Welcome to our 2016 Woodworking Resolutions blogger series. Every year we invite our bloggers to share their resolutions specific to their woodworking goals for the new year. Click each link below to read our bloggers’ resolutions!
A letter I have written to my son on his 39th birthday.
My dear son,
As I prepare for your upcoming 39th birthday in the first month of the New Year, I hope you will remember many years ago when as a young teenager you so proudly gave me that beautiful wood and brass 4’ Level in the plastic case from Centerville Lumber Company that I had often looked at longingly. You know, the gift that the Lumber Company so kindly sent me a charge for $43.97 on my bill about a month later. Your mother and I engaged in some conversation about it and I paid up without a fuss. Your excitement over giving me “just the right gift” that I wanted badly but could not allow myself to buy made all the difference. You and I have used that level back-and-forth so many times over the years, and each time I pull it from its plastic case, I remember you and how it came to be part of my tool collection, expanding on the 2’ level I used before.
The next year I believe you gave me a new set of socket wrenches, always a well appreciated and useful gift. This one was particularly welcome because it had the sockets for the 1?2” and 7/8” sizes that I had not realized were missing from my existing socket set the last time you used it. In the following ten or so years I believe you gave me about three other new socket sets, sometimes instead of bringing back the set you borrowed and sometimes treating it as a trade “up” for me. You have always been considerate about seeing that one of us has a complete set when you need it.
The big year, about the time you were fifteen, you captured your mother’s agreement with your enthusiasm and bought me that 8 1?4” Hitachi compound miter saw. What a wonderful gift. You and your mother were so proud; I was cautiously delighted because I knew that I would love it but uncertain about who would be paying for it. No real surprise when it showed up on your mother’s credit card bill as a major purchase the following month, yikes! But truthfully we have both used and enjoyed that saw over the past twenty or so years. I hope you enjoyed the newly sharpened blades you found on it each time you borrowed it. I do appreciate you bringing it back so readily without prodding just in time for another newly sharpened blade.
One Christmas from that earlier time stands out from all the rest and epitomizes the core of my subsequent New Year’s resolutions in the shop. It all started when I asked your mother to please not give me any gifts that cost money and especially to not give me any gifts that you might suggest because frankly I could not afford anything that I “did not realize” I needed for the shop. Instead, I requested that she give me the gift of time – time alone, undisturbed, uninterrupted, left to myself to work in the shop after the Christmas holiday in the lull of the New Year. That is exactly what she gave me that year – one day of uninterrupted time to work in the shop all by myself. What a spectacular gift — no surprise credit card or lumberyard billing expenses, no new tools (however welcome) to feel guilty about, and no guilt about not doing some of the other “fun” family things that would usually accompany an holiday vacation.
Building on the success of that your mother expanded her gift to me of two or three days in the shop undisturbed. If someone called on the telephone for me, she would tell them I was “away” and would call back when I returned. Eventually the gift turned into a full week. You might remember the year she gave me a “sabbatical” in mid-February when everyone else was at work and you and your brothers were in school. My plan that year was to teach myself to build a Windsor chair from Mike Dunbar’s excellent book. I subsequently wrote up a diary account of the week that I shared with you boys and your mother.
What a wonderful woman she was to understand how much I wanted that time to explore, learn, experiment, and grow on my own. This year in her honor I ordered the package of carving goodies from Highland Woodworking for Christmas. Having spent nearly all of my time over the past forty-five years turning wood, I will use this year’s gift of time to improve my stationary carving skills by setting aside three days in early January to work my way through Mike Davies’s lessons and practice with a goal of adding significant hand carving to my skill set on both turned and fixed pieces, a personal goal that will reward me many times over.
My son, you and I have enriched our lives by sharing our tools and projects over the years. The fun of planning and mutually rationalizing our need for this or that new tool or piece of equipment has remained the outward and visible sign of our inward passion for taking on new challenges, developing new skills, and talking to each other about them. While it has been years since you had access to your mother’s credit card and easy access to my shop, our relationship continues and I am deeply appreciative of the new trailer you built for me several years ago as well as the old plow truck you fabricated the hydraulic hoist on for me. I still use that hoist lifting woodturning logs when I am not close enough to use the tractor-loader you fabricated from various machines and so proudly delivered to me last year.
Well-equipped for my new adventures in the wilds of mid-coast Maine, I am blessed by your talent, design and welding skills, and devotion. I definitely love my customized turning tools and equipment you have made for me for their intrinsic value as well as for the deeper meaning of your thoughtful sensitivity and practical understanding of me, of my own goals, and of my passion for work.
My RESOLUTION for 2016 is to share the discovery with you that I made about twenty-five years ago when your mother gave me the “gift of time.” For your 39th birthday and each year going forward, I will solve the question of how to give you something personally valuable by giving you the remarkable “gift of time” to explore some new passion of your own in your shop or in a class. Part of the gift might be a Christmas pre-birthday teaser tool or encouragement to push you to figure out when and how to best use your new opportunity – a “wish-list of New Year’s resolutions.” I will give you two days of matched pay from your job so you can take those days “off” without losing from your paycheck or vacation benefits to fund the time you spend plus tuition and/or tool expenses. I encourage you to make some kind of report back – written, audio, or personal visit – with a summary of your project for your family, your brothers, and for me.
In this way I hope to perpetuate in our family that spontaneous but unexpectedly wonderful gift your mother gave me so many years ago. Time and encouragement to learn and grow as an artist, a craftsman, and a spiritual being.