Thursday, November 15, 2012

children are intended for great things...

I have been reading Nat Benjamin's account of the building of Charlotte, in the Nov/Dec. issue of Wooden Boat, and the story of a great boat is also the story of the lives changed in the making of it. A friend Geoff had called Nat asking if he had a place for his son Tyler who was flunking out of high school. The kid was not sober, was staying out late every night and sleeping past noon when he should have been in school. Nat's first inclination was to run the kid off. But instead the conversation went like this:
"Lets roll the keel timber over with the outside of the tree facing up so we can see the sapwood and avoid it when laying out the half-breadths. But, first, after scraping off the ice, adze and power-lane the flat surfaces so we have a constant thickness of 8 1/2". Then strike a centerline on both surfaces and lay out the stations from the keel batten hanging on the rack over there and mark down the offsets. Fair them with  a batten on both sides of the timber so we can saw it out to the lines drawn Then lever the timber on its edge, and we'll chainsaw it out."

"Yeah," responded Tyler laconically, gazing first at me, then at the 2,000-lb piece of angelique. I went back to work, knowing full well that this task was far beyond his abilities, my peremptory instructions notwithstanding. A few hours later, Tyler strolled into the building shed and called, "Nat, bring out the chainsaw." "We were off."
That was the start of the building of a great boat. Tyler did graduate from high school, his life having turned on a dime. As Benjamin describes, "Tyler caught fire."

Part of the challenge for teachers in school is that of having great things for kids to do, that are real, that test their strength of body, character and mind. Making real things in school can serve this purpose. That real thing should excite their imaginations, and allow them to build the workings of character and intellect.

Today in my own wood shop, we continue the current challenge of making 500 wooden boxes before the first of the year. Today, too, I have a conversation with the acquisitions editor at Taunton Press about a new box book.

Make, fix and create...

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