Taking Up Hobbies, Old and New, to Pass Time in Quarantine

May 5, 2020 Updated: May 11, 2020

To remedy the boredom resulting from isolation, people have been turning to hobbies—playing the guitar, knitting, brushing up on a foreign language—to pass the time. Some are discovering new hobbies, while others are honing their crafts.

Zack Hall is a 28-year-old software engineer from Melrose, Massachusetts. When he’s not building websites, he’s working with wood. His hobby started a year ago because of an oddly shaped home office space. His wife works from home sometimes too, and he needed to design a desk that would fit the space, and that two people could use.

After watching numerous Youtube tutorials, he was ready to undertake the project. He went out and bought a table saw, but he had just moved into a condominium and had to build the desk in his living room.

“It kicked up so much dust. It was an absolute mess,” Hall recalled.

Hall's furniture
One of Zack Hall’s homemade pieces of furniture. (Courtesy of Zack Hall)

After completing the desk, he realized he could build a lot of other pieces of furniture for his home instead of buying them. He also enjoyed being able to use furniture that he had made himself. Fortunately, a makers space opened up nearby and he was able to pursue his passion for woodworking outside of his living room.

Hall has made a variety of pieces, including an entryway table and a cabinet for their cat’s litter box. His next project is going to be an entryway storage space and a bench for shoes and jackets. Hall works with maple, oak, and pine.

“It’s mostly things around the home that we want to build that are sort of driving what pieces I’m designing and putting together,” Hall said.

During quarantine, Hall has had to adapt because his makers space is closed. He’s moved his work back to his driveway, and has been using hand tools and a little portable workbench. He’s recently built a dovetailed box by hand, without using any drills or power saws, that is shaped to hold a bottle of wine.

“The result is really cool, and it’s kind of charming. You have a lot of craftsman marks on the box,” Hall said.

Wine box
Zack Hall’s handmade wine box. (Courtesy of Zack Hall)

During this time of quarantine and lockdown, woodworking has provided Hall a calm respite from the fast-paced nature of his job. Woodworking lets him slow down and forces him to be deliberate about what he’s doing. And while it’s been a nice way to pass the time, for Hall, the end result is the best part.

“It also feels really rewarding to have something that you can feel at the end of it. You can tangibly point to the project you made,” Hall said.

Back to Basics

On the West Coast, Jamie Thomas is also working with her hands to hone her craft. In her free time, the 43-year-old from Redmond, Washington, the executive director of a non-profit, makes her own soap, shampoo, and candles.

After she took a work trip to Borneo, she saw how the palm oil industry was harming the rainforest. The experience left a lasting impression on her, and when she returned home she began looking for ways to make products that don’t use palm oil.

Jamie Thomas’ candles. (Courtesy of Jamie Thomas)

She opted to use soy wax instead. She melts the flakes down using a double boiler system and adds in different colors and scents. She then centers the wick in a reusable glass or metal container and slowly pours in the wax. The candles are left to set for two weeks and are then ready to use.

Not only does she enjoy the products herself, but she also enjoys giving them to friends and colleagues.

“I like the freedom of being able to go back to basics, and recognize that all of these chemicals don’t need to go into these products to make them useful, beneficial, and most of all healthy,” Thomas said.