A slightly saner intro

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Blog entry by photonic posted 04-11-2007 06:28 AM 796 reads 0 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch

For those of you, my wife included, who found my first post a bit overwhelming, here is a slightly less, um… epic version.

Okay honey, you can stop laughing!


My name is Geoff Webb, and I am a galoot. For those of you aren’t familiar with the OldTools list a galoot is a woodworker who works with only hand powered tools. Since I look at woodworking as a way to spend time rather then make a paycheck, hand tools fit the bill perfectly.

A few years ago my lovely wife bought me a book by Roy Underhill. In the book he described the skills needed to go into a wood with an ax and build a house and everything in it. I was mesmerized. I dreamed of being able to do just that, taking a living tree and turning it into useful objects.

Fast forward to the recent present. My grandfather is a master craftsman. He can literally build a house and everything in it. However, he is getting on in years and recently moved into an assisted living facility where he had to give up some of his tools. He gave me one of his tool chests. That was the beginning of my journey.

My grandfather had several jobs during his working life, bricklayer, shop teacher, jeweler and modelmaker. My toolchest was the one he used as a modelmaker at Rockwell during the late 1950’s and 60’s. It was filled with chisels and gouges that he had made himself. There were old layout tools, planes and spokeshaves. Everything needed to build model aircraft.

My dreams and the tools collided. I decided that I wanted to learn to master my grandfather’s tools, and to pursue a simpler, slower method of woodworking.

Many years ago, I was a theatre designer. I designed and built the sets and lighting that you see on stages and concert halls around the world. It’s a mad world, where the most complicated joint used is a lap joint, and the work will be viewed from forty feet away. Things are done quickly; the set pieces are only temporary. Once the show is over they are destroyed or reused. Nothing is made to last.

Now I am working with tools older then myself; some older then my grandfather. I am discussing techniques hundreds of years old, used on objects made to last for generations.

This is gonna be fun.

-- Geoff Webb, Spokane WA

6 comments so far

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4183 days

#1 posted 04-11-2007 12:45 PM

I’m not at the “hand tool” stage yet but I can imagine the feeling—moving to the “simplistic” way of building (simple as in slower, basic, connected…. etc).
Have you made anything with your grandfather?

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View photonic's profile


17 posts in 4089 days

#2 posted 04-11-2007 05:45 PM

I grew up an Army brat, so I seldom saw my grandfather for more then a week or two growing up. So no we really didn’t work on many projects together except once.

We were living in St. Louis and my parents had bought their first house. They wanted a chimmney built for a wood stove and my grandfather agreed to build it. Since it was summer vacation I got the job of hodcarrier. I was told that my job was to bring Granddad bricks and mortar. ‘No sweat”, I thought, ‘I can carry bricks.”

The day started slow, with Granddad sharpening his tools, puttering with levels, plumb bobs and such. I thought I was going to die of boredom. After lunch, Granddad decided it was time to lay some bricks. So I mixed up the mortar like he had showed me and brought the first load of bricks. In just a moment my grandfather laid all those bricks, and yelled “More bricks!”. I was off like a shot. All afternoon I ran back and forth getting bricks and mortar, as fast as my 12 year old legs could carry me. I thought I was going to die.

Finally we finished. I laid down on the ground, a brick dust and mortar covered lump, vowing to never move again. Grandad wandered over, “Thanks for the help, Geoff.”

“No problem.” I said as nonchalantly as a could. It’s hard to be nonchalant when you’re gasping for breath.

So that was the one project I did with my grandfather. I’m kinda glad we didn’t do any others. :)

-- Geoff Webb, Spokane WA

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4183 days

#3 posted 04-11-2007 06:55 PM

haha that’s too cute.
You are a great story teller!!

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 4337 days

#4 posted 04-11-2007 08:01 PM

Model builders have pretty much gone the way of the wheel wrights. I’ve always been a fan of Roy Underhill. Good to hear both stories.

View Chip's profile


1904 posts in 4115 days

#5 posted 04-11-2007 08:27 PM

Very nice story Geoff. Is Roy Underhill the gentleman with the PBS series (that looks like it was taped back in the 50’s or 60’s) that moves out into the wilderness by himself, builds his own house and everything in it? If so, that is a wonderful show and I have always loved watching it… just never caught his name.

-- Better to say nothing and be thought the fool... then to speak and erase all doubt!

View photonic's profile


17 posts in 4089 days

#6 posted 04-11-2007 10:26 PM

Roy Underhill is the host of the Woodwright’s Shop on PBS. He was (is?) also the housewright at Colonial Williamsburg. His books are just awesome. He starts with how to select and fell a tree and finishes with timberframing and blacksmithing.

I’ve seen the show you described its called “Alone in the Wilderness”. Its the story of Dick Proenneke and how he builds a home in the wilderness of Alaska. I believe the book is “One Man’s Wilderness.” Very inspiring stuff.

-- Geoff Webb, Spokane WA

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