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The other night, my son sent off his first application for college, and it made me think about who he has turned out to be. When he was small, he enjoyed hanging out in the shop and making things. I enjoyed the time we spent together, and I wanted him to learn about woodworking so I put a coping saw and a spokeshave in his hands and helped him make toy guns and boats. He showed a lot of promise with his Pine Wood Derby cars and a model of a Star Wars land speeder. He became interested in other things, but what he learned stuck with him; he knows how to use tools, he understands the process of making stuff, and now and then he returns to the shop to make something he needs. He may not share my passion for working with wood, but he has picked up some good qualities from being around it. Because he lives with me, he really can’t escape it.

It’s hard to avoid my passion for wood in our house, almost all of the furniture in the place was made by me, and I think that the exposure to an environment of nice, handmade furniture has made a difference in my son’s attitudes and outlook on life. Gustav Stickley wrote about the influence of the home environment on children. His argument was that the things we surround ourselves with have an influence on our character, and on the values of our kids. When I first read that more than 20 years ago, it made sense, but it was all academic. From my current vantage point, I can see proof of it in a kid who has turned out pretty well.

When Hunter was two or three he outgrew his crib and started sleeping on the floor. So I made him the bed that he still sleeps in. He will likely have it until he gets married because it’s too solid to break and too nice to throw away. Earlier this year the desk we bought him when he was nine began to fall apart, and when we talked about the options for replacing it, he decided the best choice was to make his own. Not many kids today think like that. The option of making something yourself so that you can have something nicer than you can buy is an empowering one.  He has attitudes and values that entered his life from the things that were around him as he grew up. This isn’t anything that I consciously taught him, it’s stuff that rubbed off along the way.

The things we make as woodworkers are much more than objects to fill our homes. The furniture I make is more than wood; it also contains parts of me and the lessons that I learned from my dad and his dad. When I’m gone, my son will be stuck with all these things that I made. In addition to the physical stuff, he’ll also carry other things that aren’t so obvious but are ultimately more important. Hunter sits everyday at the desk he made, and he also built the computer he uses. He spends a lot of time there and I think that will make a difference in his life. That’s not just any desk, or any computer; they are different because they are the product of his efforts. And because of those efforts, he’s not just any kid.

– Robert W. Lang


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Showing 4 comments
  • Trevor Smith

    This is a great story! Hunter, congratulations on the completion of a great project. And, congratulations to you Robert on your life long example to your son. I bet his friends are envious that he can build his own furniture when he chooses to. There are things that young people can learn through doing that they do not get while sitting at a desk or behind a computer. I look forward to reading about more projects built by Hunter.

    Trevor

  • Eric

    You & your wife did a good job with him Robert.

  • Rob Porcaro

    Bob,

    Thank you for sharing some of your home life.

    I agree, the objects we make carry importance beyond their usefullness or beauty because they contain an investment of some of each maker’s spirit. Personal connections are made via these objects, especially within a family.

    Bob, in case no one has said it lately, I’ll say it here, as a fellow woodworker but moreso as a fellow family guy: GOOD JOB.

    Good luck to Hunter.

    Rob

    To Chris C: I agree.

  • Chris C

    I think kids are too involved in consumptive behavior. They consume
    too much of everything: food, gizmos, tv, and most especially other
    people’s thoughts.

    Craft work is inherently a productive pursuit. you actually put
    out an effort and produce something real as a result. It is a much healthier
    way to go. There are a lot of other factors, but if you can get
    your kid to be a producer rather than a consumer you are on the
    right track.

    Chris

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