I stood in the beautiful old barn, the only female under fifty, along with six hundred grinning, gesticulating, enraptured men surrounded by the thing they felt most passionate about—woodworking.
Woodworking doesn't particularly interest me. Its this thing my husband loves and always talks about. This thing that fills my garage with saw dust and piles of wood. This thing that keeps him standing in the cold, on a concrete floor in January til 2 a.m. This thing from which emerges something beautiful, personal and completely unique.
I'm familiar with the vocabulary woodworkers use. I know words like hand plane, jig saw, dowel and spokeshave. I know the difference between a dovetail and a miter joint but that's about it.
Road trips to Iowa and displays of hand tools don't particularly get my pulse racing, but meeting people who are passionate about something (anything) does. And that's what I encountered at the Handworks tool show in Amana, Iowa.
Jeremy couldn't wait to introduce me to Don Williams, a man I would of normally mistaken for a southern, bearded hillbilly, but come to find out is quite famous in the woodworking community.
“Its nice to meet you Mr.
my new friend
Williams,” I said. “So...what exactly do you do?”
Jeremy said this was like asking Rick Steves, “What line of work are you in?”
Don handled my ignorance quite professionally.
He explained, “Well, I do restoration work for the Smithsonian. I've done quite a bit of teaching and wrote a few books you've probably never heard of.”
I think Jeremy may be becoming embarrassed at my obtuseness. He can't take it anymore and pipes up, “Remember Anastasia, that article of his I made you read...a few years ago....about his barn with the floor from Versailles?”
Don looks humbled. “He made
you read an article I had written?”
Then I remembered it all clearly. Jeremy sat me down one evening about two years ago, put an edition of Popular Woodworking in my hands and said, “Read this. You'll appreciate it.” Its the first and only
woodworking article I've ever read.
“I remember that article! You were the guy who got the old floors from Versailles and put them in your barn! My goodness! I was just in Versailles two weeks ago!”
A connection was made. Mr. Williams smiles broadly. “Yes, I have the only barn
in the area with floors directly from the Petit Trianon.”
Now I'm interested. Don and I are both excited to have found a common denominator.
“So what's your big project at the moment?” I asked him.
“I'm finally finishing the translation of the French book To Make As Perfectly As Possible
by Andre Roubo,” he told me. His eyes start to twinkle, he's smiling to himself and continues, “You see Roubo was an eighteenth century, highly trained, third generation craftsman. In the 1770's he published five volumes of exquisitely detailed woodworking techniques, particularly marquetry and finishing; but translating has been painful because its written in 18th
century French which is entirely different than the French used today. Add to that, its an idiomatic trade language which makes translation especially tedious.”
What am I hearing
Don say? “Blah blah blah blah”
What am I seeing
? A man absolutely oozing enthusiasm and excitement about what he will soon share with the world.
How can you not be drawn to someone with so much passion? Even if it is for hand tools?
“Well who knows Mr. Williams, maybe your translation of Roubo's book will be the second
woodworking article I'll read,” I said.
Jeremy leans over and whispers in my hear, “The book is ten inches thick and costs $400.”
Or maybe not.
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