My childhood was…unique. Now, before I get to far into this, let me let you know this won’t be a post about how I had a crumby childhood or anything. It may be true at times, but it wasn’t necessarily because of my parents. My mother was great, though a little odd. She was an artist though, and that seems to go with the territory there. My Dad was never a contender for Father of the Year, but he tried and that’s what counts in the grand scheme of things.
One thing my Dad did try to do was teach me about working with wood. When I was a young child, I got a kid’s workbench. It wasn’t particularly sturdy, but it was real. It had a real front clamp and a peg board back with real tools. I tried a few small projects but nothing really happened. This was about the same time that Dad was trying to talk my mother into letting him get a Shopsmith. One tool that would do it all. Dad wanted it bad, and Mom just didn’t believe that Dad would use it. He had a habit of getting started in something, throwing tons of money at it, then losing interest. I sometimes think that Dad got me the workbench for Christmas that year with the idea that it would convince Mom he was serious. It didn’t work.
Mom and Dad split in 1995. I was in the Navy at the time, but about to get out. Mom and I were talking about my interest in woodworking, and the Shopsmith came up in conversation. She recalled how badly Dad wanted it, and how she felt that he should start building with the variety of tools he currently had. I remember the Shopsmith demonstrations that were held at the local mall. It was the coolest piece of equipment I had ever seen. It could do anything and everything. Still, Mom held her ground.
This got me thinking though. Could that purchase have gotten Dad into woodworking? If so, what would that have done to me? Dad had a habit of trying to teach me something, and getting me so flustered that I wasn’t doing it right that I would never want to touch it again. I couldn’t cut wood with my little saw from my workbench kit, and Dad would critique my technique. In truth, the saw may have just been dull. The chisels didn’t work right either…they were dull too. All of this was right out of the box…and probably a cheap one at that. No wonder I had trouble with it. However, Dad said I wasn’t sawing correctly.
Had Dad gotten that Shopsmtih, would I have been forever turned off from real woodworking? My brief exposure with hand tools didn’t banish the though of hand tools from my mind in adulthood, but perhaps if Dad had become a serious woodworking, it might have. He might have insisted on me using the Shopsmith at some point. I might have found a talent for it, and worked with it for ages to come. I might have had an additional 20 years of practice with it. However, it’s possible that I would never be here today, gathering my tools for a new workshop. Perhaps if he had, I wouldn’t be interested in crafting fine furniture that the world has never seen before.
Who knows. However, right now I’m just happy to be where I’m at right now. In the grand scheme of things, I wouldn’t change a thing.
-- "Give me your poor tools, your tired steel, your huddled masses of rust." Yep, I ripped off the Statue of Liberty. That's how I roll!