I see you there. I know your footsteps. The murmur of your voice as you pass by. But you don’t see me, do you?
Whatever you need, it’s always there. I don’t complain, though. I know my job. Give ’em what they want. Give ’em what they need. That’s me.
You don’t even notice when things start to run low, do you? I do, though.
I can’t complain too much. I know I’m the most sought after in the entire office. People don’t know why they crave me. Maybe they shouldn’t. Maybe it’s enough to have a need and know where to go to fill it. Maybe I serve a greater purpose that way.
Ah, hell, is a little gratitude that hard, though? Is it so difficult to acknowledge me? Nod your head. Smile. Make eye contact. Anything.
Bunch of ungrateful babies.
No, they don’t notice me until something runs out. Then they’re shocked. Annoyed. Pissed. Even worse, they leave. They run out to get what they need. Damn it, give me a minute, and I’ll get you what you want. Don’t I always? Have I ever really let you down?
Jerks! Run out, see if I care! You’ll be back. Everyone comes back. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. But in a few days, you’ll wander mindlessly by with your hand out for what only I can give you.
How do I know? How can I be so damned sure?
Because I’m the office candy dish, that’s why…
If your candy dish, office or otherwise, doesn’t have quite the same attitude as mine, maybe it’s time to o something a little different.
I almost called this “What happens when you buy from a crafter” and while I might technically be considered that for tax purposes, in my mind I’m a woodworker/woodturner. Yes, I make pens and wine stoppers from acrylic but my first love is wood.
I can’t speak for every small crafter or woodworker out there, but if you ever wondered what difference you’re making when you buy from someone’s Etsy shop or a booth at a craft fair or flea market, let me explain.
We talk about shopping local – which I believe in – and buying American (assuming you’re in America, of course). And those things are very good for local communities and small businesses. But there’s also the benefits when you buy from the small artist, the crafter at her kitchen table, or the woodworker in his (okay, my) one-car garage – even if we’re online and across the country from you.
You help me build my confidence.
I turn wood because I love it. Even if I never sold a single bowl or pen, I’d keep doing it. But it’s easy to wonder if I’m really any good especially when examples of people who do it better or more creatively are all around. When someone buys a pen or a bowl, you’re letting me know you think my work is worth paying for. It’s a huge ego and confidence booster – even if I am always surprised when it happens.
You’re showing approval and appreciation for what I do.
I just said I’d do this even if no one bought a thing. I meant that. But buying from me (or another crafter) means you like what we’re doing. You give me the nod to make more, try new versions, and/or keep cranking out more finished products.
You’re helping build a small business.
Right now, the business side of woodturning is what my fiance tells me is a “side hustle” – okay, if that’s what we call it now. My goal is to one day make this my main source of income, especially when I retire. I have a long way to go (Rome and businesses aren’t built overnight). Each time a sale is made, it’s another baby step toward a bigger dream.
You make it possible to buy supplies.
Going into crazy debt to make pens and bowls isn’t my idea of a good time. Each sale means I can buy a few more supplies. The plan for 2017 is to save up for a bigger lathe so I can do bigger and better projects. To save on buying supplies, you’ll see me using a lot more reclaimed wood and finishing projects that don’t require a lot of purchased hardware.
You’re supporting the little guy (or gal).
At craft shows, especially, people tell me I should let my “manufacturer” know they do good work. People assume I’m a vendor selling for a bigger company. Imagine their surprise when I explain that I made the things they see in front of them. I’m one of the little guys just trying to support my habit and build something. Every purchase makes that possible.
You should buy things because you need them, they’re beautiful, or you love them. You should buy from vendors and businesses you believe in, like, or offer the best price. But if you have a choice, buy from a small crafter. You’ll be doing so much more than buying a product.
Shameless self-promotion time! Check out my Etsy shop where I’m adding more items each month. Click the link below:
Valentine’s Day is almost here, and while I’m running around trying to do something nice for my fiancee, and getting over a bad cold, I’m not doing much in the shop.
Even though I’m known as the Wood Dom, and I spend much of my free time in the shop as I can, turning wood isn’t the only thing I love. In honor of the holiday, here are a few things I love just as much – and sometimes more.
