Built to Last

grampgreinbenchAt the entrance to my sister’s house is a small wooden chair. It’s made the rounds of family homes over several generations. My great-grandfather built the chair when his children were young. The perfect size for little tots. It had short, thick legs smoothed with sandpaper, a little round seat, and finally was painted a pristine white. It was built to last.

I don’t know my great grandfather’s approach to building but I do know my father’s. My Dad’s workbench was a mysterious and seemingly haphazardly put together area in our basement. Back past the downstairs kitchen where we retreated during hot humid summer days, past the washing machine, double sink, on the other side the furnace. The long workbench held papers, carpenter pencils, shelves with pieces of wood underneath, tools hung on the pegboard. Old peanut butter jars filled with nails, screws, nuts, bolts, all those metal things my sister and I had sorted when we were six, lined up along the top shelf.

When I ventured downstairs during a visit, Dad was leaning on the table, drawing. He had fooled around with carpentry as long as I could remember. His day job as a systems analyst at Western Electric always seemed a dry sounding description for a job for a creative sensitive man like my dad. His workbench was his creative studio. Up out of the basement came bookshelves, birdhouses, dollhouses, picture frames. All built by my dad.

He was doodling (his creative process) that time I saw him working on a step stool for my mom. Then he measured, drew again on a new piece of paper with a sharpened pencil and ruler (the plan). Then sawing, hammering, nailing, and sanding (the building).

I imagine my great grandfather did the same with the little white chair. Over the years my Great Aunt Pauline, my sisters, and I used it as a reading and playhouse chair. It moved to my older sister’s house when her children were little. Over time the chair got chipped and the legs became worn. Dad took it home for a visit to the workbench and it returned a brilliant fire engine red and smooth again. More years when the second grandchild used the chair, lugging it from his room to outside, or back to the family room so he could read for us.

When the kids grew up and moved out, the little red chair stayed at their family home. Years later when I visited their mother, it was in the corner of the kitchen. “I use it to stand on to reach the top shelves. Who knows, maybe there will be some grandkids of my own who will use it as the reading chair.” Sure enough, there were. And now it’s a showpiece by the front door.

So here’s my point. These two men were good builders not only because they knew how to handle a hammer and nails. They saw a need, they were personally involved, gathered all the materials, planned how to do the job. Dad usually wrote out the plan. He and Great Grandpa saw how they could make something that would last.

An engaging story. Dad’s approach to building also holds some interesting ideas that transfer to looking at and building a writer’s platform. Think about it. What makes up your writer platform?

Next blog: Building a Writer Platform. Join me in the next 5 days for 5 blogs about a Writer Platform. Enough good ideas to get started on yours or polish up the existing platform.

Photo: This is not my Dad’s workbench but it sure could be. Grandpa Greiner’s Workbench by Charles Page Oneida NY. I’d love to talk to this guy.


2 Comments

  1. Marilyn

    Thank you for sharing this! Brings me back to my great grandfather and a chair he chiseled of wood and built w/o nails…

  2. Chris

    Indeed! Great analogy.

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