Happy Woodworking As We Age - Popular Woodworking Magazine

Happy Woodworking As We Age

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I’ve been woodworking or around woodworking for nearly 35 years. Over many of those years I had the pleasure of working with my father. I think it’s what has kept both of us younger than our driver’s licenses indicate. That’s because the space between our ages remains constant. It’s both a boon and a burden.

It’s a boon just due to the fact that I can say I’ve spent many days, weeks and years working beside my Dad, soaking up his knowledge and growing to understand how he sees things in life. If you have that opportunity, or can allow your children to have that chance, by all means take advantage.

The burden part comes because I don’t really feel the age I am , and that tends to be a problem. If you don’t feel your age, you have a propensity to jump from a workbench to the floor after adjusting clamps on a large case piece, instead of climbing down slowly. A recent jump sent a hotwire to my brain telling me my knees aren’t what the used to be.

Another negative about working with someone over an extended number of years is that we get to watch them age, as they get to watch us. My Dad is getting older and he’ll be the first to admit it. In doing so, I have seen him struggle with a few items in woodworking , mainly because he has lost his hand strength.

Being in the later stages of life, he’s seen many things come and go; he stays with what he knows (that whole new trick/old dog thing). With the ages of baby boomers getting up there as well, I think this is a common problem in which many woodworkers will have an interest.

Dad learned to woodwork using handscrews, so he plans to continue that same path. But, as his hand strength diminishes, he’s come to realize he cannot tighten the clamps the way he did before. He can’t get a grip on the handles in order to turn them fully. In order to compensate, we renovated the handles of the old handscrews.

Quite simply, we drilled a 23/64″ hole through the handle and drove a 3/8″ wooden dowel into the hole. The smaller hole keeps the dowel from sliding out and him from spending time looking for the runaway dowels. The extra piece supplied the torque he needed to make the clamps work.

Either the manufacturers are seeing this too or Bessey just happened to stumble onto a clamp that takes this same problem into account. They have the Kliklamp on the market. This clamp has been out for a while but Bessey has not spent the advertising budget to let us know.

The Kliklamp looks like an F-style clamp with another arm attached. To operate the clamp, open the arm fully by moving it away from the clamp’s main bar, slip the jaws onto the material, then pull the arm back in the opposite direction. You’ll hear a clicking noise as the clamp ratchets tight. Dad likes the way this clamp works (as will other woodworking old-timers). It doesn’t take hand strength to make it happen.

I know I’ve demonstrated only two solutions to what I anticipate as a growing problem. I’m betting you have a few ideas of your own. If you have another solution , or even a different problem associated with woodworking while getting older , let me know. Click the comment box and add your example or solution. And as we compile a list please pass these along to those who might benefit. Everyone wants to continue woodworking for as long as they can. And I’ll makes sure Dad  sees them!

, Glen D. Huey

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Showing 2 comments
  • Chris C.

    How about hauling sheet goods around? I’m not as good
    at tossing around 80lb sheets of MDF as I used to be.

    What I do is, armed with the rough dimensions of
    a project, cut as much of it down with an 18V circular
    saw right in the parking lot. I’m sure I look a little
    weird doing that, but my back appreciates not having
    to lug 4×8 sheets into my workshop 150 feet from
    the driveway.

    Plus, I don’t have to worry about a gust of wind grabing
    the sheet just as I am walking through my yard. I swear
    I almost got airbourne one time when that happened!


  • Jim Voos

    You are very lucky to share a passion for woodworking with your Dad. I envy you! My Dad was never much for woodworking, in fact he borrowed my belt sander once to "refinish" the front door. Let’s just say it went from a traditional style to distressed!

    I have a two year old daughter now, and I am not sure she will share a passion for woodworking either, although I know quite a few talented women woodworkers who have a great sense of design.

    Anyway, enjoyed your comments.


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