I am the daughter of a woodworker. Now, if you asked my father, he would probably deny that saying that woodworking was simply something that he toyed with, but I always knew the truth. Some of my fondest memories of my teenage years involved being in my dad’s workshop helping him create the latest masterpiece. In all fairness, he did the work and I did a lot of the talking, but still being there with him helped me feel like I was actually doing some of the work. The projects ranged from gingerbread men and elves in massive quantities for the church fair to special surprise furnishings for my mom for holidays to a steamboat costume for me for a state parade where I was Mississippi. We talked a lot and we laughed a lot amidst the sawdust and machines, and that workshop became a haven for me as I awkwardly paced my way through adolescence.
Now fast forward (dare I say it?) almost 30 years later, and I wish I would have spent more time actually paying attention to the skills Dad wanted to teach me instead of doing all of the talking. Over the years I have found myself fairly helpless around some pretty basic household wood projects, and I realize that I missed a beautiful opportunity to learn a skill I didn’t know then how much I would love to have now. With retirement and health issues, the tools have all moved from his workshop, and that season for hands-on learning from him has passed me by. I missed it.
But there are some things I didn’t miss in that Camp workshop, lessons I have carried and used again and again throughout my life.
· You have to make mistakes in order to get to the finished product. In the workshop, mistakes were called “firewood”. Over the years there was always plenty of firewood to fuel our ac-induced Florida fireplace for an entire winter. But they were never a big deal. Frustrating at times? Yes. But I watched time and again how Dad pulled out another piece of wood and started again. Firewood was never good enough for the vision of a finished product that his mind had already seen. Several of those projects are still in my home today.
· If it’s worth doing at all, it is worth doing WELL. Among the piles of firewood and sawdust were a host of beautiful pieces that my Dad could take pride in completing because he knew he had followed through to the end, even when the path to get there was tough at times.
· Learning is important in all areas. You never know when learning in other areas will apply to the area you need now. I will never forget the box with the perfectly curved cover that my dad had envisioned for my mom. No project ever earned more firewood, more frustration, more select words and more determination than that box. It was probably even more frustrating when he finally asked me how to figure out the angle of all those boards and I scribbled out the geometric equation that solved it perfectly. Geometry and hobbies…who knew?
And my favorite…
· If someone else has ever done this task, you can learn from them and do it yourself. My Dad has always loved books and how-to manuals have become his lifeline to learning things he never dreamed he could do. If he sees something he likes, he figures out how to build it. My favorite memory here is visiting a craft and furniture store that had a model of a cabinet my dad intended to build for my mom. He needed measurements, so he took this daughter along with a tape measure so I could get under the cabinet and get all the measurements while he distracted the clerk. After several visits and a probably very suspicious clerk, he finally fessed up and told him what we were doing. The clerk laughed and assured us that he was a woodworker who often did the same thing. And over the years there have been more items than I care to count that I have measured, looked for patterns in books and on-line, and figured out how to replicate, a skill I am certain began in that furniture store.