Benjamin has had an unwavering interest in woodworking since he was two or three-years-old. I think his very first project was building a birdhouse (from a kit). And then, he designed and built a traditional bird feeder.
He discovered and built another type of bird feeder when he was five -- a dangling wood rod that had screws jutting from it, onto which we twisted corn cobs smeared with peanut butter and bird seed. That project he had seen in a magazine.
A couple of years ago he was inspired to make his own kokeshi doll -- something he had seen on his favorite video website, The Kid Should See This! Oh yes, and there was the viking longship he worked on for a year...remember?
Over the years he's made me many wood-inspired gifts. A spiky hedgehog. A little wooden man. Decorative tile necklaces. Christmas ornaments. Each has been made with so much patience, attention and love. Last year he even built a small box for Michael -- for his paintbrushes.
On occasion, Benjamin has even made his own school supplies -- like the beautiful ten-circle he made last year. Do you recall what a neat learning tool it turned out to be?
So when he showed an interest in whittling, my mom mentioned that she had some carving tools she wanted to give him. Last week, she did! She gifted him with a big, metal toolbox filled to the brim. Inside, he discovered my grandpa's carving tools, his sharpening stones and my mom's own Swiss carving tools. Honestly, I think he was overwhelmed. He didn't say very much except, "Thank you." But, the next day (here at home), he dreamily said to me, "Wow. What did you think about all those carving tools Grandma gave me? I didn't even know she had them!"
On the same day he received his carving tools, he was given a Black and Decker Workmate. Here is how it happened: Strolling through Grandpa's garage, a small boy remarked, "What's that?" And his mother replied, "A workbench." Then his Grandma said, "Do you need a workbench?" Well, the small boy, who has been in the process of designing an extension for his current workbench, replied, "I need a bigger workbench. I've been thinking about extending mine."
And so now, he owns a second workbench.
One day this weekend he disappeared into the basement. Soon, he returned with Friedrich. Who is Friedrich? He is a wood block. With a face. And, arms. I think he is quite cute. And he helped Benjamin learn to use the carving tools.
Now you see, a couple of weeks ago he began a project -- building a dugout canoe for his Native American Scene Setters (figures used in model railroading). He used hot coals from our fire pit to burn-out the canoe and now, since receiving carving tools, he is in the process of carving its bow and stern. He is very pleased. Look closely at the photos above and you will see it!
What else is in the works? Well, he is planning to build a submarine -- using wood and PVC pipe. And, he would like to build a Maiale, an Italian sub used in World War II. Oh -- and that box kite (we never got around to finishing it!).
Benjamin has always wanted to be a woodworker when he grows up. And so, instead of researching all sorts of college and university programs, I generally seek amazing folk school opportunities for him. I have found dozens of programs! And so, I collect them all on a Pinterest board called, Cool College Alternatives.
Yesterday we talked about woodworking as a business. You see, Benjamin took a couple of 'orders' for some pieces last month and he is steadily earning a little bit of money. He is in the process of building me a business card holder, a rack card holder and, a 3-tier in-bin. For his grandma, he is building a small greeting card-sized box with a lid. Using the money he earned from our 'deposits,' he invested in a trimming plane this weekend. He is thrilled!
Whimsically, later that evening, he said..."You know, I was thinking. A Lowe's gift card would make a good gift." Do you think that was a hint?