I’ve been getting some really wonderful responses to my call for memorable shop tales and favorite reminiscences (for possible inclusion of Vol 2 of my Tips book). Here’s the first one I received, from reader Steve Stroh.
If you have a story, email me
My Dad had jars of misc. bolts, screws, etc. He always had a set of old newspapers tucked into the corner of the workbench. When he needed a bolt or screw or nut, he got the appropriate jar down, unfolded the newspaper, and poured out the jar onto the newspaper. After he found the hardware he needed, he just folded the newspaper up and poured the contents back into the jar. It was very efficient and neat.
My favorite workshop memory from my childhood was the summer we built a small, 2-story playhouse for the back yard. My late Dad was the manager, but us boys did all the work, sawing, nailing, etc. We did it during that summer’s evenings. Dad took advantage of being in the garage to smoke a cigar, and his venerable old Zenith tube radio (that he’d had since he was a kid) was on the corner of the workbench usually playing the Detroit Tigers baseball game (we lived about two hours away from Detroit, and were within perfect reception range of WJR AM 760, a powerhouse AM broadcaster in Detroit. Dad got to teach us basic woodworking - we used hand saws mostly, though he did teach us how to use the table saw), drilling (manual and electric). It was a lot of fun, and I can still picture it as I write this to you.
My favorite current workshop memory is that when we moved into our previous house, my late Father In Law found a stash of solid core doors that had been left behind in the basement. He used one of them to make a workbench, using some old steel workbench legs that he had stashed away. It was sturdy, and serviceable, and even though now, a couple of decades later, I could easily afford a bigger and better workbench, I can’t bear to part with it. I think of him every time I use it.
I passed that basic familiarity with tools and techniques to my daughter, who isn’t afraid to tackle most small projects. She’s handier with tools than most of her friends, and especially her new boyfriend, which he takes in good grace and lets her teach him.