Tuesday, 3 June 2008

An amazing “Dad” moment.

And I am still a little stunned.

Riley and I just came in from the shop - lesson one of hand cutting dovetails. We had finished dinner early and I looked over at the clock - 6:45. Hmmm... I wonder if there is enough time? Jill gave us her blessing so we headed out.

As we did the long walk to the shop, I realized I did not really know where to begin teaching Riley how to do this. Where do I start? Stock preparation? No... that is a lesson all on its own. How to hold a saw? No... experience is the best teacher for this. Show examples of how they look? Geeze... I was getting bogged down in the details. K.I.S.S. with emphasis on the simple.

I grabbed a scrap piece of 1x6 pine, cut it to 7" long, ripped it on the bandsaw to two equal width pieces - stock prep done. I did have a sample box that I built while at Rosewood studios several years back. We used that as reference for what through dovetails look like.

I could tell Riley was in the right headspace for doing this - he gently unpacked and admired his Wenzloff saws. I gathered the tools: the Tite-mark gauge, the 4" adjustable square, the sliding bevel and a pencil.

The first task was to define the baselines with the Tite-mark. I showed Riley how it worked, and he layed them all out. I was a little surprised that he had the sense to hold the fence firmly against the stock - I was anticipating having to gently remind him a few times.

We did not bother measuring to locate the tail lines - he just marked them wherever - and they were surprisingly well placed. Then he transferred the tail lines on the top and back down the other side. Again - he held the square correctly against the stock. This was going surprisingly well!

Next was sawing. I explained the difference between a crosscut and rip saw and marked each saws with a quick piece of masking tape (sorry Mike:) I then explained that it was easier to use a saw when you were making vertical cut as opposed to a sideways one. So Riley positioned the wood in the vice so the tail line was vertical (according to his eye) and then he started to cut. Note the index finger!

He held the saw incredibly well. We marked the waste with a Sharpie marker. He switched saws and cut off the waste. The shoulders were surprisingly strait and square.

Onto the pins. We used the tail to mark the pins and drew a big “X” on the waste. Riley grabbed the square to draw in the vertical lines... did I even need to be here???

He reached for the rip saw again, and used his own finger to help start the cut. The two shoulder kerfs were really good - now for the waste. For a second, I debated between coping or chopping the waste. We opted for chopping. Riley was a little nervous about using the chisels... but he soon got over it knowing he was going to get to use the green mallet. We chopped half way through from one side - I held the chisel. The second side went very quick and suddenly - we were done. I was preparing to break into a long speech about how they never fit the first time and would need some fine-tuning... when Riley grabbed the two pieces and pushed them together.

My jaw hit the floor - he was beaming.

The joint was a little loose - but it fit, it had square shoulders and kerfs and it was magnificent. I am not sure who was more proud at that moment.

As we walked back to the house Riley said he wanted to do a four sided one next time. I looked at the clock - 7:30.


Anonymous phil in montreal said...

It is so nice to see people brining their children into their shops. I have just started inviting my five year old son to help me in the shop, and I am hoping it is something he will want to keep doing.

Those dovetails of Riley's look nicer than my first attempt.

3 June 2008 at 21:57  
Anonymous Derek Cohen said...

Well done Riley!

And well done dad - you're a great teacher. Well done for recognising the "moment" was right.

Sauer & Son?

Regards from Perth


4 June 2008 at 00:44  
Blogger Konrad said...

Thanks Phil. It really was an amazing 45 min. The kids have been coming into the shop for a while now - but I am still a little nervous with all the sharp tools that are everywhere.

The other thought going through my mind as we walked back to the house was "why the heck did it take me so long to do the kitchen drawers?"


4 June 2008 at 06:57  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hi Dereck,

Who knows - I will be happy if they just learn to trust and use their hands.


4 June 2008 at 06:59  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A magic moment. Well done, Riley!!


Paul Chapman

4 June 2008 at 08:23  
Anonymous Mike said...

I'm rather proud of the work you did and feel a sense of fulfillment, Riley! And that despite the rather small part I played.

Riley, your first joint is better than many of the adults I have shown how to saw joinery. I chalk that up to several attributes I suspect you posses. Exuberance, a bit of fearlessness and innocence of youth.

