Archive for June, 2012

Mornings in June

Saturday, June 16th, 2012

I’m remembering June mornings today, partly because I’m at a pause point in my cabinetmaking, partly because tomorrow is fathers day.

Some summers I’d be at the lake for fathers day, some I’d be at the house in Virginia. Today’s sawdust reminds me of both places, I turn a fair amount of perfectly good wood into sawdust and scrap. I hold on to the scrap, maybe for too long, but I remember working with dad, getting ready to do a repetitive task like siding or hanging doors, and invariably dad would pick up a scrap, measure a little, draw a little, saw a little and…viola! We’d have a pattern, or template or gauge block to simplify and make our work more consistent.

I think about this today when I was laying out the cabinet sides, it’s an armoir made from four disassembled flush bifold doors, held together with 2×2 blocks in the corners that also make the legs at the bottom. Anyway, while the location of the bottom block is given by the three inches I’ll hold the doors above the floor, the top block location is a free call. The corner blocks are nine inches long, and I flashbacked to a moment in the cabin construction with dad. We were nailing a ledger strip to the side of the cabin and I was measuring six inch spacing for each nail, proceeding very slowly. I noticed dad making much faster progress, but not measuring. I could see that his nailing was equally spaced too. I kept measuring and nailing but I couldn’t figure out how he was measuring without a tape measure.

I looked up and saw him lay the hammer along the ledger, then position and drive the nail. I said something like “oh that’s how you you’re doing it.” He looked up and said something like, when you don’t have to be perfect, measure with whatever is in hand, a hammer, the boards width, or a scrap you carry in your apron.

I thought of that as I lay the nine inch block along the edge this morning, struck a line, and screwed it in place. Dads lesson is in my carpenters apron this morning.

Today I’m wishing that I had held on to all those scraps of wood cut to gauge siding, space dock boards, guide a sawcut, and generally make your work simpler and more consistent. I find myself in need of that from time to time and dads lessons, some are at hand, but I only know a handful of what he knew. That’s the nice thing about a big family. My sisters each know a different set of Dads lessons. Some know plumbing, some know fishing, some know the exended family and the stories. You wonder if he did that on purpose.

Then I think about the same thing with my children. My favorite oldest daughter appreciates cars a bit more, while my favorite youngest daughter appreciates tools and materials a bit more. The appreciation is the entry point I think. One day we’ll have enough time together that I might be able to share a few of my things to make the work simpler, maybe some of dads as well. It’s probably true that we learn from each other by watching each others daily lives. I learn from me daughters that way, from the one who holds my heart that way, and people I admire at work that way too.

Whether we intend it or not, we teach and others learn from what we do. I think of this as we approach anther court meeting with my brother, or his lawyers. I wondered if his children are learning from him and will sue each other during their grief over his death. My brothers wife did that to her sister, my brother is doing it to us, why wouldn’t his children sue each other rather than talking directly. I dont know if he understands, but he and his wife have modeled a behavior that tells his children money is more important than family, that personal cowardice can be made up for by hiring someone to be courageous for them. Where will it end? Will they sue each other to sell the site where his ashes have been spread?

Of course we never saw dads way of dealing with this. He and his siblings talked about what they had, what they needed, and it took them four or five years to settle it all out, but they worked it out, remained close, and continue to support each other to this day.

As fathers day approaches, think about those little lessons you teach your children, think about the lessons they learn by watching you, and don’t do anything you wouldn’t want them to do.

The project is calling, the battery is recharged, so it’s time to go back to work.
Be good to each other, teach your children well.