Archive for ‘Influences’


By , 31 March, 2011, 1 Comment

Readers of this blog, apart from my family, probably already know the name of James Krenov.  He passed away September 10, 2009.  Some consider Mr. Krenov to have been among our greatest contemporary furniture makers and teachers.  Sadly, I cannot say that I ever met the man in person, nor do I anticipate every owning one of his highly valued pieces.

But, I do own two of his books.  I am currently reading The Fine Art of Cabinetmaking published originally in 1977 when he would have been about 55 years old.  I am finding this book a challenge to read, because it is so inspiring that I can only read about 2-3 pages at a time before I am fired up to get back into the shop.  I see wood differently, and I see making something from wood differently when I read his books.

He communicates thoughts and feelings and ideas rather than presenting plans and joints.  My wife read the first book and thoroughly enjoyed the book.  She is not a woodworker.  But the man is a fascinating read.  He seems to have written down so many of my thoughts and feelings.  How amazing to find someone that expresses what you feel and think.

For example, with a couple of my projects, I have struggled greatly with details and many steps in the projects caused me much stress.  I found myself distraught with fears of ruining a piece.  I then needed to take a half hour or hour break before I could continue.  My next experience might be euphoric as I saw such beauty in the wood and the project as it came together.  I could not explain that to myself, or to my wife.  This was supposed to be a relaxing and enjoyable hobby!

But, then I read this section from The Fine Art Of Cabinetmaking, “I am cautious almost to the point of paralysis.  Afraid to spoil something, and get off the track.  Oh, I am afraid: when I have the most wonderful wood, I flutter between delight and terror.  Yet, I do go on, wanting that wholeness where nothing lets you down.” pp 38.

Well, here is a man writing down my feelings 35 years ago.  Perhaps he wrote down yours too.  If you cannot explain your passion for wood, tools to work wood and the rise in your blood pressure over photographs of beautiful furniture, then maybe you need Mr. Krenov to explain it to you and to your loved ones.

Having taken a long hiatus from woodworking, I grow frustrated each day to realize that I cheated myself of one more day to enjoy this passion.  My projects still resemble those of first-year students rather than those of a seasoned master of grain, color, shape and varieties of wood.  Sigh.

Thank you James Krenov for enabling me to understand my own thoughts and feelings.  Thank you for blessing my energy, time and money spent on my shop and projects.  Thank you for explaining that unexplainable urge to hoard beautiful pieces of wood in my home.  Pieces that I have to walk around every day to get into and out of my shop. Thank you for giving light to the path ahead, so that here in Nebraska, far away from your shop and the college you began, I know where my skills ought to take me.

Thank you for spending the time with me.  I’m glad that I got to know you.

Judy’s Father

By , 15 February, 2010, 1 Comment
Curt L Regehr and daughter Judy

Curt L Regehr and his daughter Judy

Shortly after our last child was born, Judy and I moved to her home town in Kansas.  A lot of influences went into that decision, and one of them was the opportunity to work with Judy’s father, Curt L Regehr.

Curt, like so many in the area where he lived was equal parts farmer and carpenter.  I never had the appreciation for the land and the animals like Curt, but I was eager to learn some things from him on the job.  Unfortunately for me, he was winding down his career.  The number of jobs that we worked together were small and short, but I discovered some life lessons.

I found out something unusual about the man.  One day while we were digging some footings for a fellow from his own church, I learned that this same fellow had utilized dad’s services before, but had never paid his debt.  I wondered then why were we there doing more work for him when it was unlikely that he would pay this time either.  Dad responded that he felt it to be the right thing to do.  He had been asked, and he could not turn him down because he was a church friend.  I never forgot that.  Sometimes you do what you should do, because it is the right thing to do — not because you are going to get rewarded for it.

Dad had a good friend, Ben who worked on those same jobs with us.  I loved Ben.  He seemed slow, but what a dry whit!  We always had on the local Christian radio station when indoors, and a lot of good messages were digested while working.  I enjoyed watching the relationship between the two of them, and relished some of the inside jokes they shared.

I had the privilege of using some of the tools that Curt had acquired over the years, and many of them had great patina.  Like their owner, they had served well, and they carried the marks of age and ownership.  Many years later, Curt and his wife Marie sold their belongings and left the farm.  I bought a few of those tools for myself so that I could remember the man, and hoped that they would serve me as they served him.  And, just maybe I might be the better man through imitation.

Curt passed away a couple of years ago, and when I got out a nice number 7 Stanley plane of his for a project that I am working on, it brought back a lot of memories.  I wondered how many places that plane had been utilized, and how many other men besides me and Curt’s four sons had used it to make something.

I’m now using it build a desk.  Check back, and I will tell you more about it.


By , 14 February, 2010, 1 Comment

As a young boy, I grew up with a a talented, but uneducated father.  My dad opted out of school in the eighth grade, and made his way in life as a mechanic and then later as an electrician.

My Dad

Dee Collicott

After buying a two room house when I was five, my parents moved three children into the tiny bedroom with them, and we lived in the rest of the house.  It was years later that my mom and dad added two more bedrooms, a bathroom and kitchen to our house.  I don’t know what training my father had for building homes, but I do know that my mom is convinced that few houses contained more nails than ours.

What I gained from my early days with dad was a love for tools.  It seemed that my dad could fix anything, and build whatever he wanted.  He loved mechanics and welding.  He constructed a number of projects from scratch over the years, including a horse buggy, a go cart, a scooter and other things.  When I turned sixteen, he completely rebuilt the motor on a car thirteen years older than me.  It ran perfectly and ‘like a sewing machine’ as one friend described it.

But, I preferred wood.  My first shop class in the seventh grade had me hooked.  I liked metal shop, welding and leather working, but working wood was wonderful.  I recall that my first tool purchase was a coping saw.  I rode home eagerly from the hardware store on my bicycle and ran across the street to my grandmother’s garage where I had cleared out a little space in front of an old workbench.  I took out a piece of wood that I had found in the garage and placed it on a jig made in shop class to support it.

Within seconds I had cut a nice rough cut across the end of my thumb.  A quick trip back across the street and a band-aid fixed me up so that I was ready to go again.  Holding the wood now at a different angle due to the sore thumb, I quickly made another rough cut across my thumb, forming a bloody T shape.  But, I was undeterred, and another band-aid change fixed me up.

Over the years, I found that a lot of tools for working with wood are sharp.  And, you need to exercise some caution as you work with them.  But, none of those many, many cuts and bruises kept me from coming back to the pleasure of working with wood.

I took more than 20 years off from working with wood when I stepped away from construction and eventually entered the software development world.  A few years ago, I was looking for another outlet, and talked with my wife about building a shop again.  Her father was a life long carpenter, and she gave her blessing to invest in tools and products to build a shop. Oddly enough, today I have the money to buy some of the better tools that I could not afford when I was in the industry.

So, as I step back into the shop, I bring with me a different perspective on life and skills than I formerly had when working wood for a career.  Frankly, I found that I was much more rusty than I could have expected.  But, I am having fun.

I have family and friends that are interested in what I am doing, so blogging about it seemed like the way to keep everyone posted and current with what I am doing.