring the use of a hanger into which I will move my Pietenpol / Corvair project which has been essentially stagnant for 10 years. The elation I felt when I looked over the pristine hanger and the knowledge that I will have a home where I can let my creativity free without appointments, schedules and time restraints being placed on me by others. This is freedom and I’m happy at last.
    Perth Western Australia

  2. John, thanks for your thoughts, its good to know that 10,000 miles away the same kind of perspective exists in another builders ‘studio’.

  3. Bryan Walstrom says:

    Very deep William. Your perspective and how you see certain things in life are very much in line with creation. You are a Creator. You are a Maker. I believe the Creator of our universe shares our feeling of fulfilment when something is “born” or “reborn” for that matter. Be it mechanical or…
    Thank you for helping others in this world find a way to experience that joy and that excitement in their own homes (or “studios”).

    • Bryan, the non-technical things I write about are all written as things to consider, more in the form of a question rather than an answer. They are just starting points to get individuals out of just ‘choosing’ between pre-provided answers, and put the effort into forming their own considered perspectives. I’m glad some element of the story resonated with your views, but also expect that different individuals will take different headings from the same starting point.

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