The Slightly Confused Woodworker

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Self Reliance

I hate to write yet another blog post on tool worship, because this isn’t my aim. Blog posts such as those are a dime a dozen, and I’m just as guilty as anyone in that regard. So I will keep this post brief, because it’s not really about woodworking, or Ralph Waldo Emerson, but it is something that I believe to be important.

Some of you who read this blog may know that I really, really enjoy history. It is a passion of mine of which had my station in life been different would likely be my career profession. Regardless, the American Revolutionary war era is a particular favorite, and with it I enjoy the artwork that depicts the time period. My little home office is filled wall to wall with replicas of many famous paintings, and just recently I completed my collection by ordering a canvas of ‘The March to Valley Forge’ by Philadelphia artist William Trego. This canvas arrived a few days ago, and for some strange reason it arrived rolled up and unframed. I double checked my order and it was indeed meant to be framed, and when I say “framed” I mean stretched across an actual frame, not a decorative frame you would purchase at a craft store. So rather than send it back, and waste more fuel, time, and money, I built a frame out of some scrap wood and pocket screws, stretched the canvas across it, and fastened it with heavy duty staples. It turned out okay, and it is now hanging in my office.

The point in all of this being, though my little framing project was simple even for a rank amateur, I was able to do it because I had the tools to do it with. I’m finding out that fewer and fewer people have the wherewithal to accomplish even the simplest tasks around their homes, and elsewhere. I used a 25 year old Powershot stapler, a 25 year old 16oz Craftsman hammer, a 25 year old hand saw, a tape measure that I’ve had longer than I can remember, and the newest tool of the lot, a 15 year old Kreg pocket-hole jig. These are items that I own not because I thought I would make furniture with them one day, but because when I became a home-owner I figured that they would be useful tools to have around. Of course some may say that because I was a press operator and later an electrician I already was ahead of the game with my tool set, and that is true to an extent, but had I never set a die or twisted a wire nut I damn sure would have purchased a decent tool kit when I bought my house. To me it just seemed completely natural to do so, and I would bet that many people my age felt the same way.

The lack of self-reliance I see among many people today disheartens me, because it goes beyond not owning even a claw hammer. In fact, it goes, much, much deeper, and is a symptom of a much greater problem. And for the record, I would add that I’m not necessarily letting the company that I purchased the art from off the hook. I paid for something that I didn’t receive, and that doesn’t fly. But I wasn’t going to make a big deal over a small matter.

Improving something that isn’t right should be something that most people want to, and be able to do. I hate to go all “get off my lawn!” but I feel like I am wishful thinking at this point. This post has nothing to do with a picture frame, and is more a culmination of many…and I’ll try to be nice…unusual….questions that I get asked every single day….questions about things that people who aspire to attaining even a modicum of self-reliance should already be able to answer. To be fair, we learn by asking questions, that is true, but I would never ask somebody else how to spell a word while holding a dictionary in my hand.

Old man Bill’s rant is over…the next post is back to woodworking.

Simple frame made with scrap pine and pocket screws.
The mounted canvas hanging above my desk.


  1. You should have called the company and bitched about it. My wife does it all the time and you wouldn’t believe the stuff the companies tell her to keep and give her money back rather than send it back them. Nice work on the frame.

    • billlattpa says:

      Under “normal” circumstances I probably would have emailed the company and let them have it, I’ve certainly done so in the past. But with the way things are going, and with supermarkets in my area not being able to keep their shelves even half-stocked, I wasn’t going to waste more time and effort asking them to ship out a replacement painting, and it looks fine, so all’s well that ends well.

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October 2021



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