My Dad’s workshop was always a place of wonder for me – as were both my Grandfathers’ shops.
Dad was more mechanically inclined over being a carpenter, but he never shied away from any woodworking or carpentry project that I can remember. Dad never had a lot of power tools beyond a Skilsaw and an electric drill — although I do remember one case of creative chainsaw demolition to remove some rotted flooring. =:)
Pa (Grandpa Weeks) was trained as a cabinetmaker, so his collection of woodworking tools was more extensive than Dad’s and more up-to-date. I remember watching Pa work in his shop on a couple projects and being fascinated by how quickly they progressed. Pa wasn’t one for wasting time or motions.
Grandpa Gallanger was a blacksmith of some local renown. I don’t remember watching him work on anything, but I do remember him showing me his shop one time. It was all very mysterious to a young boy.
Like my Grandfather before me, I have worked as a cabinetmaker. There’s a satisfaction to building something that will last with your own hands that people who’ve never worked in a craft can’t understand. You pour a part of yourself into each piece that you create. You want it to be as good as you can make it — and there’s definite pride in a job well done.
Like my other Grandfather, I too have worked with metal. Not as a blacksmith — yet. But I have welded and machined metal to construct large seed drills for high prairie farmers. I’ve also machined precision bearings for cars, trucks and aircraft — as well as a host of other applications.
Whether we’re talking wood or metal, I found that I preferred the small shop to the large factory. The pace was more bearable, and there was time for human interaction.
To this day, I enjoy a chance to turn my hands to a carpentry project or something else that creative or restorative. My last project was replacing three rotten planks on the front deck of the cabin at my Grandfather Gallanger’s homestead. I was being a bit curmudgeonly and remarked how I could remember a time when you could actually go into a lumberyard and buy a straight board. My nine year-old son, John, asked “When was that, ancient times?” Out of the mouths of babes . . . I remembered that when I was hauling lumber off Mt. St. Helens before she blew her top, my boss would have to re-grade every unit of lumber when it came into the yard. I never went back to the mill running empty. That was in 1976. A few days earlier, one of my nephews, Scot, had remarked that any date whose year started with “19” was, in fact, now ancient history. I had spent 20 minutes sorting through the pile of 2×6″x12′ to find three decent boards. When I dropped each one into place, I found that they were the shape of the letter “C.”
Each end touched the plank to the right of it, while its back was against the plank to its left. The answer? We had a pile of salvaged cedar shakes by the fire pit. I used them to wedge the new planks into shape before nailing them down. Of course, each plank was about an inch too long, so I used my Japanese log saw to trim them off. I didn’t have anything with me to seal the ends, but they should outlast all the planks around them anyway. Not one of those planks showed a sign of a crack when I put it in place, yet each one cracked at each end before the next morning. Makes me want to mill all my own lumber.
Afterword: I’ve had the opportunity to see the repair detailed above almost a full year later, and the inserted planks are holding their spacing well. I’m very glad that those cedar shingles were in the woodpile for the fire pit! 🙂