(This interview with MAFE is from the November 2011 issue of our LumberJocks’ eMag)
Will you please give me the hammer Mads?
Without thinking I grabbed the hammer and gave it over to my grandfather, and also the little box of nails that I had spent the evening before pulling out of some old boards, then straightened on a piece of metal and finally put in little tins with two drops of oil in each and then the little shake that I can still hear like a sweet music from the past.
We stood on a ladder at his farm, were working on a solar powered shower made from a old living room heater painted black and put in a box with a glass plate on top. This provided my grandparents with free showers in the warmer season for years; the only thing important was that you went there at the moment when the water had the right temperature so a look at the sky and the sun was needed when you were in the mood for a shower. Of course no soap or only a special organic one on occasions since the shower was in the vegetable garden next to the greenhouse he had built from old windows from a farm they were tearing down nearby.
It was not written in the cards since my grandfather was a naval commander and by the way worked for five years in Washington DC, but he took an early retirement and lived my grandparents’ common dream of becoming organic and self-supplying, bought a farm and planted little Christmas trees on all the fields so when they woke up twenty years later they lived in a forest. People around must have thought my grandfather was mad when he moved in because he made a sign for the house saying ‘Skovly’ that in Danish means “in shelter of the forest”, but years after they understood. He made the sign on a piece of rough cut wood and made the letters with ship rope, and in this way he linked the past to the future in a really poetic way that I did not understood before today.
In the old chicken house he made a wonderful little workshop, the reason he choose this little room even he had a farm with a big barn was the fact that the boiler for the barn was in that room and so he could get hot by the waste heat at winter when he was straightening nails for the summer projects, restoring old windows with his homemade putty knife or whatever he did until my grandmother called and he crossed the gårdsplads to come in the kitchen for fresh brewed coffee and a piece of homemade cake.
I was not allowed to use his tools, but this place made a lifelong impression in me.
A train rushes by on the station, my friend is wearing zebra striped trousers and have little elastics in his hair, me in a pink blazer jacket and Lewis, between us a huge ghetto blaster made of plywood, so big that it had wheels under since it could not be carried, breakdancing as we wait for the train to come.
But what has this to do with wood?
Ok, another day two weeks earlier my friend Viggo and I had just finished building a amplifier, we had bought all the parts and from a diagram made the Circuit boards and the rest was just to welder the components in place, a tape recorder had been taken apart and the needed pieces selected and finally two big speakers had been attached, and kapauuu ‘burning down the house’, no there we no fire but burning down the house where played in the room, so loud that the roof almost fell of his room. Do I need to say we were proud, so we called his uncle who had a carpentry shop in the center of Copenhagen and made an appointment to go there, he was as always kind and wished us welcome. It was three generations carpentry making high-quality work for the finest hotels and other estimated clients. We spend some days there, building the boxes for our ghetto blaster, the only demand the uncle had was that we made drawings first so we could cut the wood into the right sizes in first cut. Since I was the son of an architect and loved to draw this was no problem for me so soon we had placed all the joints at the right places and could calculate the individual pieces to create a list of boards, once the uncle had seen it he said go ahead. The carpenters at the carpentry was always nice and helpful, but we preferred to do as much as possible ourselves, but when it came to setting up the machines there were always someone with a open eye to help us, now as adult I am really impressed by the patience and the kindness of these men. We loved to be at the carpentry, especially the big working room where all the carpenters had their wall cabinets with their personal tools and when there were breaks we would sit on top of the benches and they would tell stories, to sit there with the smell of coffee mixing with the smell of wood, surrounded by wood and projects in progress listening to the stories and looking with a smile on my lips at my friend Viggo and then at our project, our project, here in this room, with these wonderful men – what more could life ever bring me.
On the table in my at that time beginning to look like a workshop basement room was a big box full of old tools, I had taken the decision to make myself the shop I always dreamed of having, not a shop full of expensive fancy tools but a shop full of wonderful tools, tools with a heart and a soul, my dream was to make a place where I would get this feeling of being home, the feeling of history, the presence of all those hands that had touched the old tools should be everywhere in the room, and it should be possible for me to make whatever I wanted so the needed tools should be there. I had a girlfriend who some years before gave me a Festool plunge cut saw and the table for it and since the shop is really small I decided to use this system for the basic parts since it can all be stored away easy and the same table used for saw and router. I also bought their worktable since it can work with the saws and router and then it is easy to move if needed, but I never moved it, just made a shelf for storage under and filled that up with stuff so it now is excellent for planning and so due to the weight.
Back to the story Mads, I had bought these tools and now had to make the planes into a working stage, it was some wonderful old wood planes and also some metal planes – what do one do? The internet! And this was how my LJ adventure took off, and my workshop became a reality thanks to inspiration and help from wonderful people all over the planet.
And my tools? Yes I got just about all I need for doing whatever I want now, my plane selection grew to the absurd not because I wanted to collect, not because I needed that, but simply because I found it interesting to learn and try new, and then later I can sell out one day if I get tired of looking at all that iron, for now I enjoy to pick the plane I feel suited for the job, and then try to imagine the hands that have used it before.
The shop? Still small, but I succeeded my goal, I smile each time I go there, I feel the tools, not just see them, their patina and their previous owners are speaking to me, and so a little symphony are going on there when the smell of shaves are mixed with these souls and the sound of a razor sharp plane iron runs through the wood – hmmmm once again ‘what more can one man dream of’.
I had to retire due to a neck operation that left me with chronic pains, migraines and a messed up nerve system that feels as if it is burning and buzzing also this affects my mental balance sometimes so I can be really low after a period of pain. On these days I also go to my workshop, not to work, this is impossible, but I just pull out my stool, place my feet on the workbench, light up my pipe and sit quietly there for half an hour enjoying the atmosphere, the smell of sweet tobacco mixed with wood, a wonderful cup of espresso in my other hand, and then I say to myself ‘what more can a man dream of’.
Life becomes what we make it, a little sticker on a red heart from a Danish supermarket when I was a child said ‘smile to the world, and the world will smile to you’ – so this I try and I have gotten so many smiles back in my life, and lately here on LJ that my heart can’t stop dreaming – thank you all.
Perhaps I was not precise in answering the questions, but I hope it explains why I am here.
My history of health can be read here in an old blog: http://lumberjocks.com/mafe/blog/21095
Best thoughts and thank you for taking your time to read my words,
(And thank you, for taking the time to do this interview for us.)
-- ~ Debbie, Canada (https://www.facebook.com/DebbiePribeleENJOConsultant)