A couple of years ago I promised my friend Susan Hanson that I'd make her a canoe paddle to go with her new boat. And I did start the project, but Dad died not too long after that and I just sort of lost steam on it. The truth is, I lost it on all of my woodworking. It seemed like every time I went into the shop to work, I'd be reminded of him and I wouldn't have the heart to carry on. So I scratched my "building-things" itch with various hardscaping projects in the garden, and that has been sufficient for my needs during this dry spell.
I saw Susan on my recent visit to Maine--she was one of the coterie of women working on the planning of a conference--and I was reminded both of how much I enjoy her company and that I owed her a paddle. So when I came back, I started working on the paddle blank.
I haven't talked a whole lot about my paddle-making on these pages, so just to illustrate what a blank is, I'll explain that one of these:
(that's me on the venerable El Rio de los Brazos de Dios)
...originally starts as this:
...which I turn into this, and this, and this, and this (all comprising the "blank"), using a table saw, chop saw, bandsaw, and jointer:
...from which is carved the paddle, using a bandsaw, rasps, spokeshaves (seen at the photo at the top of the post), and this (a foot-operated clamp called a "shaving horse"):
Coincidentally, another friend, Zoe Ann Stinchcomb, is putting together a big to-do this weekend for Texas Parks and Wildlife. Zoe Ann, who works as the environmental educator for the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center, has organized a conference and art fair for the National Sate-Fish Art Contest Expo. There will be artists, and fly-tying, and pottery making, and a dive show, and other cool etc. Zoe Ann and I have long planned on my coming down and helping out, but I didn't really have a clear idea about what I'd be doing. As it happened, I found out a couple of weeks ago that she wants me to do a paddle-making demonstration and book-signing.
Now is that karma, or what? I can work on Susan's paddle as the demo!
And speaking of karma, working on the Shop Girl series (inspired by questions from readers) has jiggled me into doing a little overdue upgrading on the woodshop. I've had a list of projects in there that I've put off for years, including building my dream workbench and improving on the dust collection, all of which I'm sure you'll hear more about in the future.
And! And! Yet another inquiry from friend Paddy Fowler has me planning a furniture project for the fall.
So here's the thing: I'm having a good time again. When I'm out in the shop, I'm thinking of Dad, but these days, there's slightly more fondness than sadness in the mix. So things are looking up, woodworking-wise, all thanks to time and the gentle nudgings of friendship.
If you get a chance and are in the area of Athens, Texas this Saturday morning, stop on by the art expo--directions to the event are here. You can say "Howdy," and I'll say "Howdy right backatcha."