George’s Christmas Gift

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!

39 thoughts on “George’s Christmas Gift”

    1. Losing a dog is one of the hardest feeling to cope with. My wife and I have had three an now have a fourth. When the last one had to be put down my wife and I thought that we would wait a while to grieve. But we couldn’t live without one. Now have Tebow, an Australian Cattle dog. Complete once again, but still have great memories of our last three.

  1. Yeah. I haven’t been doing any woodworking lately. But I want to. I am here to keep hope going by looking at someone who is using their life purposefully and wanting to enthuse others to – and I appreciate the energy given to it.

    1. I understand about losing your canine best friend, I’ve had to go through that a number of times in my 50 years on Earth, and it never gets easier. What’s even worse, I am coming to find out is losing your parents. I am single and always have been, but because of my lifelong struggle with kidney disease, my parents have been my world. I lost my Mother to cancer on November 16th of this year and I feel like my Father isn’t far behind her.
      I have always loved working with wood. In fact for the better part of my working years, it’s what I did by choice until I got to the point of not being able to compete with the young bucks. It was then that I took up an interest in the patience and artistry side of the field and when I found you, Paul. Your Youtube channel and books have given me an entirely new outlook on my abilities. But when my parents began going down hill combined with my own limitations from my disease, I got out of practice with my new skills. Hopefully, I will be able to get back in the swing of things before God calls me home, but I felt that I had to tell you at least once, Thank you from the bottom of my soul for giving me the priceless gift of knowledge and how to work in the old ways Mr.Sellers. And one day, you will see your Boxer friend again, I am sure of that.

      1. Hello Bert, I am sorry to hear of your loss and the disease too. These are indeed hard to live through. Truth is though, we do get through it and we have the fondest memories to bolster us when we feel down. Take each day and make the best of it, for “tomorrow has enough troubles of its own.” Best wishes, Paul

  2. Thank you George for taking time to encourage a lad that will go on to encourage thousands, when I see one or our workshop members take an interest in a specific tool or technique I do all I can to see he/she gets their own tool to own an use,

  3. Success

    To laugh often and much
    To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of little children
    To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends
    To appreciate beauty
    To find the best in others
    To leave the world a little better place than we found it …
    whether by a healthy child
    a garden patch
    or a redeemed social condition
    To know that even one life breathed easier because you lived.
    THIS is to have succeeded.

    Variously attributed to authors:
    Bessie Anderson Stanley
    Henry David Thoreau

  4. You never know the difference you may make in the life of another. I also love and appreciate your comments on what makes a Dad. Good lessons for us all. God bless.

  5. I look on proudly of my own son as he has exceeded my expectations as a young man in music and out of it. His own musicianship surpassed mine early last year and his knowledge is about to as well. He doesn’t work with me in my shop and I think soon will as his interest begins to grow and the machines are slowly leaving the shop and being replaced by myself as the machine.

  6. Such a lovely story, life experiences when young shape the adult. I wish there were a lot more Georges out there. Kindness in this day and age is taken as weakness.

  7. I hate to tell you Paul but at the rate I am able to practice this craft which you are teaching, it’s going to be a long time before you are not needed…. if you think your not needed just go read the forums….. lots of teaching still needed. 🙂

    it is sad to lose a fury friend. I lost two just this year. I now have two young pups to great me and wear me out opening the front door for them….

  8. Paul, I always look forward to your blogs about George. You really should compile them into a book. He obviously took a very keen interest in you personally and had a profound impact on your life. Thanks for sharing.

  9. “The art of being a good dad and father is to work yourself out of a job.”
    Couldn’t agree more, thank you.

  10. Paul.

    This is a season for remembrances. Thank you for keeping the memory of a good man alive. Here’s wishing a wonderful Christmas & New Year to you and yours.

    1. You posted your blog on December 15, my birthday. I have had many dogs in my childhood and as an adult. They are forever devoted friends and never leave one’s side whether in good times or bad. Their devotion is constant. Wanted to let you know that I think I understand your loss whether it happened a long time ago or in the recent past. The memory of a devoted dog lingers quite awhile. It remains in our thoughts a long time, maybe for the rest of our lives. Though each pet’s love is unique, there is always a new friend ready to be your friend. Hope you adopt another dog soon.
      Joyce Parker
      Hays, Kansas

  11. Losing a dog is such a heart rending experience — can’t imagine what it would be like to lose a child. I carry the remembrance of dogs we have lost as warmly as I do of lost parents, grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, etc. Such a great story about George’s compassion, and knowing something would cheer you up, but never replace the friend you lost, Paul.
    I haven’t been doing much hand tool work late — in the middle of renovating a kitchen made 40 years ago with plywood cabinets, doors, and fronts (much of it is furniture grade birch — the interiors have been painted, which brightens them up, face frames have been replaced with solid wood, and new drawers are being made. There are also 15-16 doors to be made, and that will get me back to the hand tools as I cut all the mortise and tenons, as well as dadoes by hand with the tools Paul has taught me to use.
    Thank you for the post and a Happy Christmas and New Year to all.

  12. Good morning, Paul! I spent my weekend in the shop working on last minute Christmas gifts for family…as I was pushing a plane across some spalted maple, two voices sounded in my head urging, guiding my progress. The calm, soothing tones of my grandfather usually find my ear when I am in my shop; he didn’t disappoint. The second was more contemporary, but sage to be sure, and I’m finding that familiar voice more frequently these days…thanks for your quiet reassurance and sage counsel, Paul. My family members are wholly unaware of the quiet man with the British accent behind their gifts!

  13. Mr. Sellers, you should write a book about your experiences with George and your apprenticeship. It would be a wonderful read and a lot of life lessons.

    1. To me, I see it in my mind as Harriot’s book “All Creatures Great and Small.” It would also make for a wonderful tv series about a bygone time much like “All Creature’s Great and Small” was.

  14. Paul,

    Please do a window project on Woodworkingmasterclasses.
    I would like to include windows with sashes in my projects.

  15. Loxmyth (Joe K.)

    I’ve said this many times, many places, so you may have heard it before… but I still think it’s one of the best ways to think about losing a pet:

    We don’t have them long enough.
    But they have us all their lives.

  16. “Many who have attended my courses through the years, many of my apprentices and now too many on line, no longer need me.”….. not true Paul.
    We definitely still need you.

  17. Thank you Paul, I read all the “George” posts I could find last night and have been remembering all the “George’s” in my past. I am thankful to have been born long ago enough to have as mentors men who would be well over 100 today and had the patience to teach someone who could keep his mouth shut and ears open.

  18. I am so sorry to hear of your friend’s loss I can understand as thru out my life I too have lost good friends and I still miss all of them. Other than that I hope you have a Merry Christmas.

  19. Paul,
    I am so sorry for your loss of a great companion.
    You have been George to many people, myself included. I am especially proud when our children and grandchildren come to me and say they have been able to use the tools or ideas I was able to teach them. I have really enjoyed working with our granddaughter Jessica in the past few weeks in her craft work. We have had a great time together. Now she will be able to pass some of our knowledge on to her son. What a legacy!
    Thank you Paul, Happy Birthday January 4th, and Merry Christmas

    1. Thanks for that, Joe. I do love hearing from people putting into practice these lessons with their family. That’s what it’s all about.

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