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Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) played the reluctant London tourist in a recent “Parks and Recreation.”

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Nick Offerman's "Paddle Your Own Canoe"

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"Parks and Rec's” Nick Offerman carves out a perfect life

  • Article by: STEVEN KURUTZ
  • New York Times
  • October 8, 2013 - 3:25 PM

Nick Offerman is a lucky guy, as he humbly and repeatedly submits in his new memoir, “Paddle Your Own Canoe” (Dutton, $26.95). He is married to actress Megan Mullally, and after years of being passed over for roles, he has come into his prime as a character actor (what a casting agent once told him would be his “sheriff years”), starring as the bacon-loving, whiskey-drinking, sawdust-sniffing Ron Swanson on “Parks and Recreation.”

Much like the character he plays, off-screen Offerman, 43, also enjoys red meat, spirits and woodworking; Offerman Woodshop, his woodworking business in Los Angeles, makes heirloom furniture and decor items. The interest in routers and planers isn’t an actor-y affectation: Among the possessions Offerman stuffed into his Subaru upon moving to Los Angeles was his tool kit.

“I was like Bob Dylan heading to New York from Minnesota, and my toolbox was my guitar,” he said.

Offerman spoke by phone from Los Angeles about his love for woodcraft and why he finds the work of Greene & Greene so “titillating.”

Q: Is the book’s title meant as a rallying cry for individualism or a call to actually navigate a canoe of one’s own construction?

A: I think both. In my case, they’re sort of one and the same. My first canoe I built in Red Hook, Brooklyn, and launched in the harbor. Paddling a canoe down a river using a paddle that I made gives me an incredible feeling of the power of humanity, of the opposable thumb. I desperately want to take it to Minnesota, where my family vacations, but the tricky thing is it doesn’t fit in the overhead compartment of an airplane. One day it will taste one of the 10,000 lakes.

Q: What is it that you like about woodworking?

A: It gives me such a sense of satisfaction to take rough materials and use tools and ingenuity to turn them into a table or a canoe or a salad fork. My other career as an actor is so vastly shaped by the influence of so many other people. But if I want to put a 37-degree chamfer on a table, I don’t have to ask anyone’s permission.

Q: Does it concern you that shop class is often cut from the youth curriculum?

A: Sadly, that’s the case in a lot of schools. But our society has become so comfortable and pampered that old-fashioned skills like haberdashery or blacksmithing have become these weird hobbies. … It’s a weird circumstance, but I’m glad it’s happening.

Q: Who are your heroes in the woodworking arts?

A: To me, the work of Greene & Greene is the pinnacle. To take a Craftsman lodge, which is incredibly handsome to begin with, and add a touch of flair and femininity in the joinery and furniture really titillates me.

Q: Is your own house filled with furniture you’ve made?

A: Megan … can fill a house with accessories much more quickly than I can build furniture. But we’re moving into this amazing new house and there will be three pieces from the wood shop: a dining table, a desk and a canopy bed. This desk, a slab of a maple tree, is for Megan and I to work side by side. I’m very tickled that she likes my work.

Q: You’re part of a tradition of entertainer-carpenters. Both Adam Carolla and Harrison Ford, for instance, worked in the building trade while starting out.

A: Also, let’s not leave out the most famous carpenter-entertainer: Jesus. He was the original showbiz carpenter.

© 2014 Star Tribune