Don’t talk to me until I’ve had at least half a cup in the morning. And maybe don’t joke too much until I’m on my second cup. I’m known as a grumpy polar bear without it. I also drink a cup at night, sometimes two.
I’m a Starbucks fiend, collecting gold stars through my mobile app and racking up free drinks. Let’s put it this way, we have two bags of coffee beans in the freezer, plans to buy another, a cabinet full of coffee mugs, and one of the baristas I know best always asks, “Another hot white mocha, John?” when I walk in. It’s not so much love as it is an obsession.
Oh yeah, I’m a Whovian. I have all the most recent episodes from Christopher Eccleston to the last Christmas special, and we watch them over and over again. My love for the Doctor and his companions (Clara is currently my favorite with Amy Pond as a close second) is so well known around here that not a single birthday or Christmas goes by without some little something related to Doctor Who.
The Walking Dead
I’m always watching new episodes a few days late, so I have to avoid spoilers on Monday mornings, but The Walking Dead is another of my loves. Negan is a total asshole. I’m looking forward to Rick getting his bad-assery back (Shhhh, I haven’t seen episode 8 yet!) and…
I can’t wait to see what happens with Ezekiel and his crew.
My Honda Shadow
Okay, so I’m not the type to love too many inanimate objects, and I’ve had my eye on a few different bikes, but my Honda Shadow is my baby. I haven’t gotten to ride much lately, but it’s still at the top of my list. For several years, this was my only mode of transportation – even on the coldest days and the rainy downpours.
And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the best riding partner a man could have…
Now that she and her boys are in my life, I know what family is supposed to be and what a solid, stable, enduring love should feel like. She already knows how much I love her, and I don’t need a holiday to show it.
So there you have it, a few things (and one special person) I love besides woodworking and turning wood.
My first lesson in woodturning and woodworking was in a local Woodcraft classroom. After that, once I started practicing and got my own tools, I could pay for more classes or I could do what many people do in today’s digital age – I could learn from YouTube.
YouTube it was. From the beginning, I looked for tips about techniques and tools as well as ideas on what kinds of projects to try. Over time, I’ve found some favorite channels for different reasons.
If you want a little insight into who has taught me some of what I know or you’re interested in woodturning and woodworking yourself, check out these five great YouTubers.
As Wood Turns
If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you’ll have seen pictures of my natural edge bowls. Take a look at what Alan from As Wood Turns does with it.
M. Saban Smith Woodturning
Okay, my geek is showing a little here, but the idea of making an ancient shield as a woodturning project is just cool.
Right now, I’m not ready to start making my own pen blanks. (I’m having too much fun taking green wood and making bowls). But this is still very interesting…and something to think about.
Repurposed wood and simply beautiful work. Not much more to say. I get great ideas and learn a lot from Rebel Turner. He’s one of my top picks on YouTube.
If I’m picking favorite woodworking YouTube channels, Mike Waldt is it. He does great work, and he’s easy to follow and understand. I’m not quite ready for vases yet, but I know where I’ll go for tips and tricks on how to do it.
The last words I ever spoke to her were, “I wish I’d never been born.”
Even in my adolescent arrogance, I saw my words slice her open and cut through her pristine exterior. At the time, I was glad for it. All I’d ever wanted from her was a reaction.
Throughout my childhood, she’d been cold, distant, impossible to connect with. She was never Mom or Mommy, always Mother. Even my dad called her Mother.
She ruled our home. All decisions were hers and final. There was no negotiation or discussion. Do what you’re told or face the consequences.
The consequences were as steely as the woman who gave birth to me. I was never physically hurt but the scars on my heart and mind are more like scar tissue. A hardened damaged part of me that will never fade.
But those words, flung in her direction, as I made a grand exit, complete with slammed door, felt good. I was right. Vindicated. She’d never wanted me.
I stayed away for the weekend. Afraid to go home. Afraid to run away for good. Everyone knew where I was. Pete had been my best friend since first grade. If you couldn’t find me, look for him. I expected my father, maybe even my aunt, to come looking for me. No one expected police officers.
