I decided not to use the name of the disease sweeping the world because of the negative connotations we conjure up in our minds thinking about it. I want to tell a story about the last six months that will ultimately span around 35 years from today. It’s too long for a single blog but I hope some of my history will interest everyone. Of course, it’s about the life of a man woodworking. I’m skipping the first two decades of my work-life as a woodworker and furniture maker for now. That’s a book yet to get beyond mere manuscript, but it’ll come in time.
In 1983 I began an application to migrate to the USA. That’s a long story in and of itself. It came from a thought I had that a new life could be had from a decision to move across the globe and so I sold up lock, stock and barrel to cross the Atlantic ocean. It actually took 3 1/2 years to settle the matter as there was such a demand from around the world to migrate to the new world and in November 1986 I was welcomed by an immigration official in Dallas, Texas to the USA.
My early days began with a choppy start. Picture a single seater plane with a novice beginner at the controls lifting and plummeting along a runway in a jagged line left to right and up and down. I’d sold everything to do this and having a family brought on the added responsibility of having no choice but to make everything work. My new career stateside began down near the Mexican border just north of Uvalde, Texas where I built my home and workshop in a remote, dead-end canyon in a hamlet called Reagan Wells. It was here that I learned of the unique combination love and hate, hospitality and bitter feuding can play in the lives of the few. It was here that I had to claw back the lost efforts in trial and error and rebuild a new future beneath many a day of hostile summer suns. I embraced each and every one of the challenges.
The passage was indeed a rocky road but then Texas is known as the rite of passage for rugged individualism and independence. This makes it the Lone Star State and the only US state than can fly its flag at the same height as the US flag. You might from time to time see the state flag flying higher than the US flag. There are still the odd rebelsn here and there that cherish the thoughts of being independence even though there is no such thing.
Texas became my home for over two decades. Two of my boys were born there and another became a US citizen as soon as he could. I never did because of some complexities. I wish I had but then I most likely could not have taken the new and exciting journey that began back 2009 when I returned here to live.
Starting over was not easy either. In the states I was well known and established. Here in the UK, I was a relative unknown although known. Writing for US magazines gave me some fame, but I so hated my hand tool writings being used as new wallpaper alongside advertisements for power equipment. It paid the bills for a while but as soon as I could I stopped writing for them and started my own writing on my blog and elsewhere. I will most likely never write for another magazine. They’re not my way anymore. By this I think we can be true to ourselves. We don’t need to compromise ourselves by selling to the highest bidder.
My blog has become a lovely place for the kindnesses of woodworkers to be. Here, I can work my passion and pass on the important skills garnered and gathered from my five decades in the saddle without sullying the work I do with adverts, sponsorship and any of many other unequal yokes.
Anyway, here I am looking back through my history here on earth and thinking I lived my life as a woodworker promoting real woodworking and a lived lifestyle of doing it. You don’t have to be a fulltime woodworker to be a woodworker. Part time is great fun and enjoyment comes in the punchiness of compactness. A good half day can be better than a full time week, in my view.
In the USA I lived and worked locally to my home. The furthest workshop was quarter of a mile ( .402 kilometers) away. A five minute walk. In 1988 I taught my first hand tool workshop for the Texas State Arts and Crafts Foundation. I loved it and from this introduction to willing classful of participants I began writing curriculum for a foundational course. It was somewhat rough and ready to begin with but it worked so perfectly I continued writing and drawing every spare minute I could. Remember that I continued to work and sell my work for the next 20 years but that during that time I started a woodworking school to teach hand tool woodworking courses.
I will fill in some of the blanks between then and now as this series goes but today and this past week I started to think about the path forward and the changes we made through the recent events of the past six months.
Joseph and I were talking this last weekend about how in January we knew nothing of what would unfold two months later. How we planned one thing and ended up with many others. Soon I would be filming myself making and putting the results out on YouTube in a series of ten — not my comfort zone at all. We talked of how we had steelworkers in to create a stairway to a lesser-used area.
After the steel workers came the electricians to install the extended electricity we needed and also the lights to light our way throughout the winter when the roof light lighting stops working so well.
I didn’t know back then that I would actually find the time to at last categorise many hundreds of my tools. . .
. . . or how the large portion of our building might be dedicated to printing machines like these.
This was very far from our minds in January, but we worked out a way to regenerate some of my earliest works that will be printed on our own presses as it were.
I will be telling this and other stories as I progress this series. My woodworking life is filled with many wonderful things. Rest assured, my life will always be about teaching others about my craft. Why? I feel the continued need to ameliorate what I began waking up to when I migrated. The work I began in the USA back in 1987 became a life ambition and that was when I saw the decimating onslaught of my craft by a machining world of so-called progress. Strong language? Well, back then I never in ten years there saw anyone who used hand tools except to clean out glue. I know they were there, but they had indeed all but gone. That is not the case today. Hence, I wrote over 24 how-to’s on hand tool woodworking along with projects like my rocking chair above that are now back in our hands. The story will unfold!