No doubt, you have your own short list. Gifts that found their way into your eager little hands come Christmas, your birthday or at your bar mitzvah.
But not just any gifts. I’m talking about the ones that you remember vividly to this day. The rush of tearing the wrapping paper. The exquisite moment of recognition when ‘could it be?’ turns into ‘It is!’ A moment that froze in time when you opened the box to look upon your precious desire for that first lingering moment.
As a teen, I used to play a boardgame called Wooden Ships and Iron men.
It was set during the age of sail when English, French and Spanish grappled each other with shot and cutlass. So when I unwrapped the 1846 French Naval Cutlass laying under the Christmas tree one year, it felt like I was standing on the deck of a frog frigate.
As an adult, I got that chill up my spine when the slow tearing of wrapping paper revealed an Italian Aurora fountain pen. I had been coveting the finely-crafted writing instrument for a year solid. And it was the solitary item on my wish list. So, when I opened the wooden presentation box and caught the first glimpse of my future favorite writing tool, I swear that I saw a star twinkle shoot off its silver cap to the accompaniment of a distinct ping. As if someone had plucked a crystal wine glass with their index finger.
I remember thinking that no physical object would ever make me feel that way again. A few birthdays later, I was proven wrong when my unwrapping revealed the Lie-Nielsen Toolworks lettering upon a pristine box. Could this be the No. 4 I had asked for?
Moments later, the box lid opened—yes!—and a smile crossed my face to utter a single word: bronze.
Pulling it out, I let its factory cocoon float to the floor. Then I set it down to marvel at her.
She made a fantastic first impression. First, she’s hefty, but I like a bit of mass to help push through smoothing strokes across hardwood boards. Second, she’s “all dolled up”. Every detail to her fit and finish is finely crafted.
And it didn’t take long to get her ready for the prom. I spent a few minutes polishing the iron’s back and bevel and put it to wood.
Since that time, I’ve used her consistently. And I’ve been happy with the glassy surfaces she’s left behind.
—Thin planing stop project.
—Chisel mallet project.
One thing’s for sure, we’re mates for life. And long after I’ve departed this crazy world, I imagine she’ll be working wood in the hands of my decedents. Until then, every time I use that brass beauty, I’ll be reminded of my parents. For their thoughtful gift brightened my Christmas, along with many woodworking days since. My No. 4 is the most beautiful piece of bronze and cherry I’ve ever owned.
-- "People's lives are their own rewards or punishments."