Building A Piece of HistoryApril 14th, 2020 | by Michael Echterling | Posted in Lifestyle
Over the past couple years I’ve developed a keen interest in woodworking. I was drawn to the art after watching Ron Swanson build a canoe in Parks and Recreation. I remember being attracted to the idea that I could use my own hands to shape raw materials into something useful. It’s funny – I’ve never wanted to be a home builder like my dad or my Pops before him. But it’s become apparent to me that the drive to create something out of wood is embedded in my psyche. I may not be a home builder, but my dad and Pops have rubbed off on me all the same. Now, I want to tell a story about my dad and me building a piece of history.
The Rusty Plane
Shortly after I discovered woodworking, I was visiting my parents and started digging around in my dad’s shop to see if there were any tools that were of any use to me in my new hobby. Most of what I found wasn’t suited for woodworking, but I did come across a rusty old Craftsman jack plane that was sitting at the bottom of a Husky drawer. I pulled it out from underneath the other tools, and took the blade out of the frog. It was in rough shape.
That night I took the plane apart and soaked each piece in vinegar – a trick I picked up during my time at YouTube University. The next day I took some steel wool to the pieces and restored them as close to their former glory as I could muster. Unfortunately, the blade was so far gone that no amount of vinegar could save it.
Since then I’ve completed a handful of projects – a coat hanger, a decorative paddle, some corner shelves, a bar cart for my parents (which is hysterically ugly. The frame didn’t come out at all like I had planned). I was honing my abilities so that I could eventually tackle the white whale: a large, beautiful, walnut desk. For this project, I enlisted the help of my dad. He had a table saw, a steady hand, and he and I had never worked on a piece of furniture together.
So we got to work on crafting a piece of furniture that will probably end up outliving either one of us. My intention for the project was to create a large desk that I could use for many years, but I also wanted to create an altar to creativity. A sanctuary where I can sit down and let the world melt away while I make music, write whatever is in my head, and read stories about fantastic worlds. I wanted to create something designed to last longer than me – an heirloom.
The desk took several months for us to finish, since I had to travel from Dallas to Waco on the weekends to get anything done. But it was worth it. I’d do it all again without thinking twice. The desk itself is absolutely gorgeous. With its giant walnut top and contrasting white maple frame, finished with danish oil and meticulously sanded to glass-like perfection. But the time spent is equally important. My dad and I worked really hard on this desk. Our intentions are embedded inside the fibers of the wood. Every time I sit down at this desk, I’m inspired by the work we did.
This kind of attention, care, and intention is unique to our family. When we are passionate about something, we pour ourselves into it whole-heartedly. The physical product is something that you just can’t find anywhere else. A piece of history.