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November 25, 2009

Hawthorn Hill: Keeping things straight, plumb and true

Some time ago Scott Russell Sanders wrote a beautiful essay entitled ``The Inheritance of Tools.’’ In it he tells of how his father taught him carpentry and the proper use and care of tools. It is an essay filled with lovely and poignant moments. What I remember most often is his father’s advice with respect to building anything.

It is to make sure at every step along the way that things are straight, plumb, and true.

It is advice well taken, whether it refers to making a concrete object or patrolling one’s character.

Earlier today I put the finishing touches to a toy chest for my six-month old grandson Grant.

It is my present to him on the occasion of his first Christmas. Of course, the greatest gift of all to us was his coming into the world to be a part of our family. A close friend with far more cabinetmaking skills than I can claim to have helped me get the project started.

As I have worked on it sporadically for the past several weeks, Sanders’s father’s advice kept me on my toes.

I have learned a lot about woodworking and have found it so rewarding an activity that I have signed up for a course offered by a local craftsman.

It is true that we learn from our mistakes.

I have made my fair share and while there are some imperfections here and there, the end product is really something to be proud of.

Next time around I will do a few things differently. And while I know that each project offers up its own peculiar difficulties, the beauty of such endeavors is that the immunities one builds up to earlier blunders enable one to more adeptly tackle future challenges.

My son loves to chide me about what he sometimes refers to as my "cob-job’’ carpentry skills.

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