My first reaction was anger. How dare they send the cops? Then fear. Maybe they weren’t here for me. Maybe something happened to Pete’s brother. I quickly wished the thought away. I’d rather them take me to jail than bring sorrow to my friend’s life. I couldn’t foresee they brought sadness and guilt I might never recover from.
I don’t remember much after they said, “She didn’t make it.” I hid away deep inside myself, in a place where no one could touch me and nothing could hurt.
I came to days after the funeral when I found my father passed out in vomit and whiskey. The bottle loose in his hand. Picking it up, I considered swigging down the rest but someone needed to be sober for the meeting with Mother’s lawyer, Mr. Reilly. Because of course she had one. Of course she’d neatly planned, like a general readying for battle, for her own demise.
We sat in her study. Maybe in other family’s the study was a man’s haven, but not in mine. The dark room was Mother’s domain. I’d only been allowed to enter for lectures and the doling out of consequences. It wasn’t a place that filled me with fond memories.
“Tom, your mother left something specifically for you. She left it in my keeping about a year ago with a quick addition just before she died.”
A year before had been my first act of defiance against her, yelling, cursing, and leaving behind a slammed door. Just before she died had been my last. My face burned with shame and remorse.
He handed me a box and an envelope. Of course, they were both labeled. “Read first. Open second.” Even in death, she was directing my every movement. For once I cherished the control, happy to do as she wanted this one last time.
Her bold, florid handwriting took my breath away. This was her. As my eyes moved down the page, I heard her voice in my mind.
My darling Tom,
I know you find this hard to believe but I love you, utterly and completely. Since the moment Doctor Geffen told me I was expecting a child, I cherished the very thought of you. You do not like or appreciate my parenting these days. You feel I am cold and harsh. And you’re right. Life is not kind to anyone, certainly not me. My mother died when I was young, leaving behind only the keepsake you’ll find in the box. I fear I will do the same to you. I must tell you what I wanted my own mother to tell me but she died too soon.
You don’t agree with my methods. You don’t agree with my rules. You think me cold, distant, and uncaring. You are not wrong. The only thing I know about raising children is that you are my legacy, you are the proof that I existed. I must raise you to be the best man you can be. Not just for me or your father, but for your future.
I did not know affection as a child. My mother believed to spare the rod was to spoil the child. When my grandmother took over my care later, she thought my mother had failed in her mission and set out to beat the submission into me. I say this not to make excuses for the nights you spent in cold darkness or hours without meals, only that I knew no different. Showing love and affection as a child was forbidden. The times you put your arms around me and held on were some of the most beautiful moments of my life. My only regret is that even now I do not know how to reciprocate.
I can only hope that I have many more years to learn how to show love and affection. I fear I will not.
In the box is the pen I have used to write my journals throughout the years, the only safe haven I have ever known to express my feelings. The inscription is “Hope, Faith, Love” – things I have always longed to share with you. My hope for you is that you will be a better person than I have been. My faith is in your inherent goodness and kindness. My love for you, inadequately expressed, knows no bounds.
I love you, son.
I looked up, blinded by tears and rage. How dare she keep this to herself? And yet, I think even then, I understood. If showing affection was an offense worth a beating, how could you ever feel safe?
I opened the box and looked down at a pen that I’d never known existed. A note lay on top that said simply, “I forgive you for your anger, and I love you.”
I can tell you, 20 years later, my mother’s wish came true. I’ve broken the cycle of abuse and lack of love in our family. My kids will tell you I never leave them alone. My father says I spoil them rotten. Show me the person who was ever spoiled by hearing “I love you” on a daily basis and being hugged and kissed over and over again. The person doesn’t exist.
I write in a daily journal, as my mother did, to deal with my emotions, express myself, and leave behind a record of who I am as a man, a father, and a husband. I cling to the sentiments expressed by my mother, allowing her delayed love to wash over me and soften the scar tissue of my memories and soothe the guilt that’s never dissipated. When I die, I will leave this pen to my oldest but I will also leave behind a legacy of love and joy, nurturing and compassion, and more than a few words scratched out on paper. That is my promise, my faith, my hope, and my love.
