Woodworking Grandma Never Stops Learning

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As part of our Mother’s Day series, we will introduce you to several superstar moms (and grandmothers!) who combine their love of family with their love of woodworking.

Andy Fischer, the founder of the Ohio Girls Junior Championship and a retired LPGA touring pro, gives commemorative pins to participants of the 2016 tournament at the Marion Country Club. Fischer was the first player on the LPGA Tour to use a Ping putter in 1962.(Photo: Matthew Hatcher/The Marion Star)

Meet Andy Fischer

Andy Fischer, of Centerville, Ohio, whose given name is Andrea, said her father got her involved in the two great loves of her life – golf and woodworking – at a very early age. Andy was swinging a club and caddying for her dad with a hand cart when she was as young as 5 years old in Waterloo, Iowa – “a hotbed of golf.”  By age 12, she was playing in the Iowa State Girls Golf Tournament. She went on to become a pro golfer in the LPGA in the ’60s and later, a pro golf instructor. Now a grandmother of three, Andy spends a lot of her days in her workshop making pens and “whatever anyone wants” when she can’t be on the course.  

Andy also spent a lot of time making things as a child. Her dad often brought her scale models to build from a local model shop, fueling her desire to create things. He owned a recycling shop that later grew into a tool/supply shop, where Andy would sit and listen to the instructors who came in for tool demonstrations.  “My dad wasn’t very handy around the house, so when I was 6, 7, 8 my mom started asking me whenever she needed something. I would go figure it out,” she laughed.

"My mom and hero" said daughter Jamie, pictured here with Andy at the Ohio Junior Girls State Championship – circa 1985

Around age 12 or 13, Andy said she took a shop class in school. “All the kids took shop, sewing and cooking. I built a three-shelf bookshelf in shop for my models, and I cut a hole through the back so I could carry it around.” When asked where she carried it, she laughed, “Just around, from room to room, so I could see my models.”

The first tool Andy ever bought was a Black & Decker electric drill with S&H green stamps, which she still owns. “I used it as a buffing wheel to shine my shoes when I was on tour,” she revealed. “Back then we wore leather shoes!” When she and her ex-husband bought their house in 1972, she was pleased to discover it had a workshop in it. She purchased a small handheld scroll saw for cheap, thinking she got a great deal, and then quickly learned a lesson: “When you pay a small amount for something, it usually doesn’t last worth a hoot. Spend your money on better quality, and it will last so much longer.”

A year or two later, in the mid-70s, Andy saw a demo on a Shopsmith and knew it would be a perfect fit in her shop, allowing her to have a lot of tools in one. She took a turning class at the store and started turning vases and bowls in her workshop. She joined the Western Ohio Woodworkers Club and continued to build her skills, making furniture and other gift items like games and puzzles. The club formed over 40 years ago, she said, and she has been a member all but the first year. “I consider it my going to college to learn about woodworking,” she said. “I can count on one hand how many female woodworkers we have had.” Master woodturner Rude Osolnik from Berea College taught a weekend seminar for the club (before his death in 2001) and further fueled her passion for turning. “I bought his book and he signed it for me,” she recalled. “I heard it was the last book he signed before he passed away, so it’s pretty special to me.”

About seven years ago, Andy was “in the right place at the right time,” which she said has happened many times in her life, and she became inspired to try turning pens. She had helped a friend with some golf lessons and she was given a $100 gift certificate to Woodcraft as a thank you. While in her shop trying to decide how to spend her gift certificate, she walked by a mini lathe still in the box that she had purchased about 15 years prior for a friend to learn to turn. For whatever reason, the lathe remained untouched, and it was then that Andy decided to go check out the pen supplies at Woodcraft. “I could already build, saw, all that, but I had never paid attention to the pen section at the store until then,” she said. So she bought “all sorts of things to make pens” and began another extension of her woodworking skills.   

A familiar sight at the Dayton, Ohio, Woodcraft store, Andy now enjoys making pens for her golf students, who she has always encouraged to bring notebooks to class. “I tell them to take notes, and eventually they will have their own golf book,” she stated. “One day it dawned on me, I could make pens for my students to use for note-taking, so I asked them their favorite colors and started handing making them.” She also sells her pens in the high-end jewelry store Elizabeth Diamond Company and a few pro shops.

Some of Andy's Work

Andy with her son Jeremy and daughter Jamie. "I used to be taller than Jamie, but look what happened!" Andy laughed.

When she found out Wright Brothers USA wanted to carry pens and notebooks for sale in their museum to help maintain Hawthorn Hill, the Wright brothers’ home in Dayton, Andy contacted the company — they now carry her pens. She took in a demo pen made from ash, which was what the Wright Brothers’ planes were made of. “It’s strong but lightweight,” Andy remarked. She now uses Hawthorn wood from the property and old-style Oxford pen kits to maintain the authenticity of items sold in the shop.

Her two adult children, both in their 40s, grew up to inherit her loves as well – daughter Jamie played golf in seven major championships and is now one of the Top 40 golf instructors in the United States, teaching in Lake Forest, Illinois, and Palm Springs. Her son Jeremy is “an amazing builder of houses” in Breckenridge, Colorado. She’s not kidding – check out his site http://www.ivanstanley.com/ — the name derived from both of Jeremy’s grandfathers’ first names, Ivan and Stanley.   

Andy’s grandchildren have received plenty of “Grandy’s” handiwork – pens, pencils, whistles, duck calls, and kaleidoscopes, to name a few. Her grandson Wilson will receive a stainless steel pen and pencil set made from exotic Beeswing Narra wood and presented in a monogrammed box for his high school graduation later this month.

Constantly learning, Andy said “there are still a lot of things I don’t know. I have done woodworking all my life, I know all the native woods, I’ve seen them, I’ve made things with them.” She buys books at Woodcraft and looks up things online to “expand her brain” by studying exotic and rare woods like Kelat Burl. “I just learned something new yesterday ... Beeswing Narra and Amboyna Burl come from the same tree. Who knew! Have not known that a burl and the wood from the same tree could be called different names!”

Andy Fischer enjoys time in her workshop when she's not on the golf course.

Calling herself a “curious sort,” Andy has no plans of slowing down.  By her calculation, she is 24 years old – she started counting backwards at 50. “I don’t know what people do when they retire if they don’t do something they have fun with. I’m learning all these new things!”

Sounds like a great philosophy – stay active, never stop learning and keep the mind and hands busy. Happy Mother’s Day, Andy Fischer!

We hope you'll be inspired!

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