When I walked into the shop at Kelly Mehler’s School of Woodworking this morning at 8:24 a.m., the place was a wreck. The students were fitting their joints among piles of shavings and sawdust and joking with one another.
The radio was on (they have a radio?) and playing a Bob Marley tune.
This, I thought, is the day we go off the rails and into the high weeds. This calamity happens with some classes, and it actually never surprises me. After all, most amateur woodworkers aren’t accustomed to 10-hour days on their feet, lifting 300-pound tops all day and my peculiar brand of fecal-based humor.
So I got a cup of coffee and waited for something to happen. Or, more likely, nothing to happen.
It’s 11:02 p.m., and I just walked the narrow bridge from the school to the Sunday House where I’m staying. We glued up all 10 workbenches – in one flipping day. The students kept at it all day, helping one another fit and assemble the benches – it takes four or five people to do it right.
We stopped for dinner after gluing up six benches. I felt pretty good about that number – six. And I thought the students would fall asleep on the nice deck on the back of the school with the cool breeze wafting though their smelly armpits.
But no. We just kept going. Each assembly got easier. Each bench looked better than the one before it. After we glued up the last student’s bench, I gathered up my tools.
One of the students said: “What about Kelly’s bench? Can’t we do that?”
Kelly has been building a bench alongside the students that will be used by the school. The parts needed some tune-ups before assembly, but all the students jumped on it and the glue was flowing within minutes.
At that point, I was just playing along with the mob. If someone had suggested we go lynch someone at the jail, I probably would have joined in.
— Christopher Schwarz
Read the other stories in this series:
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