Yesterday I notice the bookcase I'd made n high school. Dusty, but
just as solid as the day it was finished. I guess you could say this is
a tale of how it was done. This has strung out longer than I had
figured on, so I'm sure some of you will want to skip this. No prob.
This was isn '53 or '54, not sure which the new school was
finished. So I was probably 13 at the time, just starting the 9th
grade. Befoe then the only power tool we'd been allowed to operate was
the belt/disc sander. The one with grit about the size of road gravel.
It did a very nce job of taking the tip of one finger off while I was
flat sanding a piece of wood. You can bet I've never pulled that stunt
The teacher was new too, very experienced you could tell, he had
part of one hand missing. He showed us how to use the table saw,
demonstrated what kickback was, none of us had kickback while I was
tere, and I've never had once since. He also showed us how to use the
metal lathe, milliing machine (both huge commercial models), wood lathe,
huge bansaw, gas and arc welders. We'd already learned forging a year
or two before.
This was when he also taught us about draftng and design. Drafting
is like many things, easy and fast to learn, and years to really becme
skilled. But he did a great job of teaching us basics, perspectives,
scale, and all the really imporant technical detais, or at least a
working knowldge of them - T-square, triangles, French curve, the whole
nine yards. None of this of all the class finishing at the saee time
either, you didn't get one part of it, you were held back and he made
sure you got it, while the rest of us moved on to the next step.
The next step was deciding on something we would like to make,
drafting a complete set of plans for it, and making it. I decided on a
bookcase for my room. One guy turned a baseball bad, out of walnut as I
Turned out pretty darn nice really. Just over 10" deep, 25" wide,
and 24" tall. One shelf in the middle, and the bottom divided in two.
The back is boards dowelled together. All solid cherry, held together
with dowels (unknown wood, all the holes drilled with a brace, bit, and
dowel jig), and glue, no nails anywhere in it. The finish appears to be
some brand of varnish, and it's held up nicely. Wipe the dust and grime
off of it, and it'll be just as nice as when it was made.
I drafted plans for my stuff for a good while. Then evolved into
sketches. Then on to rough sketches. Now most of my designs are just
in my mind, about all I put to paper are measurements on occassion, and
very rarely a rouh sketch or two. Some of te stuff I make is pretty
simple. Some not. For some time now I'e been workig out designs for a
bed fo myself, and a coffee table. The bed design is about worked out
except for a few technical details about the back legs. The coffee
table is also about sorted out, ecept for one item. So far nothing on
either one is cmmitted to paper. Once I get the final details worked
out, probably the only things then that will go to paper will be some
measurements. It's just more fun that way. It probably helps that I
visualize these thigs, which I'm told a lot of people can't do - I dont
really accept that, I think people just don't try to do it.
If I hadn't started out with drafting at such an early age I don't
think I could design thing now. Or at least not as well, or as
Plans are always good when you're starting out, even plans you've
done. Then you can gain confidence and not rely so heavily on them, or
even have the confidence to alter them to suit yourself. Or do without
them all togethr.
But, there's a few people out there entirely competent and talented
enough to work with no plans at all, and make jus about anything - but
prefer to work from complete plans on paper, whether they're someone
else's plans or their own.
I always like plans, because they often give me ideas about
something I've never ran across before - no need to reinvent the wheel
if you don't ned to, unless it's fun doing it.
What is life without challenge and a constant stream of new
- Peter Egan