A New Thing

As a boy of 12, I got to work in a cabinetmaker’s shop. I say ‘work’, but help was more like what I did. I swept floors, kept machinery clean, went for coffee and did little things.

The cabinetmaker showed me how to sand the edges of doors and round off the sharp corners. I learned how to support heavy materials going through the table saw – he pushed, I just held it up. I learned in the summer to start at seven and quit at seven. In other words, it became a life for me.

The best part was when he would give me something new to do. I would go to one end of the bench, and he would go to the other. I learned to watch him and thus learned the new task.

As I grew into my own business, the customer took his place. The customer would ask me to do a new thing: build cathedral shutters, fix glass, or any of thousand other things. I have always been excited about tackling a new thing.

My wife and I went to Asheville, NC and she saw an oak table. I got to looking at it, and it seemed like something I could do. It had straight legs, and no drawer. I had never built a table before. I had a small table saw my partner and I used in our house restoration work along with some hand tools (skill saw, jig saw, planes, chisels, etc.). I built her a desk out of walnut with tapered legs and a drawer. It isn’t the most elegant table ever built, but it made a good Christmas present. It was something new.

That cabinetmaker has been dead over 40 years, but I still miss him. I like it when customers ask me for new work. In a way, it puts me back in that shop at the other end of the bench.