You’d think the most important tool in my shop is my lathe. After all, it’s the mechanism I use to turn wood, create, and have items to put on my Etsy shop.
And to a certain extent, you’d be correct. The lathe is extremely important.
Another essential tool in my arsenal is my center finder.
At first glance, it’s forgettable and looks like something you’d find in a middle school math class. Without it, I can’t turn spindles, put pens together correctly, or do almost anything in the shop.
Robert Larson Center Finder
My center finder is the Robert Larson Center Finder. You can find one at almost any tool store or woodworking shop. This one comes from Amazon which, as I’m finding, can be a decent source for finding the best price on some items.
It’s made of plastic and looks like almost nothing, but for me, it’s absolutely vital to have.
The Robert Larson Center finder works on nearly every shape and cut of wood. It can find the center on square, round, octagon, or hexagons, depending on what you’re working with and what kind of project you have.
Why It’s Important to Find the Center
You don’t have to be a woodworker to understand the importance of having wood and something to shape and cut that wood. But you might wonder why such a small tool is so important. The center finder is what makes a finished project look good.
When you’re working with spindles, you have to be able to find the center so that the wood doesn’t wobble on your lathe. A wobbly lathe means you won’t have balanced or centered pieces. They’ll be warped and strange looking – and not in a good, artistic way.
It helps with pens, bottle topper, shaving brush, and small bowl blanks by finding the center of the piece. When I make pens, I have to drill out the center of the pen blank – it’s where the ink goes. If you’re off-center when drilling something like a pen blank, the whole thing could be ruined.
No, it’s not a glamorous tool. It’s not the biggest or shiniest thing in my shop. But without my center finder, none of my woodworking projects would be correct or look good.
When I took my first woodworking class, I didn’t know it would lead to a home shop, an Etsy store, or a plan for a small business. All I knew is that I was curious and wanted to try it. Once I took the first class at my local Woodcraft store, I was hooked.
Plans were immediately set in motion to build a woodworking shop as soon as I could.
First, we had to move. No, we didn’t move so I could build a shop (it was a crappy apartment we couldn’t wait to get out of), but there definitely wasn’t any extra room. We considered leasing warehouse space to build a shop, but I couldn’t justify the extra expense for what might turn out to be a hobby.
When we looked at houses to buy, my only requirement was a garage. Thankfully, we found a great house in a beautiful neighborhood and (most importantly) it had a garage. We’ve never parked our car in it because from the moment we moved in, I began setting it up as a woodworking shop.
For anyone who might be interested in getting into any type of woodworking, your first shop doesn’t need a lot of space or a ton of money. I share my shop with my motorcycle, the kids’ bikes, and the washer and dryer. Here’s how I did it without breaking the bank.
Figure Out What You Want to Make
You don’t have to decide from the very beginning everything you’ll ever make. Believe me, the more you do and learn, the more ideas will come your way. But it is good to have an idea of what you want to do as this determines what kind of tools and accessories you need.
I knew I would make pens because I enjoyed the first class so much. I had a feeling I’d try my hand at other things eventually. You might want to make figurines, bowls, spindles, or any number of items. And if you’re not sure, YouTube is an excellent place to learn and get some ideas. I like Mike Waldt and RJB Woodturner.
Keep Size and Space in Mind
Size is important in putting together your shop. The size of the items you make determines the size of the tools you’ll need. The amount of space you have to work is a determining factor, too.
You would be amazed, though, at what you can make with smaller tools. Mini-lathes can turn bowls up to 10 inches in diameter and spindles up to 18 inches long. Bench top band saws can cut wood up to 4 inches thick with a throat depth from 5 ½ to 9 inches.
My first lathe came from Harbor Freight. Is it top of the line? No, but it was a good place to start. I had a gift card and a coupon (something they put out frequently) so the price was even better.
Table Top Tools are a Big Help
If you can build yourself a flat surface in your shop, you’ve got space for tools. The garage already had one work space built in when we bought it (the previous owner was a carpenter). It fits three tools and gives me space to assemble pens and do other small stuff. When I needed more space, I bought a couple of sawhorses and a piece of plywood. Ta-da, another work space was created.
