Offcuts: The Folding Rule

I was preparing to spend a week at a Windsor chair instructor training class. I had many of the tools that I would need packed into my toolbox but there were a few last-minute additions I needed to track down. I needed my folding rule. Where did I put it? Oh, yeah, it was in my oak toolbox on the top shelf in the classroom.
I went into the classroom, hefted the toolbox down and gently placed it on the workbench. As I lifted the lid, my eyes were instantly drawn to the folding rule in the top tray — the folding rule with all the numbers worn off. A wave of emotion swept over me and stopped me dead in my tracks. I had to close the lid, stop and compose myself. That rule was not the rule I was looking for. It was HIS rule, and the numbers were worn off by HIS hands … and HE was gone. I realized that I would never see him slip it in and out of his blue striped bib overall pocket again. I would never see that rule in his hands — hands that were so frail from 95 years of wear, yet so strong with 95 years of wisdom. I would never hear his wonderful stories again.
HE is my Grandpa Virgil, and HE is the reason I love working with wood. As long as I can remember, I loved spending time with Grandpa. He had wood and he had tools, but most of all, he had a desire to share. He shared his knowledge, he shared his passion, and he encouraged my brother and me by allowing us to help him. When I saw that rule, all those emotions and memories came crashing back in an instant … and in that instant I really missed my grandpa.
Over the next couple of weeks, I thought about that moment, and I asked myself: What am I doing to make a difference in a young person’s life? Am I doing the things that will spark the same emotions from someone in my family? What kind of legacy will I leave when I’m gone?
I challenge you to ask yourself the same questions. With the school woodshop all but extinct, today’s youth have fewer people with a love for woodworking to share that passion with them. In this age of television, computers and video games, young people need someone to encourage and mentor them. You can do that by creating a structured environment that encourages children and teens to develop a lifelong interest in woodworking.
My son began helping me in the workshop at a very early age. His first project was a miniature table and chairs set he built for his mother out of scrap wood that he found in the workshop. He drew the pieces out and asked me to help cut them. It wasn’t a masterpiece, but it was a treasure which we still cherish some 15 years later. Our last project was to make a “New Yankee Workshop Episode.” Three recipe boxes in 35 minutes, complete with all the bloopers, was an experience to remember long after he went off to college.
There are many safe, enjoyable things to do with kids in the shop. The scroll saw is a safe tool to use; the only limits are your imagination. The lathe offers a tremendous opportunity for fun, simple projects. You can turn a wooden pen in less than one hour. What a great way for kids to personalize holiday, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day or birthday gifts and build self-esteem and confidence. You can show them how to create a treasure with their own two hands.
The patina on Grandpa’s folding rule is like that of a fine antique. It wasn’t created in a single week, not even a year. It was created over a lifetime. You, too, can make a difference in a young person’s life by sharing your passion for woodworking. It may take a lifetime but the payoff, your woodworking legacy, is well worth the investment.

David Sapp, the owner of the Nashville Woodcraft Store, is an avid woodworker who enjoys sharing his passion for woodworking with others.

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