"Woodworking Tradition"

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Blog entry by mpounders posted 11-02-2010 07:02 AM 4508 reads 0 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch

“Whose boy are ya?” This may be more of a southern thing, but it was a common question for me when I was growing up in Alabama. My mother had 5 brothers and a sister plus 4 step-brothers and two sisters so proper identification was importantant, especially at family functions and other gatherings. Family has always been important to me, especially when I have traveled to so many places where I had no family.

My grandfather was Paul Revere Pounders. I always thought that was a wonderful name, but he seemed to prefer PR for some reason. He was born and he died in Rockwood, Alabama, which seems appropriate since he worked with wood and stone most of his life. I am told that he could do amazing things with an axe and he gave demonstrations to Boy Scouts on using an axe to build furniture and other rustic items. The stone shown was a sharpening wheel that sat by his wood pile. He cut and shaped the stone in the limestone quarry where he worked, and carved the handle and shaft that was used to turn it, using wooden wedges to fix it tightly to the square portion of the shaft. He sharpened his ax and other tools with it quite well, especially with enthusiastic grand children to turn the handle for him. I felt so grown up when I was given a pocket knife when I was probably 5 or 6. It posed little danger to me after happily imitating my grandfather at the grinding wheel and “sharpening” it up!. I use other methods a little more successfully now, but I feel connected to a tradition, to my family when I use certain tools. My grandfather did amazing things with simple, even primitive tools and I have seen beautiful carvings produced with sharpened screwdrivers and broken glass. The art is in the hand that uses the tool…..not in the tool itself. Sometimes I try to blame my tools, but the truth is probably that I just haven’t learned to compensate for the tendencies that the tool and myself both have to do certain things. My grandfather would probably smile a little at that, a lesson he had already learned.

-- Mike P., Arkansas,

6 comments so far

View Maveric777's profile


2693 posts in 3101 days

#1 posted 11-02-2010 01:58 PM

Good story Mike and a cool step back in time. We cant know where we are going if we don’t know where we came from. Cherish those memories….

-- Dan ~ Texarkana, Tx.

View Bluepine38's profile


3379 posts in 3110 days

#2 posted 11-02-2010 03:40 PM

I know the question, whose boy are you? very well. Grandfather on Mom’s side had 27 kids that lived, his
third wife outlived him by 3 hrs, and he made great corn likker, Mom helped tend the still, and if it did not
burn with a clear blue flame, you ran it through again. Dad’s family only had 6 children, but the question
was still asked of me at Uncle Joe’s funeral. It is wonderful to have family and while I did not get to know
either grandfather well, I do have some of Dad’s tools and like using them, and yes I still have to learn how
to use many tools correctly.

As ever, Gus the 71 yr young laborer, trying to become a carpenters apprentice.

-- As ever, Gus-the 79 yr young apprentice carpenter

View Mark A. DeCou's profile

Mark A. DeCou

2009 posts in 4430 days

#3 posted 11-02-2010 04:15 PM

what a wonderful heartfelt story of who you are, and where you came from. Keep these stories coming, there is a lot of love and depth behind those fabulous carvings you do!

I’ve got an old sharpening wheel like that, but mine is bigger in diameter. Have you ever had photos of the stand it sat on? I’d like to build a frame and mount my wheel for posterity’s sake, but I don’t know what to build to make it look authentic.


-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

View Manitario's profile


2630 posts in 2908 days

#4 posted 11-02-2010 04:32 PM

Thanks for sharing that with us Mike. There is something good for the soul in working patiently with your hands with simple tools. With all the hustle of regular life, I find it difficult to be patient enough to use hand tools, I want the results NOW. I recently inherited a bunch of hand tools from my grandfather; was the best thing I could have gotten from him, there is something so important about maintaining that family connection, even if it means me fumbling along with the hand planes my grandfather used.

-- Sometimes the creative process requires foul language. -- Charles Neil

View mpounders's profile


875 posts in 2920 days

#5 posted 11-02-2010 04:37 PM

Thanks for all the kind comments! I have no problems talking to people and sharing tales bith tall and small. But I’m still trying to figure out how to put that on paper, at least electronically. PaPa’s wheel was just mounted in a big 2×6 frame about waist high as I remember, but it probably was mounted in a smaller hand-hewn bench of sorts, judging from the work on the handle. I need to clean out my shop a bit since I couldn’t find where I had stashed that part away. It appears to be handsawn and whittled, with a wedge-tenoned handle. I may try to pick up some saplings when I return to Alabama at Thanksgiving qand use them for legs for some type of three-legged bench for it. Thanks Mark for all your help and encouragement.

-- Mike P., Arkansas,

View Rustic's profile


3253 posts in 3621 days

#6 posted 11-02-2010 08:38 PM

Thanks for sharing

--, Rick Kruse, Grand Rapids, MI

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