I remember feeling down when I climbed through the latch gate at the workshop that morning. I’m not a sad person but my boxer dog had died in the night, from old age. No more Bingo. I missed his early morning walks first thing and his ready and steady welcoming when he lifted himself from the warmth in front of the kitchen coal stove to greet me. His spine would twist like a snake down to his docked tail. It was a sad day and I felt nothing could fill the void of losing my rescued friend.
This morning I thought about George catching me with tears in my eyes that mid morning.
“What’s wrong, Paul?”
‘My dog died in the night.’
“Oh, I am sorry, Paul!” George said.
We continued planing the massive window frame as the snow fell outside. I was fitting the sashes and hanging them in the frame. I liked this part of the work. We’d made the sashes the previous week and I had made them an eighth of an inch (3mm) over size by mistake. There were twenty oversized sashes and the only way to fix the problem was to use rebate planes on all four rebates to each sash. I didn’t own a #78 so I had to use Georges and we kept exchanging the plane throughout the day. Fitting a sash was quite a job as the sashes were indeed double rebated and we used recessed cranked hinges to hinge them to the frames. As we worked towards lunchtime I noticed that George had disappeared somewhere half an hour before lunch.
Sitting in the ‘bandsaw circle’ — the place we all sat on shop-made stools for our lunch break– the bandsaw circled between us all, we sat with the usual chatter and banter solving the world’s issues. When we had all eaten George stood up and passed me a brown paper parcel tied with jute string and a lable. I read the lable that said, “Sorry about your dog but have a happy Christmas!” It was signed by the men. Inside the package was a Stanley #78 plane in its yellowy-orange cardboard box. It was just what I needed to lift my spirits.
George and I spent an hour fettling the plane with me doing the work and him showing me where to file, sand and sharpen. Assembling the plane felt awkward to me back then but soon I had shavings shooting up and out from the throat in profusion.
There is never any compensation for losing your first dog, but he’d been my friend for a number of years and we had enjoyed our life together. The kindnesses George always showed to me became a reference for me as I moved on through life. With my own plane to work with on the rebates the work seemed to go twice as fast for us and I so enjoyed the empowerment it gave to me. George was quite young but I know now that the art of being a good dad and father is to work yourself out of a job. So too the master and the apprentice. Many who have attended my courses through the years, many of my apprentices and now too many on line, no longer need me. This is how I measure my success!