A Review of Grandpa’s Workshop

Her first reading

Her first reading

It was a day or two after Christmas 2012 when I first read Grandpa’s Workshop to my then 2-year old daughter. I didn’t realize it then, but I may’ve been reading the most overlooked and unheralded book in the Lost Art Press catalog. At the time, I was exactly one year into our new life in Cleveland. My wife was 8 months pregnant with our second, I was in the midst of a serious job scare, and this was one of the only gifts under the tree.

She didn’t take to it like a duck to water but she didn’t reject it either. She sat down in her toddler bed looking at the pictures and listening to me tell her about the tools. Her unsteady and exuberant hands didn’t tear the pages or destroy the binding.

IMG_1305It’s now over three years later and we’ve read it in earnest many, many times – especially in the past six months. My heart skips a beat when she asks to read it before bed. She points out the different tools and references them later during the story or when we’re in the shop. She even corrected me the other day when I called a something a hammer instead of it’s correct name: “it’s a mallet, Daddy – like the one you made me.”

The book is a series of mini stories, which makes its format perfect for little ones with short attention spans. You don’t have to labor through the entire book when one or two pages suffice. At first I thought it might be a bit scary or grotesque but it’s proven to be none of these. Sprinkled throughout the story are pictures LAP readers will find charming like tool chests, workbenches, saw benches, etc. She notices these things and either recalls a time in the shop or asks to see something the next time we’re down there. She even peers over my shoulder while on Pinterest or on a blog to point out things she’s seen in the story.


Employing the lessons…

And, to me, this is where this book is worth it’s weight in gold. It’s a visual map into her father’s world and tiny peek into his soul. It reinforces the lessons I teach and it makes Sylvain’s adventures tangible, and relatable, to her. She knows what it’s like to get a bunch of scraps and put them together into something magical. She asks to go downstairs and work on things constantly. Last month she asked to make a clipboard. She painted it purple and does her homework on it everyday; I was flabbergasted. She see things and asks to make them; buying is her second option.

I didn’t know this when I bought it, but Grandpa’s Workshop is a book for makers. It’s not just there to solely read to your grandkids. It shouldn’t be pigeon


Maker II

holed into anything other than a great sets of stories to inspire the next generation. My oldest daughter is a maker. She works in countless media but her greatest creation, although unbeknownst to her, is her making of an inspired father every time she asks to read this book.

I’d like to see it on the shelves of my local library and in the classroom, but I’ll start with a second copy for her understudy. The little one is three now and mostly concerned with pink, purple, and glitter glue, but she’ll come around. And if she doesn’t that’s ok too. In the end, I don’t want just woodworkers (that’s a bit of a lie). I want strong-willed girls who think about the their buying habits and try to make things with their hands at every turn (that part isn’t a lie).

Back in 2012, I snapped a few pictures and sent a heartfelt email to John and Chris thanking them and the rest of the team for their efforts. This post is reaffirmation of that email only with many board feet of lumber and bedtime stories about Pépère’s shop elfs under our belts. My social media is peppered with proof of what this book can do for your budding maker. Here are a few final pics illustrating the power of this book and its message.


About Shawn Nichols

Heady. Phishy. Woodworker
This entry was posted in General Philosophy, Shop Stuff and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to A Review of Grandpa’s Workshop

  1. tombuhl says:

    Good stuff, Shawn. Brought back fond memories. I was not a woodworker when my daughter was young, but being around my graphics design work, fixing computers and hand holding of co-workers and clients on computer issues did rub off. I recall a late night seeing her at my desk/computer on the phone talking a fellow tv station intern through DreamWeaver issues. She was in high school at the time and all the other interns were UCSB students. Made me smile.
    Grandpa’s Workshop is brilliant. I found it interesting that you had concerns about how your daughter would handle some of the more gruesome aspects. I’d wondered about that myself. I used one of the illustrations for my I Madonnari Italian Street Painting Festival piece several years ago. Chris posted an image from that work on his blog.


    • Hey Tom,

      You must’ve been a proud pappa to see her working at your desk.

      I remember the festival design you did and just looked it up again. Amazing work. One of the things I struggle with is my drawing/sketches. I’ve been looking for a class to take at our local art center but they seem too involved or specific to painters. Or maybe I’m just being overly skeptical. I don’t intend on my drawings ending up at a festival, I just want to be able to convey the designs in my mind to my wife! Any thoughts are appreciated.

      Thanks for stopping by. I’ve always admired your work and your contributions over at Marc’s site.



      • tombuhl says:

        I am not classroom sympatico type myself. I would think that an illustration class could benefit (more so than painterly type). The prime value is developing the ability to see (either what is in front of us, or in our mind). A teacher might help shorten learning curve on appreciation for getting more out of a pencil. Sharp point, shading, varying line thickness in same stroke, but giving yourself some time and forgiveness is key. By chance do you have The Anarchist’s Design Book? Chris has some thoughts on the 45-second sketch method. Shawn, can you send me an email tom at tombuhl dot com? I hate to get too expansive in comments boxes. Hope you are having a grand day.


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