Popular Woodworking 2000-01 № 112, страница 32

Popular Woodworking 2000-01 № 112, страница 32

Life Lessons

From a

Jointer Plane

The tools that are designed to cut one piece of wood from the other are also the tools that bring a man and his son together.


Congratulations to Ray Merritt of Rodman, New York, who wrote the winning essay for the Popular Woodworking Boot Camp contest. Ray won a Jet table saw, a Jet dust collector and will spend a week with us here in our shop in Cincinnati to pick up a few woodworking skills.

I plane a board of butternut. A fragrant spiral shaving rises from the cap iron. I watch the spiral grow until the blade goes silent. It is a good tool, this jointer plane. I spread the spiral out along the bench, release it and it remembers its curly shape. I remember, too.

"This is going to be yours sooner or later, so you might as well have it now." With those words, my father handed over the Bailey No. 7 jointer plane that he inherited from his father. That is as much ceremony as I could expect from a man of few words and many years. But ceremony or not, it is a passing of a legacy from one generation to the next. I know my grandfather owned that plane. His hands guided it, releasing shavings long since swept away, but spiraling down through time to me. I remember Grandpa's workshop, rows of wood screws sized in baby food jars, hand tools stored on stained shelves, a stack of wooden soft drink crates in the corner, filled with glass empties while a locust droned in the tree outside.

I remember Dad's workshop, basement-cool, crammed with tools. It was always in disorder, for there were four of us boys. When I think of how we treated those tools, it is a wonder there now remains

anything to hand down. We cared little for tools then, or for relationships. We had no memories, only dreams: a wooden wagon, a bicycle-drawn cart, a sled. We had no plans, just dreams and the drive to build. Fevered builders, we scattered tools beyond the doors of the shop. Down the driveway, out into the fields, we left a trail of hammers, saws and screwdrivers.

Time spiraled around. The shaving curled from a different place on the board. I grew up, married and had an eager son whose dreams were not of wooden wagons, but of leaping skateboards. I watched as he assembled cement blocks and scrap plywood into rickety ramps. Consequently, I kept watch by his bed in the hospital as he recovered from broken ribs. Like me when a boy, he had no plan, just a vision of air. So we took paper and pencil. We bought lumber and made a 36-foot skateboard ramp. I put tools in his hands and instructions in his head. He built his dream. We built a relationship.

Skateboards to snowboards, the seasons passed. In the spring, with snow melt, I would find some of my rusted tools, some past the point of restoration. I learned this: If you introduce a boy to tools, you will lose some tools. But you will gain a son.

The boy is now a college man. Two years ago we attempted our most ambitious project, wooden strip canoes. We spent weeks of happy hours together learning how to steam bend wood and work with epoxy. Here is a touch of irony: This time he was the one who drew up the plans.

That jointer plane will sit on a shelf in my shop. Young hands will reach up and take it down, check its heft and wonder. Perhaps I will show how it is done. Or perhaps it will be taken out into the back yard and used to make curly shavings from a picnic table — until it strikes a nail. I may find it after a rainstorm. I may find it with the lawnmower. If it survives and I with it, you may be sure that I will someday place it in my son's hands. But if either the tool or I do not survive until that day, no matter. The work is done. The legacy passed. The heritage is not in an abundance of tools, for tools do not make the man. Love makes the man. The real heritage is a father's love for his son. That alone spirals around from generation to generation. PW

Ray Merritt is a pastor at Honeyville Baptist Church and has been canoeing all summer in the wooden strip canoes he and his son, Hans, built together.

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