I have afforded the opportunity to create a great piece for the local karate school. Both of my kids are in the program and my daughter is close to obtaining her black belt in karate. It has been a journey that has taken her nearly 3 years to complete and an experience that she will be able to draw upon for the rest of her life. As is always does, the karate school closes down over the Christmas break. When classes resumed after the first of the year, we came back to a redecorated interior of the karate school. While watching the kids out on mat, I noticed that the instructor hadn’t had the time to reinstall all the belts on the wall as he had before. Originally they were just fastened to the wall using the tried and true drywall screw. Who doesn’t love drywall screws right?
So I got to thinking of a better way to visual enhance the display method, this lead me to think about the journey my own kids have taken to reach every goal set within the program and how they have achieved these milestones. When I started thinking of this, I couldn’t help but thinking of similarity between the growth of the students and the growth of a tree. I guess it’s just the woodworker side of me that relates to wood but it worked for me at the time so let me elaborate. When a tree is young it is fairly vulnerable and can literally be twisted and molded into any shape as it grows. As it becomes larger and stronger, these twists and turns can’t be undone and they form the beautiful wood that we all have come to admire. That is exactly what this program does for our youth. It helps to mold them into responsible young adults and provides them with a skill set that can draw upon for the rest of their life. This was the basis for what I wanted to create. A display that would exhibit the milestones, or in other words the belts, that represent the steps in achieving the ultimate goal of becoming a black belt in karate.
I came home that night and started drawing up a concept in Photoshop, just something rough to get a concept going and this is what I came up with.
The display is mounted above the mirrors that are already on the wall. The lettering was there before the redecorating, so I was assuming that they would add it again so added it just for design content but I wasn’t going to make them. I didn’t know exactly how long the wall was at this point, but I think I got close on the scale.
Once I had the concept drawing completed and sent over, the instructor wanted to meet so that I could go over the design. A few days later we met and I explained, as I did above, the symbolism of the piece as it relates to the strengthening of our communities youth. He liked the concept and asked if I could do a mock up for him. Anxious at the opportunity, I happily obliged. About a week later, with mock up in tow, I headed to the karate school to meet the instructor. This is what I brought him.
This shows two places for mounting the belts. When I finished it I was only moderately pleased with the outcome. I made it from walnut, hickory and maple and the sections are built up to look more like a rounded tree branch. The thing I didn’t like was how the “branches”, for lack of a better word, came off the main branch. I thought they looked too thick. Even though, the instructor loved the concept and gave me the go ahead to build display for his wall. We settled on a price and off I went; I even worked in the black belt candidate class fee for my daughter.
So I needed to measure the wall, to see how close my initial concept drawing was. The wall measured 38 feet long and the margin above the mirrors was about 38 inches. With that we decided to make the display 32 feet long and 27 inches tall. Awesome right?? Since I have never built anything close to 32 feet long, I thought to myself, “well this should be interesting”. But I am very excited, since this will be my first piece on public display. Everything I have built thus far has been for private individuals, but this will have hundreds of viewers each week so I better make it good!!
So thats the start of it, I’ll keep you updated on how the build goes. This project is going to test my geometry and trigonometry skills but I am looking forward to it.
‘til next time
-- Joe Truehart - The Craftsmans Woodshop