Back in the winter of 2013, my dad told me to come get his shop tools. He’s retired once and then started back, and now he’s fully retired. Anyhow, I went to Virginia and brought home a table saw, a radial-arm, a band saw, a drill-press, and a contractors chop saw. I was really not that excited because I know my dad as a craftsman. He’s designed and built sport fishing boats in the 50-60 foot range. He’s built and sold a $55K high-performance boat for sport fishing that was 25 foot long that held 125 gallons of fuel. He’s built all kinds of things for land and water. And, everyone that knows him just appreciates his talent.
It was sad for me to bring his tools home because this marked an end in his work. I was thankful to get the tools on one hand and heartbroken that he would create no more. Well, now I tell him everything I do when it comes to my renewed interest in woodworking.
I’ve learned a lot of things I didn’t know in a very short period. I’ve learned simple things that I should have know well before I was 51 years of age. I grew up with pine and never put a saw on any other board except I think the corner of the coffee table was maple that I cut when I was real little. Just getting wood from somewhere other than the hardware store may seem daunting. Getting wood from a lumber mill to look like the grade-A select stuff at the hardware store is quite a chore. I’ve learned that I can save you tons of money in sandpaper. If you have a belt sander, throw it away. You don’t need it. No, better yet, blow it off with the air compressor and put it away in long term storage. You can give it to your children and let them learn their own lessons.
I spent 15 years, in 8 different positions at Newport News Shipbuilding in the Submarine Engineering program. I know how to make things and I’m at a point in my life where I want to show others how to use their talents with their hands. I have 2 sons that are not “college material”. I actually hate that stereotype because I don’t think the public school system should push every child to go to college. Is it a coincidence that most of the tradesmen, craftsmen, painters, electricians, plumbers, furniture-makers were once labeled the “bad kids”? I strongly believe that these kids need guidance in 1) work ethic 2) craftsmanship and 3) service philosophy.
I want to establish a business of making furniture designs of my own, using apprentices to do this, and/or assisting others to get their own business going. I’ve run my own software consulting business in the past and I currently manage software development in the financial and insurance verticals.
If anyone is interested in helping the evolution of this idea of an Apprentice School for Woodworking let me know. I think it can be another option for young people other than college. I’ve worked as a computer scientist without a degree for 29 years. I left Newport News Shipbuilding after 2 consecutive yearly promotions over others with bachelors and master degrees because my wife was dying of cancer and I needed more income. Not everyone needs to go to college or should. Education is extremely important but with the caveat that not every child should be forced to do something that may be very difficult for them.
Stay tuned. I’m going to share some simple but really important lessons soon.
-- David L. Whitehurst