Having grandchildren changes your perspective on a great many things. First, you now understand grandparents. This is no small thing because, for parents with children, grandparents can be the most inscrutable and frustrating creatures on the planet. Now I understand why (and I’m not telling). Second, you get away with more stuff because of your advancing years: “Dad’s old, and needs his rest, we won’t make him go to the mall.” (Yeah, worn out from the hour of martial arts practice, and I HATE shopping!). Most importantly, you have a more relaxed position from which to interact with your grandchildren. Among other things, this involves woodworking.
Both of my children grew up around woodworking, and were involved to a certain degree – whether they wanted to be or not. As a result, though neither is a woodworker now, they both have a perspective that is different from their peers. I hope to inbue in my grandchildren a certain amount of that. I have an advantage in this, since anything “Pop-Pop” does is automatically cool.
There are many lessons for children to learn from woodworking. Yakov at Artisan’s Call has written some excellent articles on the subject, and addressed some of these virtues. He spoke of the adequacy of “good enough” and the prize of patience. Other writers have approached this subject as well – each from his own viewpoint. One that I would like to add to this is the aforementioned perspective. By this, I mean the different way of looking at created products once you have yourself been a creator.
All of us that practice any craft or art understand this. Take turning, for example: You see a bowl made by another, and immediately start to relate to it. You evaluate shape and proportion, grain and color, and mounting method. You smile slightly with approval at the way a difficult curve was handled, or tsk’ed at a near miss in form (“Just one more cut, laddie!”). You can almost feel the way the the blank would have behaved under the tool – where the shavings would have flown, or the tool vibrated unmercifully. Even non-turning craftspeople will find something in it that relates to their own discipline. Meanwhile, the person standing next to you is saying something like, “Isn’t that LOVEly! But the ones at the import store are cheaper.”
I’m constantly amazed by the sheer volume of people that have little or no idea of how things are made, or even how they work. It isn’t their fault – they haven’t been exposed to the process of creation. They are forever outsiders to our world, and are the lesser for it. It is our responsibility to ensure that this fault is not acquired by our descendants.
The process of creation yields an understanding of creation. Therefore, it follows that to gain this understanding, one must create. Something. And this is where we come in.
It doesn’t take much for small children. For my grandchildren, I created two bird feeder kits from pine stock from the box store. I’ve precut the parts, and their job will be (with help) to hammer nails into predrilled holes to turn these parts into something that will hold birdseed.
As they get older, the projects and operations will get more complex. They’ll experience taking a big piece of wood and breaking it down into smaller pieces. Matching smaller pieces will all be made the same size, and then these smaller pieces will be connected together in increasingly complex ways to make something pretty and useful. Later, perhaps they’ll want to learn the joy of REALLY working with hand tools, or designing their own creation from scratch. How far they go will be entirely up to them.
In any case, I hope that they’ll reach the point where they at least understand the process. Maybe, one day, they’ll stand in front of some wooden object and say, “I remember helping my grandfather make one of these! Do you know that he would …”
My job will have been done.