An Afternoon in the Shop with Lily

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Blog entry by Lee Barker posted 01-01-2013 05:10 PM 2050 reads 0 times favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch

She’s 7—the second oldest of our universe of six grandchildren. I got to hold her the day she was born.

We decided on a play date the last afternoon of 2012. Over quesadillas and rice and beans we talked about what we might build or do. Once we got to the shop, she decided she had an idea. Ok, I admit it, I posed the picture.

Birdhouse. You’ve got to start somewhere. If she said, “scale model of a Frank Lloyd Wright house” or “prototype air powered elevator” I would take a run at it with her. Process and time together were everything, product not much.

We did some sketching, which she caught onto right away. I did the tablesaw cutting and we got into some hand tools.

And learned, in about 30 seconds, how to spread glue while kneeling on the work table.

And how a vise works.

And back to the sketch pad at her improvised desk.

But that’s only half the story. First thing in the shop, she had sat at my desk. I suggested she was the boss. That stuck. So periodically, in the construction/playtime, she would declare a break and go into her office and then call me in for a conference.

I was taken to task for something that I did that wasn’t safe. I was made mayor of the Carry the Wax Club. (I had to learn to carry the wax container by the handle with my other hand underneath in case the box fell down.) I had to demonstrate my competence at this in order to become mayor (“because mayors own the town, you know.”). Later I got to be president, and received a special binder clip to wear on my collar as an emblem of my station.

Once I had to come into the office as Lily, talking to the boss. There were some things I had to learn to do better. (I’ve not had a boss or a conference in over 30 years. This required great imaginative effort on my part! She seemed quite at home as the boss.)

But back to the shop. In addition to the obvious hand tools, we also

- used the drill press in 3 different processes, including boring with a pilot bit/countersink
- used two different air staplers
- cut shapes on the band saw
- sanded putty with an orbital sander
- used a screwgun to install the removable cleanout panels and to attach a metal bracket to one of the avian residences

I was amazed. All this was done with my hands on her hands, or vice versa, but she was very attentive to what was going on. For instance, with the drill press, she drilled a hole and the bit plunged on through. That sends three signals: your ears hear the splitting sound, your eyes see the chuck go down more quickly than it had been traveling, and your hand feels the plunge effect.

Next hole: she slowed down her rate of feed when she got to what she thought was the end of the hole. And she was right.

I have taught adults woodworking, and I don’t recall ever seeing learning like this. Quite the contrary, in many cases!

When we started our first bandsaw task, she said, “Grampa, aren’t you going to wear safety glasses?” Before I could concoct a mumbly answer, she was tapping the sticker on the upper wheel housing:
  • Caution! Wear Safety Glasses*.

We spent over four hours together in the shop on December 31. As I look at my new wall calendar which shows the entire year on one page, I can see some wonderful opportunities in 2013.

-- " his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

12 comments so far

View Stormy's profile


164 posts in 2464 days

#1 posted 01-01-2013 05:24 PM

Best time you ever spent in the woodshop? My only granddaughter turns 7 on 1/13. My wife and I are painting her dollhouse now. Can’t think of a better reason to work with wood. Thank you for sharing the love.

-- Stormy: Sometimes the wood just tells you what it wants to be.

View Chris Matthews's profile

Chris Matthews

21 posts in 3048 days

#2 posted 01-01-2013 05:33 PM

I guess we all need a Lily to remind us of what is important. And I am glad to hear someone finally took you to task and made you suffer through a conference – one of my most hated workday events!

BTW, nice birdhouses – did she come up with a marketing plan for you also?

View a1Jim's profile


117464 posts in 3844 days

#3 posted 01-01-2013 05:33 PM

Love it Lee great post . What a cutie your grand daughter is. I love seeing kids and grand kids working the shop it’s a very special time together. Happy new year,may you have many more shop days together.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View greg48's profile


613 posts in 3024 days

#4 posted 01-01-2013 05:44 PM

Thanks for the post Lee, it’s obvious that you have been blessed as has she. By the way, did Lily post her project on LJ’s? If not, perhaps it’s time to introduce her to the community.

-- Greg, No. Cal. - "Gaudete in Domino Semper"

View patron's profile


13643 posts in 3608 days

#5 posted 01-01-2013 05:44 PM

wonderful way to work together
and share the love and skills

looks like you better get used to saying


-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View Moron's profile


5032 posts in 4160 days

#6 posted 01-01-2013 05:49 PM

Awesome read and conjuring memories of my own girls way back when

: ))

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View Dez's profile


1166 posts in 4344 days

#7 posted 01-01-2013 06:02 PM

Spending time in the shop with my youngest granddaughter is pretty much the finest thing there is.
We started when she was about 4 and for her 6th Birthday we built a dollhouse that she drew the plans for by herself. I understand what you mean by the learning and I agree, better than most adults!
Treasure the time you get with her. Mine is getting close to 12 now and has started spending more time with friends and school etc although we still get to spend some time in the shop every month or so.

-- Folly ever comes cloaked in opportunity!

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

30212 posts in 2605 days

#8 posted 01-01-2013 06:18 PM

You’re a lucky man. I hope for that kind of experience as my grandsons get older.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View clieb91's profile


3552 posts in 4202 days

#9 posted 01-01-2013 09:27 PM

What an awesome way to end out your year. Looks like she has a few things down pat already. My daughter is now 6 and I try to spend as much time with her as I can in the shop. I look forward to seeing the other projects you guys get to do together this year.


-- Chris L. "Don't Dream it, Be it."- (Purveyors of Portable Fun and Fidgets)

View rustfever's profile


764 posts in 3577 days

#10 posted 01-01-2013 11:34 PM

Cool! Lily is great.

Aren’t these kids great in the shop?. All it takes a little training, some tools, plenty of encouragement, and lots of praise. These kids can really excel.

I’ve been thru this with my children, and now my grandchildren. I have also begun working with the school wood shops.

It never ceases to amaze me at what these ‘Kids’ can accomplish.

-- Rustfever, Central California

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2957 days

#11 posted 01-02-2013 02:22 AM

Lee- Granddaughters are the best aren’t they? My newest is Lily as well but at 2 months isn’t quite ready to be in the shop with her Papadoc. Thanks for the great post.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View NormG's profile


6415 posts in 3271 days

#12 posted 01-02-2013 03:30 AM

What a great attention span she has, glad to hear it went so well

-- Norman - I never never make a mistake, I just change the design.

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