The photo is from 1978. My son, his truck. Behind him, my truck.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Kids and Sawdust

Thursday, June 1, 2000
Some kids are drawn to sawdust. 
And hammers.
And saws.

They grow up building things.  Shelves. 

Go carts.  


This day, June 1, 2000, both of my sons presented projects at school.  Jesse worked with a team of graduate students at Stanford redesigning an automated cow-milking machine.  It was their final project before receiving their Master's degrees.  The team, known as the Cowboys, put their work on display (without cows) in the hallowed halls of the Stanford Engineering Department.  For refreshments, of course, they served milk and cookies.  I don't have a photo of the machine, but I do offer proof that Jesse brought to the project a history of actual hands-on experience (the only team member to do so). 

On this same day Will, a musician, presented a 10-string electric mandolin that he built as a senior project in high school.  It was his own design.  He'd already built two electric guitars and an electric bass, each of his own original design, each an experiment and a learning process. 

Necks thin (left) and thick (right)
I tried to help Will build his first guitar.  He was in eighth grade.  My bias as a carpenter is to overbuild everything - better safe than sorry - so I decided to improve on his plans by cutting the neck 3/16 inch thicker than he'd drawn it.  As a result, whenever any musician picks up that guitar, the first comment is always: "The neck is too thick."  I play guitar myself, so I should have known better.  The thickness is crucial because you wrap your fingers around the neck to form chords.  I ruined his guitar.  Bad daddy.  Since then, I don't try to help.

Two independent boys who like to get their hands dirty and create original designs.  Am I proud of them?  You bet.

It all starts with freedom to play and to build, a grounding in the real world (with real cows), a childhood lived in sawdust.

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