I do not come from woodworking lineage. My dad wasn’t overly handy. While growing up, I recall most things either went unfixed or someone else was called to remedy the situation. My grandfather worked as a maintenance man and was pretty handy. Generally speaking though, grandpa was more cheapskate than craftsman but his heart was always in the right place. Nonetheless, sometime in the late 60s or early 70s they both set forth to cobble together a toy chest for my brother and sister (I was not born for another decade or so). Over the years, the chest held action figures, dolls, baseball cards, and eventually my brother’s stash. It moved from the bedroom to the basement sometime in the late 90s. There it took up residence as the hearth my nieces and nephews gathered around when they came over to play. There it sat until just before Thanksgiving.
While visiting my mom recently, she asked if I could reconfigure the toy chest with a new lid and safer hardware. This way my two little girls could use it when they come to grandma’s house. I made my way into the basement and with one look became awash with childhood memories. As I took second and third glances, I was able to see the piece with a woodworker’s eyes. I noticed the construction techniques: less-than-perfect case miters, screws, wood putty, and heart. How did they cut these miters? Did they fill these screw holes with plugs? They did not have a table saw or a plug cutter? Did they? Next I started to think of ways to improve the design: dovetails, rabbets and cut nails, or maybe dominoes. I could paint the base and do breadboard ends or fancy inlay for the lid. Or I could just leave it be and put on a new top with safer hardware.
During my drive home the next day, the metaphor started taking shape. A chest is not simply a place to put your tools or your child’s toys. It’s a place to pour out your creativity and a place to store your love for this craft. It’ll outlast you and it could serve as a jumping off point for a future woodworker. Maybe it’ll house an anarchist’s tools, or grandma’s blankets, or maybe it’ll just be a place to set down a well-deserved drink. Regardless of the outcome, please take this as your call to arms: be the future of the craft.
Start your own lineage.