The Master Woodbutcher's
Own Story

I was born in Western New York (Jamestown) and grew up in a couple of small towns there until my parents tired of the snow and cold and moved to Florida. I lived for 13 years in Hollywood and then five years in Jacksonville when the FAA hired me in 1968. I met my best friend there where we married in 1970.

Her odyssey to get there merits a brief mention. She is from Beamsville, Ontario, a mere 100 crow miles from Jamestown. She took nursing in Hamilton, anesthesia at Mayo's in Rochester, MN, and then moved to Jacksonville to work with a former classmate—a long way to travel to meet who she thought would be Mr. Right, but who she now describes as Mr. Always Right.

In 1973 we moved to Aurora, Illinois, I still doing air traffic control, and her nursing off and on between raising two kids. The next 26 years were humdrum, day-by-day, raise the kids, go to work, kill some time in the shop, paint the fence, mow the lawn, middle years. In 1997 we both retired (I was 51!) and it's been a blast since.

I have enjoyed flying, photography, writing, cycling, amateur radio, and woodworking for various parts of my life. Although aviation is the only thing I was ever truly a professional at, I take the pursuit of knowledge very seriously and try never to forget a lesson. So the experience totals are: 45+ years of woodworking, 40+ years amateur radio, 33 years flying, 30 years ATC, and about the same in all the rest. I guess I'm too poor to try anything new! (Well, computers…yes, poor!)

Okay, background over, let's talk woodworking. My father was one of those people who could fix anything. He also loved learning and dabbled in art, carving, and music, as well as woodworking. Being a product of the depression and a schoolteacher, he never had a lot of tools, and none really first rate. I guess some of his talents rubbed off on me, because I can fix anything and love woodworking. But that minimalist shop has cost me dearly! Read on…

He and I used to work together on projects. It was very weird. We could work for hours without saying a word. I would start a task and he knew just when I needed assistance and would move to help. I would be able to anticipate his needs and could move to assist, also. I've never had that with anyone else.

As I got out on my own I started putting together tools, particularly the ones we never had at home that I had lusted after for years. I have amassed a nice selection, hand and power, gradually replacing the beginner Craftsman stuff with real tools. A lesson that I learned that I preach often is buy what the contractors buy. When your living depends on your tools, you can't tolerate crap.

Another lesson I learned (first from amateur radio) is that I don't have nearly as much interest in building the furniture or cabinets (or operating the radio) as I do in getting the shop (or radio shack) built, setup, organized, equipped, fine-tuned, upgraded, etc. I guess you could say I am as much a tool collector as I am a woodworker.

I appreciate excellence in any endeavour and those of you who have achieved it in woodworking have my highest admiration. Those who are just starting and truly want to learn are next on the list. I think learning is the most important thing in life. I've always felt that a day I didn't learn something was incomplete.

Finally, the last lesson I'll mention has probably been repeated on the various woodworking fora many times; I first heard it on a woodworking mailing list (but learned it years ago) and I truly believe it—buy the best, only cry once.

The original retirement plan was a move to North Carolina or Tennessee where I had hoped to have a 1000 ft2 shop. Along the way our plans changed. We did a little time in South Florida near my mother, but we had to get out of there—we wound up in Northeast Florida—again. I only have about 500 ft2 of shop, but it'll still be the largest one I've had.

I used to sign myself as Master Woodbutcher because I am very good at not doing very good, but someone failing to get the joke once took me to task so I didn't for a while, then someone else (far more clever) said, “the hell with him; it's cute.” So I do again. Clearly the theme of this entire site is The Master Woodbutcher.

Last updated: 27 January 2009

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