Throughout my work space, I’ve got several table top tools that do what I need and allow me to make all kinds of things: pens, small bowls, wine stoppers, key chains, shaving brushes, goblets, and candle holders.
Table top band saw
Table top drill press
Combo belt and disc sander
None of these were the best on the market options. They’re middle of the road items that I waited for a sale, a coupon, or a gift certificate to buy. As time goes on, and I evolve as a woodworker, I’ll replace what I have with tools that are more powerful and can do more. I’m always looking at and pricing tools.
Choose Tools That Can Do Multiple Jobs
When space and money are at a premium, you need tools that can multi-task. A single tool for a single job isn’t practical. My wood lathe does several jobs and my other table top tools are used in home improvement projects all the time.
The more you can get out of one tool with a few accessories, the less you’ll spend overall and the more space you’ll save.
When you don’t have a lot of space, the last thing you need is a bunch of clutter. I was fortunate enough that my garage already had existing shelving when I started. If not, I would have added it because it’s so important. Magnets and boards with hooks installed on the wall are big space saver too. Many of my tools are within arms reach right on the wall.
What really makes this work is that I put things away when I’m done turning. Sure, it can feel like a hassle when I’ve been in the garage for eight hours, forgot to eat lunch, and just want to take a shower, but it’s worth the effort. I never have to worry that I won’t be able to find a tool when I need it later.
If money is still a concern (something I understand well), let your family know what you’re trying to do. My in-laws have been extremely supportive and every birthday and Christmas, I receive gift cards meant to help me expand my shop and buy better tools. Of course, it probably helps that I keep my family in pens, wine stoppers, and bottle openers, too.
My point is that if you want to build your own woodworking shop, you can. Do your research, get organized, and be patient. Waiting for sales and only buying exactly what you need will keep you from going into debt or stressing about how you’ll afford a tool. Start with basic tools and work your way up to bigger and better.
It’s a new year and, thankfully 2016 is behind us. I don’t even want to think about how many amazing musicians and other artists we lost last year – from David Bowie to George Michael. With a new year comes a fresh start, and I’m ready to clear out some of my old inventory to make room for new things.
So we’re having a sale!
Between January 1 and January 14, saved 25% on anything on my Etsy shop with the coupon code: HAPPYNEWYEAR
They called me Patrizio as a joke when I was a baby. Or maybe it was wishful thinking. Instead of being a round, roly-poly thing that laughed and gurgled, I was quiet and thin. Not one to make unnecessary noise, even as a child, the family worried I was “slow.” Until they caught me watching them.
“Patrizio, he looks at us from his throne as if he we are peasants.” My grandfather, a gregarious man who loved to sing opera and drink wine, was confused by me, I think. As a child, I thought he didn’t love me, not like he loved my brothers and cousins. On his deathbed, when I was the last of the “bambinos” willing to sit by his side – everyone else left as quickly as they could without incurring the wrath of a mother or aunt – he whispered his love to me, and his concern.
“I worry for you, Patrizio. You take the world too seriously.”
I couldn’t disagree with him.
My grandmother, Nani Rosa, spent most of my childhood stuffing me with food. After my grandfather died, it was worse. My brothers and cousins were big, strapping boys who worked the vineyard with the rest of the men, carrying on the family business he’d brought from Tuscany to New York a generation before. I, however, was not cut out for the work. Nor did I have any desire to toil with the grapes and in the sun.
Nani Rosa, when she wasn’t feeding me ever-growing plates of rice and gravy – the red sauce you’re probably most familiar with – slipped me blank sheets of paper and freshly sharpened pencils. She understood I was different, even if she couldn’t understand how or why.
“Patrizio, sweet boy, you stay here. I’ll take care of Enzo.”
Enzo was my father, a good man but rough. He was more confused by me than my grandfather had been. That confusion came out as disgust and anger. It would take me many years to understand this. As a child, I believed he hated me. I stayed out of his sight as often as possible. My nani’s offer to sit at her antique desk in a sitting room so rarely used was a blessing. It would be many years before I understood what it cost the family to allow me this rare luxury.
