A Look Back – Way Back

This is the last post of 2012. As the year ends, it’s only right to take a look back. I’m looking way back. Four decades back. It’s been 40 years since I’ve become involved with woodworking.


As I dug through drawers in an older cabinet kept in my garage, memories of my first real project came flooding back. In one of the drawers I found the pencil shown above. It’s what I call a “first-grader” pencil – it’s the size of a convenience store cigar, about 1/2″ in diameter. Printed in black letters is “American Woodcrafters.” A now defunct wood supplier in Piqua, Ohio where Dad and I purchased lumber early on in our woodworking days.

I remember going there and walking around stacks of lumber housed in a concrete block building that, as I remember today, was a city block in every direction. In a small room adjacent to the warehouse area, my eye was drawn to a minimal stack of light-colored lumber with a bunch of lines running across the grain. I was mesmerized. What the wood was didn’t matter. I wanted some. After making my case, Dad allowed me to take a board home. Below is a box I made with that wood.


Don’t laugh. I was 13 years old. Ah go ahead, laugh. The design is first-rate don’t you think? (Sarcasm intended.) In all my days since, I don’t think I have every come across a box built quite the same. Upon closer inspection you begin to see my affinity with power tools taking shape. My dovetails are tight thanks to a router and jig, but there are a couple gaps and a few well-placed wedges. And not a scribe line to be seen. At the back corner, screws are giving way to age, but I don’t mind.

I can’t remember what I used as a finish, but in a raking light, as you look across the top, you see scratches left from #80-grit sanding belts, or maybe I used #100 grit. Back in the day, I didn’t have a random orbit sander – I’m not even sure if they were in existence. For for the past 20 years, given my lack of skills, my box has lasted just fine while perched proudly at the top of my refrigerator.


Years later I discovered that the wood I was drawn to was tiger maple. A wood that has become my favorite with which to work. In fact, when I build a project for publication, I often surprise editors if I opt to work with a wood other than tiger maple. Imagine finding something at an early age that plays a vital role in your livelihood as an adult. Was it a coincidence, or it was fate.  Best wishes in 2013. Until then …

Build Something Great!



Filed under Design, Jigs, Joinery, Power Tools, Routers

4 responses to “A Look Back – Way Back

  1. Larry

    Happy New Year. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us through out the year.

  2. Charlie

    Personally I like the style of the box, I probably wouldn’t of dovetailed the legs though. Either way you did great at that young of an age, certainly alot better then what I was doing at that age. I’d say it was all fate.

  3. Harlan Janes

    I’m not laughing. For a Jr Hi project, it was pretty terrific. I still have my Jr Hi projects, and in comparison, you would get a really good laugh at them. But, they’re still in one piece and functional. Just not presentable. One thing would be obvious, I didn’t have adult help!

  4. Charles Wilson

    The first project I did from my own design, was made from 3/8″ plywood and finger jointed on its sides and bottom. The fingers were cut with a bandsaw, cleaned up with a file and sandpaper and everything glued together. Gaps between fingers were filled with wood putty, (there were many gaps). Now, over fifty years later, I have yet to complete it. The top was never attached! It is on my list now. I think I will use a wooden hinge assembly made from Bloodwood.

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