This interview is from the September, 2010 issue of the Creative Hands Network News.
Dick & Barb Cain have been members of LumberJocks.com since August, 2006. Thank you, Barb & Dick, for this wonderful interview!
1. How did you first get started working with wood?
I guess I got off to a real early start. Being depression times my Dad was fortunate enough to have a job, so he took on the task of building a new home in 1935. I was three years old at the time. I was always under his feet with the small hammer he had given me, & small keyhole saw he let me play with. I can remember this because I hit my thumb once while pounding a nail into a wooden lathe. I can never forget that lesson, because it’s hard to forget painful things I guess.
When I got a little older I was always making things like wooden guns that shot inner tube rubber bands. I also carried a jack knife with me at all times. My first Jack knife came with a pair of boots from Kinney Shoes. They had a knife pocket with a knife in it as a sales gimmick. I wore those boots to school everyday. BOY! would I have been in trouble in this day, & age. I may have been on TV news nowadays for bringing a knife to school. I was only in about 2nd grade at the time. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think of a knife as being a weapon.
By coincidence I happened to find the knife in one of my tool boxes the other day.
I used to make sling shots, willow whistles, & carved my initials on things just about everywhere I went. I built a shack in the empty lot next to our house when I was about 14. It was torn down a few years later when my Dad sold the lot. My Dad always let me use his tools in his basement shop, & I used to make things like pushcart racers out of old red wagon wheels.
I also built some stick model airplanes as a teenager. One was a Lockheed Lightning P-38 fighter, the one with the twin tails.
In the area we lived, there was a lot of housing construction going on, so the houses became a playground for us kids after the carpenters left, so doing this must have helped me in the knowledge of carpentry.
My initial introduction to real woodworking were the wood shop classes I had in 8th, & 9th grades in the Hibbing school system. They were really well equipped with any kind of machine you could think of at the time. The 8th grade class was taught by learning to use hand tools, & 9th grade we learned the proper usage of power tools. I think this helped me more than anything. We also had superb instructors. Nowadays the kids don’t receive this type of training.
They miss being able to get hands on experience, & this gives them the fear of being able to use woodworking machinery safely, & properly.
2. What was it about woodworking that initially caught your interest, enticing you to get into it at the level you are now?
Buying an older home, actually made it a necessity to learn more, & to use my woodworking skills. Barb was always a homemaker, so we got by with my income. Doing the work myself was the only way to afford anything we needed.
We started out with old hand me down furniture, & when we wanted to upgrade, I would build something.
I even designed, & built our own kitchen cabinets.
(click to view project)
3. Tell us a bit of history of your journey from that beginning to where you are today.
Craft shows started to flourish in the late 1970s. We used to stop and view the things people were making. The carving exhibits caught my eye, & I became envious of the beautiful carvings some of them had created. I always thought to myself, “I wish I could do that”.
I was a subscriber to Wood Magazine, & one issue had a lesson on carving an Owl in relief. I borrowed a set of carving chisels from a friend, & low, & behold, success! I discovered that I could carve.
I kind of kick myself for not trying carving before this. Here I was starting to carve at 50 years old, & thinking about all of those wasted non carving years of the past.
4. What inspires you regarding wood creations?
I get inspired whenever I see a piece of wood. I think, “what can I make from this”?
While I’m in the carving mode, which is most of the time. I’m always looking at pictures that could be used as a carving subject. I tend to clip pictures from magazines, & now with the computer, I can copy, & paste interesting things to my files.
When I plan on building a cabinet, or piece of furniture, I browse the internet, & magazines for ideas. I usually modify the project plans to my preferences.
When I use my lathe, I usually take a blank of wood, & set it into my lathe, & round it out roughly, then I just play it by ear. It’s hard to predict what the final outcome will be. The nature of the wood has a lot to do with the final creation.
5. What are the greatest challenges that you have met along the way? (and how did you overcome them?)
In the spring of 1965, I decided to build a sailboat, a small catamaran. I worked on it in my garage almost every night for about three months, & we finally launched the (“Barbara Ann”) in mid July.
Back in 1968, we decided to have a basement built under our house. Trying to save a buck, I made an agreement with a house mover that I would help him with the project. He deducted my labor from the bill, which really helped a lot.
That was quite an experience. It surprised me how heavy a house is. As we jacked it up, we kept adding wooden cribbing, & it kept sinking into the clay until it finally stabilized. After it was raised to the proper elevation we rolled it back about 50 feet, so the hole could be dug. I installed new 2×10 floor joists while it was still blocked up to supplement the old 2×6 joists. I then took diagonal measurements of all of corners, & the block layers used these measurements to layout the foundation. When we rolled the house back, it fit perfectly. I saved on this job by carrying blocks, & doing other labors.
