Building Things

Sunday I built a table. OK maybe a bench would be more accurate. OK maybe I should say that I nailed a bunch of wood together, dropped a section of counter top (it used to be in my kitchen but I replaced it) and am hoping it will hold up under the weight of power tools I am putting on top of it. I have more of these what ever they are to put together because I have other power tools that I need better places to put. Better than sitting on the floor in boxes that is.

I’m not a carpenter. I am not a skilled craftsman by any definition. But I do like to work with wood. Some of my projects come out pretty well. Others, well, not as well. I need practice and could probably benefit from some actual training by someone who really knows what they are doing. Time though is a problem. So I try to figure things out for myself. I read some books. Watch some videos. But mostly I rely on the training I got in high school some 40 years ago. I had a one semester course in patternmaking as a high school freshman. I later had a course in foundry, one in metal work (lathes, drills, etc.), and some sheet metal work. All in all little more than a taste of things. But I learned some concepts and they stuck with me. The high school I attended was an engineering magnet school and these were concepts and practices that were considered important for would be engineers. We also took drafting BTW. With pencils, straight edges and other hand utensils. I learned a lot from that as well.

In of of these classes (in drafting we drew things we later built) we made things. Tangible things. Hard things. Things you could carry. I wonder if we don’t do that enough anymore. Somehow making things makes concepts more real. It is one thing to tell someone that you need angled patterns so that they will come out of the form neatly so  that you can pour molten metal in afterwards and quite enough to have a mold fall apart and be unusable because you didn’t follow the rules.It is one thing to hear about how things are made and quite another to try and do it yourself. The act of creating physical objects is a powerful learning tool.

These days I make things mostly for fun. For my own amusement. I could spend a lot more money and get things professionally built. In some ways, perhaps most ways, those objects would  be prettier, more efficient, quicker to get and generally do the job better. But sometimes, just sometimes, there is more satisfaction in having an ugly, barely functional piece of construction that you really don’t want to show anyone but that solves a need and is something that you built yourself. There is something really satisfying about the process of creation. That is something else I wonder if we allow children enough of. Or do we stop at the building blocks level?

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