The next generation of craftsmen

Blog entry by BillyJ posted 08-14-2012 03:17 AM 5186 reads 0 times favorited 15 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I’ve always heard that “it” always skips a generation. Things like having hair or not, or being smart or not. I’m beginning to believe it is true. My father’s idea of building/constructing/working involved a pencil, paper, and a cigar. True, he purchased tools, but I can count on one hand the times he actually used them.

My grandfather, on the other hand, was apparently a bit better. He worked as a foreman in a shop (picture turn-of-the-century at this point), and died in it (boiler explosion). Both of my sons, despite REPEATED attempts by me, never thought much of manual labor (whether it was actual, physical work, or designing/building something).

I tried, and tired, all of my life, to get them to do things. My youngest said (and still does), that he will hire someone before he would physically work (he’s a computer programmer). My oldest is better, at least he’s not afraid to get dirty and work. However, he is always looking for the fastest, easiest, and shoddiest way to do things. Who cares how it looks, at least it’s done. Now he can go watch football, baseball, or hockey.

I started to learn working skills in middle school. I spent a summer building a cabin in Northern Michigan. I did everything – concrete, framing, sheathing, plumbing, and electrical. If it was required, I did it. By the time I was of legal age to drive (I used to drive to the store as a 14 y.o to pick up cigarettes for me and my teacher), I had a fair amount of knowledge of building things with power tools. Then came my first car.

My father insisted that I take it in to the dealer for an oil change. Fair enough – I didn’t know how to do that, so what the heck. I was working at the Chrysler Sterling Stamping Plant on afternoon shift. I arrived at the dealership with plenty of time to make it to work at 3:30 (or so I thought). Nope, I barely made it to work. The next day I purchased a Chilton manual. It was also the last time anyone worked on my car – for any reason.

Segue to yesterday.

My youngest son, wife, and their son live with us. I’m privileged having my grandson live with us, and that he is interested in things that I’m dong in the shop. Every day he will walk to the shop and tell me it’s time for dinner. Then he looks at what I’m working on and will ask – what are you doing, papa? I take a few minutes to explain what I’m doing, and sometimes will let him shut down the DC with the remote. Last night he came in, asking the same question. This time I let him use a palm sander.

We worked together and clamped the piece of maple to a box.

Next came the safety talk.

We finally got down to the real work – sanding.

Finally, the “finished” product. Time to show his mommy.

He’ll be 4 in November. He is very cautious in the shop; I am always telling him that he can get hurt very bad, and I don’t want that to happen. I guess I’ll need to pick up a pair of safety glasses pretty soon.

I’m hoping that he’ll take interest in making things – I can always use good help in the shop and on the job!

-- No matter how many times I measure, I always forget the dimensions before I cut.

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253 posts in 3932 days

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15 comments so far

View MarkTheFiddler's profile


447 posts in 2897 days

posted 08-14-2012 12:08 PM

Billy, what an awesome story! The pictures are perfect. I can see that you poured into that beautiful child. The final picture tells it all. He is beaming with pride and accomplishment. He will remember that time with grandpa for the rest of his life and tell stories about it when he is older.

I like to say ‘well done’ when people show the product of their skill and talents. This time it’s a matter of the heart. Billy, well done.

-- Working on my home for 2 years and counting.

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

331 posts in 4434 days

posted 08-14-2012 04:31 PM

Fantastic! I think there’s a ton that 4 year olds are capable of, from hammering nails, to simple hand saws, to (with assistance) well clamped pieces on stationary power tools like drill presses.

I’ve also had good luck with a battery powered drill and a pocket hole jig: A clamped work piece and the jig keep the bit contained, all they have to do is pull the trigger and keep the drill from spinning, and an extra hand for assistance can do that.

This weekend I ended up using the circle cutter to cut a few reinforcements for the mast step for our sailboat and I realized that I had enough circles that when the young lad from the neighbors (who said, when I dropped over to help ‘em with their irrigation system, “I don’t like that strange man at our house”) next comes by I can probably have the pieces for a tractor lying around that maybe he can assemble with nails and screws…

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California, http://www.flutterby.net/

View BillyJ's profile


253 posts in 3932 days

posted 08-15-2012 03:57 PM

Thanks guys. I am blessed having my grandkids around, and them being interested in helping papa. This is something I live for; to see their smiles of joy in accomplishing something makes my day.

-- No matter how many times I measure, I always forget the dimensions before I cut.

View GaryL's profile


206 posts in 3461 days

posted 08-16-2012 02:14 AM

That’s awesome Billy! I have the Cub Scouts to my shop a couple times a year for projects and it’s a blast. The hour meeting usually goes into almost two hrs with the boys asking ?’s and wanting to “add” more to their projects.
It’s worth every minute. Of course my son, Evan, acts like the foreman because it “our” shop!..LOL

-- The difference between a pro and an amateur, an amateur points out his mistakes

View J's profile


70 posts in 2871 days

posted 08-23-2012 01:47 AM

Billy, you have posted such a special story here with the Refurbers. I am grateful to you for sharing this part of your life with this community, the pictures (and the story) speak volumes about what is truly important in life. Thank you very much for this.


-- I found the board stretcher... finally!

View MrMeasureTwice's profile


12 posts in 2833 days

posted 08-24-2012 09:35 PM

BillyJ – those pictures are priceless!!! You’re making me jealous… I have a granddaughter, but I told her mom (my daughter) that when Bella is old enough, she’s going fishing with Grandpa, will learn to cut wood and make sawdust and other important stuff. My daughter, she is so sweet, said “Of course Daddy – I would love you to teach her what you know and do” – now all I need to do is wait until Bella is a bit older than three months old…. :-) tick-tock tick-tock… Grandpa’s waitin`

-- -- Jim “Mr. Measure Twice” Marchetti -- http://www.mrmeasuretwice.com/

View BillyJ's profile


253 posts in 3932 days

posted 08-28-2012 12:24 AM

Thanks guys. My grandchildren do mean the world to me.

-- No matter how many times I measure, I always forget the dimensions before I cut.

View DeepCreek's profile


7 posts in 2742 days

posted 12-10-2012 07:38 AM

What a remarkable story. It always brings tears to my eyes seeing the blossoming relationship between a grandfather and his grandson. I hope you will have the opportunity to continuously nurture his interest in making things with his own two hands. I know you are already giving him safety talks, still just a friendly reminder to keep a very close eye on him. It made my heart skip a beat seeing him with what I consider as heavy machinery. All that aside, I look forward to see what else your grandson will be making in the future.

-- Christopher Creek - http://www.deepcreekconstructionschool.com

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