We added on to the front of the house, & also to the rear to accommodate a grade entrance plus a stairway to the basement. Being that we started this project late in the fall, we had it all enclosed just before winter came.
I’ve also tackled countless other projects, wood turnings, & carvings with perseverance.
6. What is the greatest reward that you have received from woodworking? (personal or tangible)
The many “hugs” I’ve received from Barb for things I’ve made for her over the years.
Also the appreciation I’ve received from my family, & friends that I’ve made things for. All of this is very rewarding to me.
Just looking at the things I’ve created is also very rewarding.
On the tangible side, I was able to take third place in the Lumberjocks contest last year. I’ve also placed in a couple of other LJs contests.
8. What is your favorite creation/project?
WOW! That’s going to be hard thing to do. I have many favorites when it comes to carvings. I think the one that was most difficult is the Irish Claddagh I made for Barb. Carving hands takes much skill, & I think I did them quite well. Also carving the Irish Knot was quite a chore.
The Mining scene is another favorite. I think it turned out pretty nice.
Also the Guitar I made for my son Steve, was a very satisfying project.
There are lots of other favorites, so just check out My Projects.
9. What tips would you give to someone just starting out or currently struggling with woodworking?
Nowadays it’s much easier to learn woodworking. There are so many sources available, such as magazines, & now the internet. These things were unheard of when I started out, but I did have the advantage of a wonderful school with a lot of equipment, & excellent instructors. If you do have the funds available to you, take advantage of taking some classes in woodworking. Also some of the tool shows have some great seminars that are usually free. You can also learn a lot with some of the videos on Utube.
When you buy tools, get the best you can afford, because your going to have that tool for many years, so don’t skimp.
Another thing I’d like to say, is don’t be afraid to try something you’ve never done. As I mentioned before, if I hadn’t tried carving it would sure be a missing link in my life.
10. How did you find LumberJocks and what is it that keeps you coming back?
I happened to see a small article in Popular Woodworking Magazine, & typed in the LJs link. After viewing it, & looking at the way it was set up. I think I immediately signed up for it. That was on 08/19/2006, & here we are, four years later.
The best thing we like about LJs is the Jocks. You can’t find a better group of people any place on this earth. It’s like one big happy family. If anyone has a problem, woodworking, health, or whatever, there’s always someone there to help. We have friends from all over the planet now. Isn’t it amazing?
LJs has really helped me to be more computer savvy. I’ve learned through the help from Martin how to embed video, & pictures from my files, & also how to transfer images from one website to another by copying its address, & pasting it to another place.. It took me quite a few tries, but Martin was patient with me, & kept on helping until it finally soaked in.
LJs has also helped me with my writing. When I first got started here, I could hardly put two sentences together. I think it has exceedingly enriched my life , & I’ve also gotten much more proficient in expressing myself.
One more thing I’d like to mention is our Avatar. People have asked about it. The photo is a Photoshopped rendition of two of our pictures at about three years of age. We lived next door to each other for about a year until Barb’s family moved, & we didn’t meet each other again until we were in high school, started dating, & then we married.
SO THAT”S THE REST OF OUR STORY.
Finally: We’d like to thank Debbie for inviting us for an interview.
It’s been a great honor, & was very rewarding to us
And two questions for Barb:
1. What is your favorite project?
Although I’m not a woodworker, I’m an avid fan of my woodworker HUBBY. My favorite way to express myself is through my photos. I Always have my camera in my hand ready to record his carvings, & other projects, also whatever Beauty my eyes come upon as I observe Nature’s Wonders.
Here’s a sampling of some of my nature photos.
I love to follow my SWEETHEART around, & take photos of his HANDS as he carves, & guides his tools. His Hands show so much Talent, & Strength.
2. How would you describe Dick when it comes to woodworking?
To watch him as he carves is like watching a piece of wood coming to life. It amazes me every time I watch him as he starts a new project. It isn’t only his carving, but I believe there isn’t anything that he cannot make. As I said in the beginning, “He’s AWESOME!”
I realized my “HUBBY” had woodworking talent by the first project he made for us when we were first married.We lived in a trailer house at the time, & living space was at a minimum. We were expecting our first child, & badly needed a place to store our many baby clothes. He drew up his own design, & made us a combination bench settee, & baby clothes storage container. It served two purposes for us while taking up minimal space.
Later on our “Settee Bench” became a unique toy box for our two sons’. We are still using it at our cabin to store lake gear in. It’s still very strong, & solid after over 58 years! This Bench is full of of happy, & special memories that are very dear to us.
Since the beginning of our married life, he still continues to create, build, & carve numerous projects.
From “THEN” until “NOW” tells,
“THE REST OF MY HUBBIES WOODWORKING JOURNEY.”
Thank you so much, Barb & Dick, for taking the time to answer these questions. :) _
-- ~ Debbie, Canada (http://www.execulink.com/~yohan)