My First Woodworking Project!

When I completed this letter holder in 7th grade woodshop, I had no idea that I'd end up as an editor at a woodworking magazine. In those days, woodshop was one of three manual training classes that all boys in the Cedar Rapids, Iowa public schools had to complete (print shop and metal shop were the other two required classes). Girls, of course, were assigned to "home economics" classes.
This project introduced us to working with hand tools. We had to plane the rough board and joint the edges, lay out, rip and crosscut the three pieces, true the ends and chamfer the edges with a block plane, sand the pieces, glue and clamp them, and brush on the shellac finish. We were allowed to choose from walnut, cherry or poplar. As you can see, I chose poplar (this choice could be classified as the first blunder of my woodworking career).
I received a "C" for my completed project. On the grading sheet, Mr. Willits, my woodshop instructor (who was rumored to pitch blocks of wood at students who weren't paying attention), wrote that the pieces weren't cut squarely, so the ends didn't align flush, and that my careless sanding had rounded the 45