What I Like to Build (and why)

I am thrilled to have been invited to participate in “Get Woodworking Week 2013” and I wanted to share a few thoughts on why I got into this craft and where it has taken me!

I am old enough to have taken shop in high school, but had not really done much woodworking since. In the early 1990s as we began to have children, my wife and I, like many young couples, found money tight, but we still wanted to provide nice things for them. So I took up woodworking as a means to have nicer things than we could afford to buy.

It all began quite ambitiously with a cradle for the babies. I had a $30.00 yard sale table saw and a 1/4″ router that was aquired as a Christmas gift. I built the cradle shown as a Knock Down unit so it could be stored easily and my wife sewed a custom set of bumpers for it. The sides are 1/4″ ply panels because I did not have the tools or knowledge to mortise in slats. (the sides do not quite meet the bottom to provide air flow) I modified the design from a long forgotten book of woodworking gifts. (I seem to think it was from Wood Magazine)

Rocking our babies to sleep in this cradle was just the first joy it brought to us. Years later, when my niece began her family, the cradle was passed down to a new generation, so it still brings pleasure. And I find, as I reflect on what I make in my shop, is that I remember best the gifts I have made.

Rolling rattles, hobby horses, pull toys and the like may not be the most challenging projects, but nothing beats watching a child scream with delight playing with something I made. After more than 20 years, my wife has become a bit jaded about my woodworking, but I was still able to stop her in her tracks one Christmas morning with a cheval mirror I made to match an antique hall mirror we had purchased together at an auction.

I still have to move my oldest daughter’s jewelry box in and out of her dorm room each semester, and at the home of my wife’s best friend we are still served tea on a 10 year old tea tray I built for her out of some beautifully figured red birch I found.

I have been freelancing for major magazines for some years now, and seeing my work in print is always fun. I’ve even had a cover along the way. But the best memories and the most enjoyment to come out of my shop are still gifts that I make for family and friends. My youngest daughter is getting ready for college this fall…I think it may be time to “Get Woodworking” and build her a Craftsman Style knock down desk for her dorm room.

Ralph Bagnall

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