“What do you do with your free time?”

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Blog entry by Don posted 12-21-2006 03:23 AM 1198 reads 0 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I retired a few years back. The most frequent question asked of me is some version of, “What do you do with your free time?” When I answer that I’ve taken up woodworking, non-woodworkers respond with a blank stare. They can’t imagine what I’m talking about.

This week I was reminded of this, when viewing a DVD from Taunton’s Fine Woodworking about Tage Frid. Tage has been a woodworker for over fifty years. He still worked in his own shop turning out beautifully creative pieces. I was so impressed with his sense of vitality and connectedness with people. Much of his career has been about teaching others the skills he has learned and the ‘secrets’ of the masters.

He is very much like another great woodworker, Sam Maloof. Entirely self-taught and famous for his fantastic rocking chairs, Sam is an elderly woodworker with a passion to share his knowledge. I watched a video-streamed presentation on the Net of Sam Maloof demonstrating the creation of one of his rocking chairs to a spell-bound audience. It was magic!

Then there’s James Krenov, a creator of beautiful freestanding display cabinets, and the founder and director of the Fine Woodworking program at the College of the Redwoods in California.

So why do I mention these men? I do so, not just because I aspire to their standard of craftsmanship, but because I am inspired by their vitality and energy even though they are octogenarians. There was something strangely comforting about watching Tage Frid walk into his shop on a cold snow-bound winter morning. Almost robotically much like he must have done for the past fifty years he turns on the lights, one at a time, a sort of ritual of facing a new day of pleasure at his workbench. Pleasure—not drudgery? Well, judging from his demeanor, I have to conclude he still finds much pleasure in working wood. And I am inspired by the importance these men obviously place on staying vitally connected with people. Theirs is not a selfish, introspective passion; woodworking is simply what they do – a means to an end. They do it because it’s a means of creative expression that brings pleasure to others.

Now, I’m younger than these men, but not by much. They have inspired me greatly and they’ve shown me a meaningful and productive way to spend my “free time”.

-- CanuckDon "I just love small wooden boxes!"

5 comments so far

View David's profile


1969 posts in 4166 days

#1 posted 05-17-2007 05:21 AM

Don -

One of the great things about this site is all of the “buried treasure” – the nuggets of knowledge and inspiration from prior postings. I frequently scroll back thru old blogs or project postings – sometimes making a note or two for myself incorporate an interesting idea or shop solution into my work flow. Thank you for this wonderful comment on some of the great woodworkers that provide knowledge and inspiration. Imagine how interesting it would be if the internet and LumberJocks existed 50 years ago. How fun it would it would be to read thier blogs and projects!

As always, very sage words from you – thanks!


View Karson's profile


35125 posts in 4428 days

#2 posted 05-17-2007 06:22 AM

Don’s thanks for your in site. Yes its fun to work wood. To be a creator, and sometimes a follower. But always fun.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View scottb's profile


3648 posts in 4354 days

#3 posted 05-17-2007 06:37 AM

In previous years I never knew how to answer this, and similar, age old questions. What do you do? What do you do for fun… etc.. I’ve always liked to make things in any creative capacity. Some years It was drawing, others paining, writing and so forth. At times I thought these pursuits were just to keep me busy and fill in any free time not dedicated to family or work commitments and going out with friends (Wasn’t “going out with friends” the real answer to the question of what we did for fun?)

but now, in addition to what do you do, what do you like to do, and so forth – despite being gainfully employed as both a graphic designer and as a basement remodeler (among other odd jobs as they come up) I can simply, and honestly, tell people (if and when asked) that I”m a woodworker. An artist.

We’re made to think that our work (job) defines us, but our passions really do. In years past I’ve thought about work (while at home) and home while at work. Nowadays, woodworking is generally on my mind. It feels like I (as many of us Jocks) have found our callings, whether personally or professionally.

We have so much to learn from those who came before us, with an amazing legacy behind them, have never “worked a day”.

-- I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it. - Van Gogh -- --

View woodspar's profile


710 posts in 4127 days

#4 posted 05-17-2007 06:42 AM

I have read some of the book
The Cabinetmakers Handbook :
(I cannot seem to get the links to work all of a sudden)

by Krenov and was struck by how patient and thoughtful he came across. He was willing to share his insights, but he did not really care if you followed them or not. He felt that some people share his reverence for wood but not all. When he talks about wood, he seems to regard each piece as being an entity unto itself, almost with it’s own personality. I enjoyed reading about him and his cabinets are beautiful.

I also feel that I never will come anywhere close to the artistry of this man; however I feel that I can still enjoy working with wood and trying to find a way to work with the wood. I think that one of my favorite things about “woodworking” is figuring out how to make something – either from a structural context or perhaps in terms of how do I remove this material to realize something iin the wood, or what process or set of procedures will get me there…

-- John

View fred's profile


256 posts in 4126 days

#5 posted 05-17-2007 05:52 PM

Quote: I retired a few years back. The most frequent question asked of me is some version of, “What do you do with your free time?” When I answer that I’ve taken up woodworking, non-woodworkers respond with a blank stare. They can’t imagine what I’m talking about.

LOL when I read that. I have seen the blank stare disappear when they receive a hand crafted gift during the holidays. But your comment is so true and on target.

When I say…Do you want a tour of the shop? … I usually get some sort of mumbled response.

But to answer the question – - my free time is spent in the shop. Even if I don’t have a project in process I can always find something to do. I have noticed that I have developed a great deal of patience and a significant decrease in the stress level since I started woodworking. I also get a great deal of satisfaction in learning, acquiring new skills and crafting something I have never done before. In addition, finding LumberJocks has been very rewarding. What a great group of people.

Don – good on ya, mate.

-- Fred Childs, Pasadena, CA - - - Law of the Workshop: Any tool, when dropped, will roll to the least accessible corner.

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