The Slightly Confused Woodworker

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Why I Woodwork


I had planned on woodworking this past weekend; I really did. Last week I had scouted out the final three boards I needed to finish my bookcase project and I was all ready to go pick them up after work on Saturday. Then the tragedy in Newtown happened and suddenly woodworking wasn’t on my weekend priority list. Friday, watching and hearing these events unfold, made for a difficult afternoon at work. On my way home, listening to the news reports, and hearing the President of the United States voice crack when trying to make sense of a senseless act, I will be the first to admit that I cried too. At that moment, had I one wish, I wished that I could have traded my life for those kids who were murdered in cold blood by an evil monster. I wish I could have died saving them, and I wished that he would have lived, knowing that he failed, and knowing that he would have to face justice. Most importantly, I wished that those kids would be home with their mommys and daddys over the weekend, thankful that nothing had happened. That was probably an immature thought, maybe idealistic wishful thinking, but I stand by it. I am an adult whose reponsibility is to protect little kids, and if need be to die for them. How could I say that about children I’ve never met and a tragedy that happened hundreds of miles from where I live? Because I like to think that somebody would do the same for me; I would hope so. But here we are, and it did happen.

Saturday morning I went to work, shocked, saddened, and mostly angry. At work I didn’t stop moving, I did things I normally wouldn’t do at work on a Saturday; I didn’t let my hands rest. When I got home we went out and had dinner, and then to the mall to shop, and see Santa, and check out the scenery. Sunday, a dreary and rainy day, I had the morning to myself and I spent it doing the worst possible thing: watching the news. What a mistake. Eventually I turned it off and went into the garage. The desire to woodwork was not there, at all. It seemed so pointless, so meaningless, for me to think about grain patterns and ship-lap joints. I’m not very religious, but the saying “Idle hands are the devil’s playground” always struck a chord with me. Maybe because I like to work with my hands, and I like to think I’m a good person because of it. But whenever I feel down, or upset, or even unmotivated I find that working with my hands makes me feel better, especially when I’m woodworking. What better way is there to spend some free time than turning a few boards into hopefully a beautiful and useful piece of furniture? What better way is there to spend your time than being constructive, or trying to make the world a little bit of a nicer place? What better way is there to spend your time than filling your home with your creations, showing them off, even if they aren’t perfect? What better lesson can we teach our kids: that with patience, and study, and hard work, you can create something beautiful that you and everybody else can be proud of?

There are evil people in the world to be sure, some born that way, maybe. Maybe some perhaps become evil. I don’t know the answer and it’s quite possible that I don’t want to know. But had this monster been taught by his parents to woodwork, or anything else constructive, would things have been different? I think so. Instead, he was taught that shooting a gun was the most worthwhile and constructive activity that he could perform. Would his self worth have improved had he made a piece of furniture, and finished it himself, and showed it off to his family? Would the joy of getting together a tool set, every tool with a certain purpose, a certain job to perform, and maintaining the tools, honing them and tuning them to work at an optimal level, then seeing what magic they could work; would that have changed the course of his life? I think it would have. Instead, he was taught to use only one tool, a tool meant only for destruction, and that was it, and that was the only outlet for his idle hands.

I am not implying that woodworking is the cure for all of the worlds ills. If it were that easy we would have far fewer problems. But maybe I’m wrong and it is that easy. I know this: I am a guy who works more than 50 hours a week, every week. I have adult responsibilties that can sometimes be very stressful, and I know that when I get the chance to woodwork for a few hours I feel a hell of a lot better. That is why I woodwork. A few boards and some tools and suddenly I can do anything. I can work with my hands and make something that my whole family can be proud of; I can’t think of a more noble activity. Is it wishful thinking to believe that the monster would have turned out differently had he been taught to woodwork? I guess so. But let’s say he was taught to woodwork, or anything else worthwhile, and he never became that monster. We would have twenty beautiful little children, who right now would be home with their mommys and daddys, playing, or getting ready for bed, and counting down the days til Santa came. That is a nice thought; it’s a good thought and a hopeful one. Woodworking is a good thing, it’s an act of beauty and art and skill and construction and pride; it’s something worthwhile. So that is why I woodwork, and why I won’t let a monster steal it from me ever again.



  1. Jeff Branch says:

    “…and why I won’t let a monster steal it from me ever again.”

    I have slowly let the event sink in resisting learning the horrific details; and I was going to write some things here that echo what you have said, but the whole even is beyond comprehension to me. I would be letting that monster steal a few more moments of thought. So, I’ll just say amen and leave it at that.

  2. projectbuddy says:

    When I was growing up, all the guys took mechanical drawing and shop. Working with one’s hands was an expected skill. Something has changed in our culture that goes beyond just our perspective on gun ownership.

    The things that a young man was once expected to be able to do (even just build a simple stool) have been replaced by…I’m not sure what…endless hours with computer games or a movie screen…watching people and things being destroyed rather than helping things to be build and preserved.

    Your are quite right. Maybe it’s time for us with some skills (no matter what level) to do some mentoring and encouraging.

    • billlattpa says:

      The old cliche “if it helps just one person” has never been more true than now. If I could show somebody, anybody, what I know, as incomplete as my knowledge may be, and it helps him or her become a better person, even a little….just think what that could mean if we all did that.

  3. billlattpa says:

    Reblogged this on The Slightly Confused Woodworker and commented:

    A post I wrote last year regarding the Sandy Hook tragedy.

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