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When I was a kid, I was always building things, from clubhouses to model rockets.
Joel Moskowitz, owner of Tools for Working Wood, recently began a new blog series, asking “movers and shakers” in the woodworking world to recall what they wanted to be when they grew up, and how that translated into their actual careers. I do move occasionally (from my desk to get more coffee) and shake (after I drink the coffee), so I took him up on his offer. Here’s what I wrote:
When I was really young, maybe 6 or 7, I loved the show “Flipper.” So I decided I would be a marine biologist. I wasn’t quite sure what that was, but I knew they got to work with dolphins and live near the beach.
But when I grew up a bit, (about the age of the kid in the tire swing) I always found myself building things: model planes, model rockets, clubhouses. We were a poor family. Neither my mom or dad had gone to college or owned a home, nor had their parents, so I didn’t think college was an option for me. So I went to a trade school for high school, choosing the machinist track like my grandfather had. By the way, we also had no TV in the house, so I read voraciously, sometimes as many as 6 books a week. I guess I was always a left-brain/right-brain guy.
Two things happened to get me to college and set my on my current path: I learned about financial aid, and I learned after working in a couple of real machine shops that I wanted more from my career. So I took the SAT on a whim, got a good score, and was accepted into UConn’s engineering school. I had no study skills to speak of, and I wasn’t happy doing math problems all night long, so I flamed out, trading engineering for English, an unusual switch, the dean warned me. But I couldn’t believe you could earn credits just by reading great books and writing about them. I went on to become an English teacher. When I found I couldn’t hack classroom management (THAT’s a tough job), I put my word skills to work in another way, taking a low-level editing job at a newspaper.
I was almost content, but I realized that I missed building things. The solution was my first shop and a serious woodworking hobby. At that point I was headed directly for Fine Woodworking (though I didn’t know it yet). A few newspaper and magazine jobs later, I got there.
It was an odd, winding path, but in retrospect, it points like a laser to the most fulfilling job of my life. Here I get to use all of my language skills, plus my understanding of what happens inside machines and at a tool’s cutting edge. Best of all, I get to build things: magazines, furniture. Lucky guy.
Anyone out there have a similar experience? Did your childhood fun lead to a career or serious hobby?
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Great story, Asa. And if I may say so, your liking the job and being talented at it, has resulted in the best woodworking magazine available today - FWW of course..:>)
I eagerly look forward to each new issue. And keep up the new approaches - like the upcoming 'built-in shootout'. I think we really learn by looking simultaneously at different approaches. Same with your earlier 'surface finish shootout' with Mike.
I totally agree, Ralph. When I hear music, I sometimes see geometry unfolding in my head. The same goes for stand-up comedy routines. There is a natural harmony things that we all respond to. We call it quality, or beauty, or somethign else. Good article structure, good layout, a well-built machine, it's all one.
What did the buddhist say to the hot dog vendor? Make me one with everything.
I would argue that engineering, woodworking and editing are simply different applications of the same skill set. When writing (or, editing), doesn't one give similar consideration to the design and structure of the sentence, the paragraph, and the article/book as does the engineer building a bridge? It's like math and music being described as the same at their core.
Carl Swensson's woodworking skills go very, very deep. But they go wide as well.
Make something fun while learning new skills
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