My great-grandfather was a furniture- and coffin-maker in tiny Fergus Falls, Minnesota (the latter came with the job of making furniture, during the high mortality rate of the Victorian era). So it was perhaps due to this lineage (and the tradition carried on by a cousin in southern California), that upon seeing an ad for Debey Zito‘s Woodworking for Women workshop in nearby Sebastopol, I immediately signed up.
Our project was to build a bench. We needed one at home. How perfect if I could make it – and using only hand tools (no power tools)! I loved the idea of working closer to nature in wood, of learning the focus, exactitude, and satisfaction with one’s work that I see B. enjoy in his carpentry.
Soon enough, I realized focus and perfectionism are not qualities I possess. Rather, I tend toward impatience, lack of exactitude in measurement, and a willingness to cut corners to finish faster. In a craft form that stresses care to avoid chipping the wood, whose highest aspirations are to achieve “low tolerances” where no light appears between surfaces because they meet flawlessly, I met a great challenge.
What I did learn: to love the scent of pine as the shavings fly off into a crisp fall morning; the satisfaction in chiseling and planing while shaping the piece; the feel of the tools in my hand; the bird song out in the garden as I worked in the garage; and finally – something that can benefit anyone, whether in writing, crafts, or anything else – the fine focus that comes from working for hours (and hours, and hours, in my case) without distraction.
So, after three coats of earth-friendly Bio-Shield stain, it’s ready! Even if half-assed, I’m proud to have withstood the stamina-crushing through to the reward, to be carrying on my father’s family tradition in this small, useful way.