I stand by my bench with my sander in hand. As I move it slowly over the piece of saw horse I see the marks of my progress. I gently pass over the little imperfections that taught me how not to us a chisel. I think about the progress. I think about the grain and how it measures time.
The building of the Krenov saw horses is supposed to take an afternoon, but if you are really skilled you can make it take a month. I am a person with this level of skill. Time is a funny thing and as I sanded away the wood, in effect removing little bits of time, I thought about my two saw horses. They would look very similar, sort of like twins, but each one unique.
In the late 70’s the skateboard was all the rage. Not much more than roller skate wheels on a slab of plastic, it filled the summer of my 5th grade year with joy. Riding the skateboard was fun, but the real joy was hanging out with Doug, Marty, Paul, Jenny, Teri and Tracy and riding down the hill by our school. It wasn’t a steep hill, but to make the turn onto the sidewalk at the bottom was quite the challenge. Once we had all mastered that, we tried going down in pairs, with each person sitting on their board and holding hands with the other with legs crossed. Making that turn was next to impossible and most attempts ended in wonderful crashes and laughter. It was also generally a mixed doubles sport.
I think I am hopeless romantic today, because of those days holding hands with Teri Holtz, riding down the hill. As I sanded the boards and admired the little differences that make the saw horses unique, my thoughts drifted back to Teri’s freckles. Tracy, her twin sister, didn’t have so many. To say the Holtz twins were ‘cute as a buttons’, would be to sorely understate their appeal. I think the saw horses are equally lovely.
Each minute sands away more and more of the imperfections. The legs, the feet, and the stretchers become smooth and soft to the touch. I spend a couple of hours sanding and waxing nostalgic. When I am done, I glue her up. Her twin waits patiently off to the side. While the glue is setting I think about what I have learned about woodworking.
I have cut 2 mortises, 2 through mortises, and six tenons by hand. My skill with a chisel and Japanese saw is better than when I begun. I have used Mary to shape the feet. I have spent lots and lot of time sanding. The understanding of how to mark up a board, and then cut to the line is now ingrained in my mind. And in the end, I have two saw horses that are ‘cute as a button’.
Marty died a while back. I heard that Jenny has 6 kids. I don’t know what became of Kate, Paul or Doug, and I haven’t talked to Teri or Tracy since high school. They are different people today; I am sure, as am I. They may not even remember that summer. It really doesn’t matter much. I am sure that time has worn away the edges a bit and I may not remember it exactly as it was. In truth, I am left with a soft, fuzzy memory of a simpler time, and wonderful little crush, with a bit of hand holding. It makes me smile.
I wonder if I will remember the joys of building my first saw horses. I wonder if the little nicks and cuts, now sanded away, will remain with me. I doubt it. But in 30 years, when I look at the twins, I am sure I will have a soft, fuzzy memory of how they came to be, and it will make me smile.
-- Brian Meeks, http://extremelyaverage.com