Giving Your Work Away Can Be Hard on the Ego

Giving Your Work Away Can Be Hard on the Ego

This one was rough … I had made my first heart-shaped band saw puzzle box; I was so proud! I decided to send it to my mother who I hadn’t seen in years. I called her two weeks later to find out if she liked it. My dear, sweet mother said, “I couldn’t figure out how to open it, so I gave it to the young boy next door and he broke it. But thank you for the lovely gift. Where did you buy it?” I never told her.

– Jeffrey Dheere

Rob, I know the feeling. Last year for Christmas, I built my three grandsons gifts. Two of them were combination bookshelves and coat hangers with carved rifles and pistols and their initials carved into the top. For the other grandson, I made a rocking horse, a table, and two chairs. By Super Bowl Sunday, my wife and I were at our grandsons’ house to watch the game. I noticed pieces of chairs, tables, rocking horses, and bookshelves in the kindling pile for their wood stove that they heat the house with. When I asked about the stuff I built, my answer was, “Oh the boys busted the stuff and we just burned it for kindling.” I guess that’s what you call recycling.

– Bill Terle

My sad incident comes from a hand carved sign that I made for my brother. After careful consideration of wood choice, design, and font, I proudly presented it to him for his birthday (he was 30 at the time). He proceeded through the rest of his gifts and from that day on, I never saw it again … until 3 or 4 years later. This time, I received it as MY only wrapped Christmas present from HIM to ME.

– Craig

Hang in there, pal! It will get better with age — yours and theirs. I have two sons and I have been amused (pleased, or dumbfounded) at their reaction to things Mom and I had saved and placed in the attic for them and their kids. Now that the oldest one has a daughter, I reminded him of all the “stuff” we had saved and we went searching. I reminded him that most of this was just junk and we should probably just throw it all out. You would have thought I had made him promise to give me his next child. He couldn’t believe that we had kept all this stuff for 30 years — especially the toys I had made, the train set(s), the bookends, GI Joe people, etc.. The most profound statement was when he told me how proud he was of my skill and wisdom. At that point, I questioned his intelligence. Some of those things were crude! I guess I am amazed at how smart I have gotten over these past couple of years! Your day will come! Have a great day and don’t forget to have a couple of these goodies for future use.

Your story of the discarded toy reminded me of a few gifts I had made for family members while I was a young lad. Fortunately, for me my efforts had a happier ending.

My first project ever in woodshop was to manufacture a wooden box demonstrating a different type of joint at each corner. I worked diligently on each of the butt, miter, rabbet and rabbet dado, joints making sure each fit perfectly. All the while, I was thinking what a great gift this would make for my dad. I nailed a base into a recessed groove on the bottom of the box and even made a recessed lid to fit snugly into the top. I finished it off with a cherry stain and Deft shellac finish. I presented my first piece of craftsmanship to my father at Christmas and it immediately found a place of honor on the shelf next to his reading chair. Since then, it has moved to the dresser near his bed and holds all sorts of valuable little trinkets he has collected over the years.

The next year I undertook a more ambitious project in making a corner shelf that I just knew my grandmother would love (for some reason, I always have decided who was going to receive an item before I even started working on it). This was a project I made primarily on the band saw with curved edges and the typical rounded shelves. I made this one out of black walnut because I loved the appearance of the wood. This gift has also found a place of honor in my grandmother’s home holding several knickknacks over the years until her death. Then the shelf made its way back to me. That’s when I took a more critical look at my handiwork.

The shelf was one of the most hideous things I had ever seen! While the two sides of the corner shelf were supposed to be mirror images of each other, they were nothing close. The wood had deep scratches and gouges in it that were obviously missed by me during my sanding, and I noticed the joint at the back of the shelf wasn’t even straight. Speaking of joints, I decided to go and take a look at that little wooden box I had made for my dad twenty-some years ago. As I suspected, I didn’t even have the butt joint lined up right. The box didn’t have one square corner, and the recessed top that I thought felt so snugly banged around with about a quarter inch of play on each side.

If I started making something like that today, I’d have it in the trash before getting the first corner joined. Still, my dad holds onto it because he knows not only where it came from, but why it was made and presented to him. Likewise, my grandmother proudly displayed my dilapidated shelf not because of the beauty it added to her home, but the beauty it placed in her heart. And after all these years, these simple little gifts have returned to me as testimonials of the love my father and grandmother have held for me. Oh, and that shelf? My sister took it and put it up in her home.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share this story with you.

-Larry Schuh

Many years ago, before I had my own workshop, I used the facilities of a local high school to do some woodworking. The program offers two 2-hour sessions each week during the school year. One fall I decided to build a rolltop desk for my mother. I found some plans and started in September. Just before Christmas break, I had all of the pieces cut and sanded. When school started again, I started assembly and the process of finishing the desk. I had about 3 months to get everything done to have the desk ready for my mother’s birthday in April.

I got the desk done in time and it was beautiful. With the assistance of some fellow woodworkers, I loaded the desk into my van and took it to my mother’s home. This was my very first woodworking project … beyond cutting plywood and 2-by-4s for shelves. This was a real project because of all my sanding and staining.

When I got to my mother’s home, I recruited some friends to help move into the house while she was at work. The desk was too big for the door. We tried every door in the house. We measured and re-measured. The desk was just too big.

Inspiration fell upon us and we decided to break the desk down into two parts–the top and the bottom. It was painful for me to take a crowbar and separate the writing table from the drawers. You see, the instructor we had for class believed that wood was wood and metal (screws and nails) are best left in the metal working class. The desk was doweled together with two-part epoxy.

This is the story of how I began my career in woodworking repair. Over the summer I visited my mother often and would sand away, drill out, and add wood filler to get the desk back in its original shape.

My story is more disappointing than sad, but I could use the biscuit joiner.

When my wife was pregnant with our first child, I built a cradle. It took about five months to complete. I cut it very close; I had to return home from the hospital after the baby was born to finish staining the stand. Once the baby was home, she only slept in the cradle about a half dozen times, until we found that she slept better in her car seat. The cradle sat for a few years, holding laundry, until our second child was born. He only used the cradle twice; he kept rolling into the sides and waking himself up. Back to the car seat.

We’ve lent the cradle out to friends, so it’s gotten some use, but in our house it’s mainly been a hamper.

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