I apologize for not marking your saws to keep them straight as to being a rip or cross-cut. Perhaps I can etch them in Kentucky this fall? Dad, care to design the artwork?

Again, very nice work Riley. I've now printed the first image from the blog entry and hung it beside the one of you opening boxes. It is because of people like you that I enjoy what I do.

My wife has been putting off learning joinery but has wanted to since Rob C visited us. After reading your blog post, she feels very encouraged by you to get started.

Thank you for making my Month. How can it get better than this?

Take care, Mike

4 June 2008 at 09:15  
Blogger Joe Cottonwood said...

Yay Riley!

Congrats to Dad.

4 June 2008 at 12:27  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hi Mike,

Thanks for the nice comments about me making my dovetails. It is fine that you did not put the names of the saws on the saws. My dad is smart enough to figure it out:) I am glad to hear that your wife is going to try them too. It was very fun to make them. I couldn't have done it without the saws.

Take care,

4 June 2008 at 19:03  
Blogger Konrad said...

Thanks Paul.


4 June 2008 at 19:03  
Blogger Konrad said...

Thanks Joe.


4 June 2008 at 19:04  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Way to go riley. Its awesome to see the new generation getting such a great headstart


4 June 2008 at 22:43  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You just taught him what success feels like, and confidence. A very important day in the Sauer family.

Am very glad that Mike's great kindness and thoughtfulness has been repaid. That was a big thing for Mike to take that time in the midst of trying to grow a young business--to do something so important for someone else.


5 June 2008 at 22:44  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hi Wiley,

You are absolutely right on all fronts. Mike's saws will be cherished for both their incredible functionality - but also for the spirit in which they arrived.

Riley is very excited about learning how to use tools in the context of how they were designed. It occurs to me that until now, much of his woodworking has been without obvious purpose. I could see the light bulb go on with this little task. He made the connection between this joint and how a drawer is made (he couldn't really help it either, what with me parading drawers around in the kitchen for the last 4 months:) We have been talking about making a small box of some sort to hold some of his treasures. I am having a hard time containing my excitement if I follow these first few steps on this path.

Best wishes,

5 June 2008 at 23:08  
Anonymous Jay said...

Cross cut. >:[ Grrrr!

Well done Riley - I'm 33 (old) and I can't do that. Show off!

6 June 2008 at 18:30  
Blogger Fleeb said...

Congratulations to father and son! I have a four-year-old boy at home and have been itching to get him more involved in woodworking when the time is right, this story tugged on my sense of dad-ness, and, I have to admit, nearly brought a tear to my eye. Well done.

13 June 2008 at 14:45  
Anonymous Narayan said...


I'm guessing I'm upwards of 25 years older than you. I started handsawing dovetails last year. Your first set looks better than my first 10.

Congratulations. You've got a great teacher!

16 June 2008 at 09:21  
Blogger Andrew said...

Fantastic story. I am a fairly new woodworker myself and have a three-year-old son. He accompanies me to my workshop fairly regularly. He sits on the stool and knows not to get down or touch any of the many, many sharp tools. We don't get much done when we're up there, maybe just a quick glue up or dimension a board, but we have fun and he's learning the different tools and what they're for. It's a very special time.

What you've written perfectly describes my dream for the future. Thanks so much for sharing, it was very meaningful for me. And mad props to Riley! He is obviously a sharp kid who's had a great role model to lean from.

I look forward to seeing you and your wonderful work in Kentucky in November. (I'm like a kid at Christmas counting down the days to the conference.)


4 July 2008 at 17:13  
Blogger Nate Kinnison said...

This is awesome. I stumbled on your blog via pinterest. A picture of one of your plow planes. I grew up in my grandfather's woodshop. My son now spends a good amount of time in my dad's woodshop. Your story here made me really happy to know that there are like minded people teaching their kids the right stuff.

14 March 2013 at 10:17  
Blogger Nate Kinnison said...

Well Done,

I grew up my grandpa's wood shop, and my son now spends a good amount of time in my dad's woodshop. It's awesome to know that there are like minded people taking the time to teach their kids the right things. These are skills that your son will carry with him for the rest of his life. They'll pop out at the all the right times when he needs them. I had a dad moment reading this story where I was feeling vicariously proud. Keep up the strong work!

All my best, Nate

14 March 2013 at 10:21  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home