This past weekend started just the same as many others. Everyone at the office was talking about their plans for the two days off. My wife called and asked if I could stop on the way home to pick up a few items at the grocery store. I finished a little paperwork and headed out to the car to make my way home.
But, that’s where the similarities ended. I was actually on my way home to cook dinner for the arrival of a special guest. The Woodworking Show was in town, and Wood magazine’s Jim Heavey had accepted my invitation to come to my house for dinner.
I had made the offer to Jim last year. “The next time you get to Tampa with the show, you have an open invitation to come over for dinner.” Just a few words to him last year, but now he was actually coming over.
Unlike other visitors, I knew that the shop was going to be one area that was going to get a visit. I had spent the past few nights straightening up the shop. Tools that were lingering around from previous projects went away. Wood I was milling was stacked into piles on the bench. The broom and vacuum made an appearance and took care of all of those plane shavings and the sawdust from a busy last weekend of planing and jointing.
That night, after Jim had called to say that he was on the way, I was cooking dinner and starting to fret. After all, Jim is a very talented woodworker. He has contributed articles on how to organize shops – what if he looked at my shop and shook his head in disgust? What if he looked at the stack of lumber I was working on and said something bad about the way the work was coming out? Was I going to get a lecture about my insufficient dust collection setup? I mean, this guy makes DVDs about how to woodwork and set up your shop!
“You are nervous,” my wife observed. Yes, I had become nervous, thinking Jim was going to be critical.
But, I then took a deep breath and thought about Jim’s demeanor. He’s a really down-to-earth kind of guy who teaches woodworkers to stop talking about every single goof up on a finished project. The nerves faded away just before he had arrived, and when Jim pulled up in his rental car and came in.
It was a great visit. I resisted the urge to walk Jim out to the shop immediately and get it ‘over with’ Instead, I got Jim a beer and introduced him to the family. We talked about his flight, the shows, Jim’s service as a firefighter and as a school board president, his grown kids and his grandkids. Both of my sons wanted to tell him jokes. We laughed politely as the silly grade school humor poured out.
After the dinner plates were put away and while the cherry pie was baking in the oven, the moment of truth came. I gave Jim a tour of the projects in the house. The front and back entertainment centers. The unfinished desk and storage unit in my son’s room. The Contemplation bench I had built a few years ago. “I remember reading about that on your blog.”
The trip to the shop was just as pleasant. He told me about how he had set up his shop and mentioned that he liked the way I had mine set. He liked the workbench and was impressed with the two vises I had in the shop. He was impressed that I had the blade guard and splitter setup on the saw. “This place is definitely you, Tom. You must have a lot of fun out here.”
Later than night as we ate dessert, we shifted gears to the great basketball games in the NCAA Men’s tournament. Everyone was cheering as the action was taking place, and I was duly impressed by Jim’s knowledge of the game.
At last, the evening had to come to an end. After all, Jim had to teach the next day. As Rhonda and I waved goodbye while Jim backed out of the driveway, I had a sudden realization.
Woodworkers are just regular guys and gals. Each of us has our skills and gaps that need to be filled. Each of us has our strengths and weaknesses. And, we all face our common challenges.