Thursday, March 24, 2011
Make Something of Yourself
Updated from a March 2011 post.
Have you ever wanted to make something? To contribute a useful object to the existing stock of reality? My grandfather was a builder of bookcases, cabinets, tinkered with engines and machinery. I inherited his wooden workbench complete with a vice, and cubby holes. And with it was a collection of vintage tools. The picture above are three of his measuring tools: a Starrett and a 4" precision ruler with a Stanley boxwood and brass folding ruler in the middle.
Building a treehouse for my daughter was among the most satisfying things I've ever done. Find a site, draw the design, and buy the materials. Every day I was building it, I went to sleep thinking about the next task: hammering nails, shingling a roof, and painting the siding. The treehouse still stands unlike a lot of things where I've expended effort only to end with something abstract or amorphous.
This is a short list of authors who express the satisfaction of making something from start to finish: one house, one ship, and one motorcycle. Updated with a another house and a coffin.
1. A Place of My Own: The Education of an Amateur Builder, Michael Pollan (1997). I admire this book for the careful details described in the writing but also for what the author accomplishes--a snug "dream hut" in the woods. Bought as a remainder.
2. Spartina, John Casey (1989). John Casey's novel about a Rhode Island fisherman struggling to build a fishing boat in his back yard. It goes against my bias to include only non-fiction on my lists. The thing about boats is that when you're on them, they are your self contained world. If it's a boat you made, it's your self-made world. Bought new read for a book club selection.
3. Rebuilding the Indian: A Memoir, Fred Haefele (1998). The author couldn't get his book published and as a diversion bought a box of parts to a 1941 Indian Chief Motorcycle. Haefele is an arborist by profession who describes his experience-- and anyone else who has ever tinkered or built something--as "the spirit of the backyard Daedalus." Bought as a remainder.
Another exception to my list are two books I don't yet own but are on my wish list of "Want to Read" books by David Giffels...
4. All the Way Home: Building a Family in a Falling-Down House, David Giffels (2008). Described as a funny, poignant, and confounding journey as he and his wife and a colorful collection of helpers turn a money pit into a house that will complete their family.
5. Furnishing Eternity: A Father, a Son, a Coffin, and a Measure of Life, David Giffels (2018). A book that combines the larger questions of life, heirloom tools, and carpentry. As of this post, I've ordered.