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.  

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