Everyone worked in our family. We lived and died by what we were able to produce and sell. The wine was only part of it and not where the bulk of our income came from. The wine was about family pride and heritage more than business. The other produce we grew and harvested was financially more valuable but had much less of the family’s heart.
My father fought with my grandmother every time she allowed me to stay inside with her. He derided my “scribbles” as he referred to them, his lip curled in a derisive snarl. His voice dripped with contempt, or so I thought. I was the useless son, the one who cared so little for our family’s history that I refused to work.
The women in my family understood I was different. They could see that the time spent outside slowly killed my soul and did little for my thin frame. Some touch of women’s wisdom, a thing my grandmother had impressed upon me from the cradle, allowed them to give my spirit room to grow and move in a different direction.
I believe even they despaired of me, though. What good could all this scribbling possibly do for the family? For the vineyard? For the farm?
Days after my sixteenth birthday, when my parents, my grandmother, brothers, and cousins gathered around, more out of duty than joy, to wish me another year of health and happiness, I finally proved my worth. It was then that I finally unveiled what I’d worked on for the better part of a year, what all those years of “scribbling” had lead to, the thing I’d toiled away in secret for fear of rejection and anger.
It was a simple enough thing. A brochure detailing the vineyard and its history, along with our family and the most beloved wines. I trembled as I handed it first to my grandmother, who I believed would, at the very least, read it without judgement.
From Nani Rosa to my mother to my father, the thing spread like wildfire. Only the cousins and my brothers were confused. Good-hearted men, but never the type to indulge in reading anything more than a few words and only when necessary. My father could see the benefit immediately.
He grabbed my shoulders and kissed my cheeks. “This, my boy, is exactly what we need! I was about to hire a company from the city to produce such a thing. So much money I would have spent. So much time explaining who we are, for these city men in their expensive suits to misunderstand it all. And you, my Patrizio, can do it for us!”
There was laughter and wine shared around the table at dinner that night. A big celebration more for the family than for me. They finally saw how I would contribute, what my purpose was. For me, I was surprised it had taken so little – of my time or effort – to find acceptance. My mother and grandmother beamed at me across the table while wine was pressed upon me throughout the night. I was a man now, in the eyes of the family, finally contributing something meaningful. The younger men still couldn’t see it, but because my father was happy, they were happy.
I couldn’t tell them what their acceptance meant to me. It would be years before I was able to admit to myself I was both filled with joy and resentment at the turn of events. I was a man because I could write, as long as it benefited the family, but anything else was a waste of time and made me a lazy boy.
For years, I hid my personal writing, the novel of war and love I penned in secret at night, the fantasy stories I submitted to magazines, even this, my dear journal, leather-bound and filled with my thoughts and fears. As long as I continued to produce a few lines of copy to sell more wine, I was left to my own devices. I thought my secret was well hidden, and maybe it was from all but one.
When I graduated from college, the last of the boys to do so, although the only one to eschew agriculture and business classes for literature and writing, Nani Rosa presented me with a gift.
“It is called ‘Patrizio’ and I knew it was meant for you.” The surprise written across my face was as clear as words on paper. “You think I don’t know what you’re meant to do, where your passion lies? You are meant to do more than write a few words about wine or tomatoes. You will become one of the great writers, and one day the family will understand that what you do is as noble and important as working with the land.”
This pen, used for many years now, wrote my grandmother’s eulogy for her funeral. It penned the first novel I ever published. And now, worn soft and dull by my hand, it continues to write up the little brochures and sales material for the family business – the business I inherited from my father who said of all of us, I would be best suited to keeping it going. He wrote, in his will, that I would never force anyone into a role for which they weren’t suited, and he believed I would use my “good sense” (words that shook me) to keep our heritage going for years to come.
It wasn’t a role I wanted, but I’ve come to cherish. I did as he hoped I would and placed the right people in the right jobs. These days, I’m little more than a figurehead which works well for me as I still sit at Nani Rosa’s antique desk, although now it’s in my personal office, to “scribble” each day with my beloved pen, a symbol of her love and faith in me.