The week following Christmas, I was in my garage making sawdust on my new lathe. Enjoying some time away from my real job.
A neighbor that I had waved to a hundred times was walking his dog and decided to come over to chat. He introduced himself and said that he and his 9 year old son were going to start their annual pinewood derby project. He asked if I would donate some shop time and instruction to his son to learn a bit more about wood working and the pile of power tools I had amassed over the years. I gladly accepted under a few conditions. We both agreed that his son would make all the cuts, do all the design and that I would simply act as safety instructor. I asked that he bring his son over with his block of pine, his design ideas and a willingness to learn the safe way to work around power tools.
Two days later, they came over and we walked around the shop and talked about the tools and what they were used for. After he drew his cut lines on the material, I quizzed him on what machines he thought would be best to use for each part. Kid nailed each question. We put on safety glasses, ear protection, and checked all the parts of the power tool to make sure we were good to go. I walked him through all of the hand positions, what to do if he got nervous during a cut, etc. I was really impressed with how well he listened and his cautious respect for tools.
After about 30 minutes of cutting and belt sanding, I sent him away with one of my wood clamps and a stack of sand paper grits, 80 – 320. I told him that the job wasn’t nearly complete. Sanding is where the beauty happens. I told him that when he was finally finished and happy. Sand a bit more.
Just this Saturday I was driving back home from our local sledding hill (with my kids) and saw him standing in front of his house with his parents holding his car and a big gold trophy. I pulled over and asked him how he did. He showed me his first place trophy for design and thanked me again for helping him. I reminded him that all I did was to make sure he was safe. He did it all.
Really made my day. If nothing else comes out of my garage that’s worth a hoot, I can now proudly say that my shop is home to the local elementary school 2012 1st place pinewood derby competition (for design).
Who knows, maybe this kid will eventually become a woodworker hobbyist like his dusty neighbor.
For those of you who don’t recognize the car design, it’s “Ecto-1” from the movie Ghostbusters.
-- Measure, cut, curse, repeat.