When I was very young, my father made me a workbench for Christmas. It was sturdily constructed with a drawer that held a hammer, a couple of screw drivers, and a pair of pliers. There was a space to put a small crosscut saw and a couple of places for nails. It even had a small vice for holding items. I spent many hours at that workbench, until I got tall enough to use my father’s bench in the basement. That workbench, somehow, is one of the things that has survived from my childhood. When we were cleaning out our childhood home to prepare it for renters, I put the bench in the back of my pickup and brought it home. It found a place in the corner of our garden shed, where it lived for a couple of decades, a place to put a can of oil or another object while I was working on other things. When it came time to make this move, I contemplated getting rid of the workbench. Our grandchildren will soon be too big for it and it is need of some repairs. The top is pock-marked by hundreds of hammer blows. In fact, I tried to pull out the drawer and discovered that there are a half dozen nails driven all the way through the top of the bench extending into the drawer so that it cannot be pulled all of the way out until those nails are pulled. Just getting it ready for our grandchildren is a project, and I have a long list of projects in the works.

The workbench is in the back of my pickup at the moment, ready for the next trip to our son’s family farm, where it will have a new home in the barn. There I’ll pull out those nails and stock it with a few tools, nails, screws and scraps of wood so that it will be available for projects. I still have the vice, which has been used as a hobby vice for years. That can be cleaned up and re-installed on the bench.

I grew up with a fascination of tools. One of my earliest memories is watching my grandfather plane doors to install in the upstairs of our home. That addition to our home was completed when I was about 2 years old. I loved the curls of wood that came off of the plane. Later, I was given the job of pulling nails as my father worked on various projects around the house. There was always a pile of boards from some remodeling project that had nails that could be harvested and straightened with the use of a hammer and vice and re-used for building things from tree forts to soapbox racers.

As I grew, I gained access to my father’s shops at the airport and at the farm supply store. I learned to appreciate the importance of respecting tools. A borrowed tool had to be returned to its proper place as soon as I was finished with its use. But the shop that held the most fascination for me for years was the quonset hut on my uncle’s farm where he and my cousin shared the space and repaired vehicles and farm machinery. My cousin loved auctions and would return with buckets full of old wrenches and sockets. When I was 14, I was allowed to go through a bunch of buckets and assemble a set of wrenches for myself. I learned to pick out Craftsman brand tools, because they had a lifetime guarantee and could be replaced regardless of where I got them. I obtained a couple of new wrenches by returning ones that had the jaws spread from having been used with excessive force, probably long cheater bars. I still have some of those wrenches in my tool box.

That started a life-long process of collecting tools. My tool boxes grew as the years went by and the tools began to spill into buckets and boxes over the years. I’ve never had a dedicated shop, but we have had garages in the homes we have owned, so space was made for tools and work benches. When I decided to build my first canoe, I didn’t have space to work, so I hung plastic around an outdoor patio and built the canoe there. When we moved to South Dakota, I decided to use one half of a two-car garage as a workspace and built canoes, kayaks and a row boat in that space. The space was tight, so I often obtained duplicate tools so I could have one on each side of the boat. And there is one tool of which no boat builder can ever have too many: c clamps. I started collecting clamps, buying them in twos and threes when I had a little extra cash.

All of my tools were part of the reason that it took us so many trips to move - that and my projects. One trip was made with the box of the pickup jammed with tools and our trailer hauling canoes and kayaks. One consideration of this move was my desire to have a workspace. I dreamed of finding an old farmstead with a barn.

Our son found the barn! He recently moved his family to ten acres in the country with an old farm house, a barn, and several other out buildings. We have decided to set up a shared shop. It has taken me several trips to move tools from storage and the garage in our rental home out to the barn. Yesterday we worked together arranging tools and figuring out the general layout of the shop area. It is going to take me weeks, or even months, to get the space organized, but when I do, there will be a complete bay for storing boats, space to work on building new projects and even a dedicated clean space for varnishing.

And, of course, there will be a corner for that little workbench with plenty of scraps of wood and nails for grandchildren’s projects. I’ve even got plans to build toolboxes for the grandkids so they can start their own tool collections.

Copyright (c) 2020 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!