Next generation of wood workers

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Blog entry by McLeanVA posted 01-23-2012 05:06 PM 5400 reads 0 times favorited 19 comments Add to Favorites Watch

The week following Christmas, I was in my garage making sawdust on my new lathe. Enjoying some time away from my real job.

A neighbor that I had waved to a hundred times was walking his dog and decided to come over to chat. He introduced himself and said that he and his 9 year old son were going to start their annual pinewood derby project. He asked if I would donate some shop time and instruction to his son to learn a bit more about wood working and the pile of power tools I had amassed over the years. I gladly accepted under a few conditions. We both agreed that his son would make all the cuts, do all the design and that I would simply act as safety instructor. I asked that he bring his son over with his block of pine, his design ideas and a willingness to learn the safe way to work around power tools.

Two days later, they came over and we walked around the shop and talked about the tools and what they were used for. After he drew his cut lines on the material, I quizzed him on what machines he thought would be best to use for each part. Kid nailed each question. We put on safety glasses, ear protection, and checked all the parts of the power tool to make sure we were good to go. I walked him through all of the hand positions, what to do if he got nervous during a cut, etc. I was really impressed with how well he listened and his cautious respect for tools.

After about 30 minutes of cutting and belt sanding, I sent him away with one of my wood clamps and a stack of sand paper grits, 80 – 320. I told him that the job wasn’t nearly complete. Sanding is where the beauty happens. I told him that when he was finally finished and happy. Sand a bit more.

Just this Saturday I was driving back home from our local sledding hill (with my kids) and saw him standing in front of his house with his parents holding his car and a big gold trophy. I pulled over and asked him how he did. He showed me his first place trophy for design and thanked me again for helping him. I reminded him that all I did was to make sure he was safe. He did it all.

Really made my day. If nothing else comes out of my garage that’s worth a hoot, I can now proudly say that my shop is home to the local elementary school 2012 1st place pinewood derby competition (for design).

Who knows, maybe this kid will eventually become a woodworker hobbyist like his dusty neighbor.

For those of you who don’t recognize the car design, it’s “Ecto-1” from the movie Ghostbusters.

-- Measure, cut, curse, repeat.

19 comments so far

View Sbilly's profile


19 posts in 3580 days

#1 posted 01-23-2012 05:18 PM

That’s cool that will be something he remembers for a life time because he made it.

View WoodArtbyJR's profile


428 posts in 4205 days

#2 posted 01-23-2012 05:20 PM

Chris, thank you for posting this. I am sure there are others that feel this story needed to be posted here as well. GOOD JOB buddy. Now that you’ve had a taste, just think what it’ll be like when you show your own kids the joy of woodworking.


-- Jim Roberts, Port Orchard Washington

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 4355 days

#3 posted 01-23-2012 05:38 PM

way to go you both of you :-)congrat´s
now you need to show him the handtools so he can be hooked for good :-)

thanks for sharing the story

View racerglen's profile


3112 posts in 4020 days

#4 posted 01-23-2012 05:52 PM

Makes my day !
Great story and great job Chris.

-- Glen, B.C. Canada

View ChrisK's profile


2059 posts in 4321 days

#5 posted 01-23-2012 05:59 PM

I know the feeling. I was able to extend the use of my shop to some friends to help there son shape the car he wanted. Braxten is only 6 so his dad and I did most of the cutting. He did some sanding. Our race is Saturday I hope we all do well.

-- Chris K

View dbhost's profile


5777 posts in 4472 days

#6 posted 01-23-2012 06:13 PM

I still have my Pinewood Derby car that my Dad and I made in his Basement workshop…. I sure wish My Dad and I didn’t live what, 1,200 or so miles apart… Your story brings back some fond memories. Thanks, and thanks for kindling the fire for the next generation!

-- Please like and subscribe to my YouTube Channel

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

1530 posts in 5365 days

#7 posted 01-23-2012 07:17 PM

Awesome and good on you!

I’ve got no biological kids, but for various reasons lots of kids have ended up in my life, and a few of them in my shop. And I’m currently moving my shop out of my garage to the back yard, and want to put out a “Dan is in the shop, please come visit” sign when I’m out there.

You managed to capture both of those joys. I’m jealous.

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

View FreshSawDust's profile


68 posts in 3569 days

#8 posted 01-23-2012 07:22 PM

Way Cool! That smile says it all.

-- TJ - Perryville, Missouri

View majeagle1's profile


1429 posts in 4736 days

#9 posted 01-23-2012 07:39 PM

Now this is one FANTASTIC story!!!! Congrats to you for taking the time and interest for this young man to be able to create this wonderful project. This will be something that he will keep for the rest of his life!

-- Gene, Majestic Eagle Woodworks,,

View HighRockWoodworking's profile


182 posts in 4219 days

#10 posted 01-23-2012 08:30 PM

Great news! One of the greatest things we can do as woodworkers is to teach the next generation to carry on the tradition. I am glad that you let him do the work and I hope he encouraged to continue as it looks like he has a tallent already! Thank you for sharing this with us.

-- Chris Adkins,

View Lenny's profile


1721 posts in 4767 days

#11 posted 01-23-2012 08:39 PM

Way to go! Thanks for sharing a great story. One person CAN make a difference.

-- On the eighth day God was back in His woodworking shop! Lenny, East Providence, RI

View Nighthawk's profile


557 posts in 3597 days

#12 posted 01-23-2012 08:46 PM

Cool story…

-- Rome wasn't built in a day... but I wasn't on that job? ...

View degoose's profile


7284 posts in 4595 days

#13 posted 01-23-2012 10:34 PM

I really enjoyed reading about his journey and your part in the safety aspect of woodworking.. well done mate.

-- Be safe.

View McLeanVA's profile


493 posts in 4674 days

#14 posted 01-23-2012 11:56 PM

Thank you all for the great comments. All too often we take for granted our skills, tools and creativity. We so often forget that there are plenty of people who would jump at the chance to take part in any aspect of wood working. It’s all still such a mystery to them.

It’s also really easy to hoard our shop time or be so rushed through our projects and daily lives that we miss chances to volunteer time and impart wisdom. I can tell you with 100% conviction, I can’t wait until the next young aspiring wood worker is brave enough to walk up my driveway and ask if I can help them learn the basics.

-- Measure, cut, curse, repeat.

View BigTiny's profile


1721 posts in 4128 days

#15 posted 01-24-2012 01:42 PM

Hi Chris.

You never stand so tall as when you stoop to help a child.

As one who spent half his adult life as an instructor with the Royal Canadian Air Cadets, I too know the joys of starting some youngster on the path. I taught model aircraft and flying scholarship (basically the ground school part of a private pilot’s license course with the goal of winning a scholarship for the whole course). Of the kids I taught, a couple of dozen went on to get their private tickets and several went on to either a career in military flying or as airline pilots. Many of the model aircraft students kept at the hobby too.

My own feeling is that we aren’t doing anyone a favor by teaching them the basics, we are just doing our duty. It is the duty we owe to the craft to pass the skills we have learned along to the next generation of craftsmen. In the old days this was done exclusively through the guild system, with masters and journeymen teaching the apprentices. While this system still exists to some extent, the crafts are no longer the sole property of the guilds and we are free to pass the knowledge and skills on to anyone who wishes to learn them. We learned from others, so we in turn have the obligation to “pay it forward”. I am happy that you have done so to this excellent young student.

After all, what other reason does LJ have for existing than to “pay it forward” to those who come here eager to learn and to be inspired?


-- The nicer the nice, the higher the price!

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