Woodworking is more than a Hobby

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Blog entry by David posted 12-04-2011 05:03 PM 2193 reads 0 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Last night as I lay in bed I started to think about why I enjoy woodworking. Somewhere I read that one day spent in the shop is better than a week of fishing. When I do this I always seem to go back to the days that my father spent teaching me what he knew of the craft. As we worked, he would tell stories of his youth and working with his father so many years past. Eighty years ago the country was gripped by a depression much worse than we know today. Even as a ten year old boy my father was aware of the dire straits of his family. They would move from town to town in west Texas and southern New Mexico, following the hints of work. Dad told me that from the time he entered elementary school to the day he graduated from Hobbs High School, he attended eighteen different schools.

When my Grandfather found work it was usually as a carpenter, building oil rigs or a house. Usually these jobs were hours away from home, and so to save the gas money they would drive to the jobsite early Monday morning and return home late Saturday afternoon. Their little model T ford was well suited for cross-country travel and the ruts and gullies of the southwest desert, but they traveled slowly and carefully. A broken axel would have been a disaster.

Upon arrival at the site of the new home, three or four carpenters would start to build the house. Often, concrete piers would serve as the foundation for the home. There was rarely electricity in those remote locations so all of the work was done by hand. As a ten year-old boy, dad would first select the straightest of the pine boards and would set up his own saw shop. For several years his job was to build the frames for the doors and windows in the home. He would spend the first few days ripping the pine to the correct widths and lengths. Later, during his high school and army days, dad did a lot of boxing I now realize that the long days of ripping lumber hour after hour must have given him an incredible right-jab. With the ripping done, he would joint the material and then cut the rabbits. Again with no power this was a totally hand-powered endeavor. By the time the roof was on he would have the windows ready to install, and then he would begin the door frames.

As I would listen to these stories I was often doing the same things he had done as a youth. The difference was that I was ripping the pine with a table saw and cutting the dados and rabbits with a radial arm saw equipped with a dado blade. He made sure that I learned to use and maintain the hand tools but I still shudder at the thought of his building casework in the hot New Mexico desert. As I look at my shop today, I am certainly thankful for hours I put-in as a young man. Now, fifty years later I still use the same Powermatic table saw and jointer that my father bought so many years ago. I remember how proud he was when he brought these tools home and replaced the older less accurate tools he had collected. Every time I flip the switch, and hear the whine of the saw’s motor I remember my dad, and how he taught me the most important lessons in life as we worked wood together.

For me, woodworking has been many things, but most important it has been a lesson in life.

10 comments so far

View RGtools's profile


3372 posts in 3705 days

#1 posted 12-04-2011 06:52 PM

Thanks for sharing this story. Woodworking is very much a heritage.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View RussInMichigan's profile


600 posts in 3831 days

#2 posted 12-05-2011 02:48 AM

Quite touching. I appreciate your sharing this.

View HamS's profile


1842 posts in 3439 days

#3 posted 12-05-2011 03:00 AM

I had the privilege of working for my grandfather when he was getting up in years. It sounds like your family had some of the same experience my dad and grand dad had, except theirs were in western New York, not west Texas. There are stories of the “tar paper shack” in the woods when Grand pa was working as a sawyer, but he had work and that was something special in those days. One job grandpa and I worked was a roofing job on a three storybarn at the end of a 2 mile farm lane and there was no electricity on that job. Grand dad had me do what cutting was necessary, and I learned how to saw straight and hit the line on the correct side. Grand dad had a special way of communicating to me when I missed his expectations of workmenship. This was in 1970 or so.

-- Haming it up in the 'bash.

View chrisstef's profile


18129 posts in 4057 days

#4 posted 12-05-2011 03:34 AM

Thanks for sharing your thoughts as well as the story. I definately enjoyed it.

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 4021 days

#5 posted 12-05-2011 03:50 AM

I know exactly how you feel.
My dad told me stories about life in the depression as well.
He was in his 20s and was a carpenter at the Milky Way Farm.
That was a horse farm owned by Mr Mars, of the Mars candy orporation.

View David's profile


13 posts in 3504 days

#6 posted 12-05-2011 04:42 AM

Thank you for your comments. I never really had a feel for the times and the area despite the many stories, until I found some old photos my aunt left us many years ago.

These are my grand parents. It was a very hard life.

View SST's profile


790 posts in 5245 days

#7 posted 12-05-2011 05:44 AM

One of the Shopsmiths in my shop was purchased new by my dad in the early 50’s. He taught me on it. Thanks to him, I had an easy time in the wood shop classes I took in school. I still use that machine & I still think of him whenever I do.

You’re right. Woodworking is more than a hobby, at least for me. It’s therapy…it’s creativity…it’s heirloom (I hope) gifts for the kids & grandkids…its time travel back to my dad’s shop…it’s a beautiful, never ending connection to him.

Thanks so much for the post, because sometimes in our fast paced world I need someone to push the on button of the Way-back machine, and you just did. -SST

-- Accuracy is not in your power tool, it's in you

View Bill729's profile


241 posts in 4132 days

#8 posted 12-05-2011 07:58 AM

Thank you for sharing your story. There’s definitely (ALOT) more to woodworking than meets the eye…


View Eagle1's profile


2066 posts in 4115 days

#9 posted 12-05-2011 01:15 PM

Thanks for sharing your story. I didn’t have that for woodworking. My father and grandfather were auto mechanics, neither one did woodworking. I did learn quite abit about cars though.

-- Tim, Missouri ....Inside every older person is a younger person wondering what the heck happened

View helluvawreck's profile


32122 posts in 3917 days

#10 posted 12-05-2011 02:18 PM

Nice story, thanks.

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

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