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By Dick Schuller
Homespun Yarns 

A carpenter can't get bored with old give-away boards


The scene: The day after I was retired as a carpenter-builder now at coffee with my dear wife.

Me: Look honey, I desperately need a bigger shop now. At last I can forget deadlines on the job and haggling with customers. And I want to buy some decent tools for the new shop.

She: But sweet, you have a nice shop. With no more deadlines and haggling customers, you don’t need a bigger shop.

Me: I struggled all those years working out of a shoe-box carpenter shop, not much bigger than a single car garage.

She: So why do you need a 20-car garage now? I know, you can enlarge the present shop. Maybe add on six or eight feet. OK?

Me: (I’m getting through to her at last.) Six or eight feet?

She: Sure. With that addition you’ll have a large shop if you throw away all those dusty old boards you’ve been saving. Burn them! How about a giant weenie roast?

Me: Be serious! You know how valuable a good board is, even though it may be short in length. I...I...just can’t throw a good board into the wood stove. Might need it someday.

She: Your present shop is...what... 20 by 24 feet?

Me: Right. Something like that. And I’ve always been embarrassed when my carpenter friends drop by.

She: What did you have in mind for size?

Me: (I pause, smiling—my ammunition is working!) Well, it should be at least 40 by 60 feet. That would give me plenty of room for my new power tools.

She: 40 by 60?! Why, that’s bigger than our house! Let’s build it!

Me: Really?

She: Sure go ahead. We can use the house for your new shop, and we can move into the new structure.

Me: Very, very funny!

I will spare the kind reader the conclusion of this discussion. I have found that even though we have had an exceptionally happy marriage, it takes time to frame up a good reason for a new, expensive tool or in this case, a bigger shop.

She did have a valid point that my shop had many old boards leaning against the walls and hung overhead on racks. When I had finished a building job, my customers often asked, “Can you use these extra boards?”

The answer was always, “Yes!”

To me, a board represents a type of wealth, like gold coins, silver bullion or folding dollars. It’s real. It’s there and it’s usable. An old board is even more valuable as the quality of new materials becomes more laughable each year.

It took a long time and many serious discussions, but eventually my wife saw the wisdom of a bigger shop. It wasn’t what I had envisioned, but it was new and larger.

Understand, the new one was no Olympic-sized arena, a mere 24 by 40 square foot structure. But I was proud of it and I quietly carried in my host of old boards, my friends.

My hobby of building Victorian birdhouses from weathered wood and carving sculptured birds from hardwood presented a new problem. I was straining, trying to keep the shop uncluttered.

My shop nearly shrank in half one day from a call from a friend with the teaser, “Do I have a big surprise for you!”

Driving into my friend’s ranch yard, I was startled to see his magnificent 100-year-old barn leaning nearly to the ground. This 30’ by 80’ structure had been his pride of ownership; a fierce wind the night before had nearly leveled the barn. The place had been built with local Ponderosa pine, but now each board had the patina and weathered groves I loved to have for my bird houses. My friend came out shaking his head as he eyes his dying barn.

“She’s all yours, Dick!” he offered with a sigh.

I knew I couldn’t take all the boards home into my shop. In time, my wife even came out to help tear out boards. The velvety boards with deeply weathered patterns showed moss and age. I loved every one of them. She would always be ready to call it quits for the day, and I’d insist on a few more.

Yes, my new dream shop is getting smaller each month. But there is hope. I’ve laid secret plans for a rather large addition.

My wife just doesn’t know it yet!


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