An artifact worth saving

My work tends to the abstract and esoteric sometimes. Woodworking calls me back to the concrete, physical world in front of me. It reminds be to pay attention to the sharp end of my chisels and the grain of the wood. To the details. To the practical.

Which of course always brings me back to the abstract.

As an amateur I have certain luxuries that I wouldn’t have if I were running a working shop and time to reflect is one of them. I recently posted some thoughts (abstract and esoteric as they may be) regarding some things that I have learned over the past year or so as I have transitioned more fully into hand tool woodworking. I realize they were a little academic and I want to unpack some of them as time and example allow.

One of the things that I mentioned as important to my sanity as a husband, father and maker of things in my garage is the intentional pursuit of an open, authentic and integrated life. One of the big things that means to me is that I have an “open shop” policy with my daughters (2 and 3 years old) and so at any given moment I may be out working and hear a little knock at the door.

Sometimes they just want to be in the garage with me while I’m working, but sometimes they want to “work” too. When the latter occurs, I have learned to put down whatever I’m working on (if I’m not in the middle of some complicated glue-up or something) and ask what they want to work on. Sometimes they just want me to set them up at the desk with a block of wood and a hand drill. Sometimes a screwdriver and a wooden mallet are sufficient for some “chiseling.” Whatever they’re into, I try to give them the tools and instruction they need and then let them explore.

Right now, my 3 year old is very into that saw I restored for here a couple weeks back and she wants to learn how to use it. She knows to put the wood on the saw bench and hold it down with her knee. She knows you need to make a line along which to cut. It was at this point she turned to me the other day and said: “Papa, can you help me saw?”


I could have said, “no hold on a minute I’ve got this other thing I’m working on” but I put down my plane and said “yes.”

I helped her learn how to hold her arm in line with what she wanted to cut, to point her index finger in line with the saw, and with my hand over hers guiding her, she made this:

And this is an artifact worth saving.


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Jim this is truly lovely, and I think an inspiration to other fathers (or in my case, fathers to be) as to how to make woodwork and the shop accessible to children. Thank you for sharing.


    1. Thanks Kieran. I know that their interest now doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll still be interested when they’re teens or young adults. On the other hand I enjoy the time spent together now and I hope one day, even if they never take up the hobby, that it will mean something to them as well.


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