Highland Woodworking
Turning the Corner: Prepping for Christmas in Summer
By Temple Blackwood

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Turning the Corner focuses on using woodturning on the lathe as a way of enhancing cabinetry, furniture designs, and architectural installations. Each article also suggests an important woodworking book to read, reread or listen to, and a link to an appropriate article in The Highland Woodturner. Along the way, these articles seek to inspire woodworkers (cabinetmakers, carpenters, and housewrights) to extend their skills into basic, novice, and advanced woodturning while discovering for themselves this particularly sensual and spiritually rewarding dimension of working with wood.

Preparations for Christmas begin in my shop in August, especially as the USPS is already running TV ads forecasting that postage will be more expensive and packages will take longer to arrive! Phew! More for less. Unfortunately, the immediate future increasingly looks more like a prudent decision is a safe return to isolation in the shop where mask-wearing is a common defense against excessive dust along with eye protection and hearing protection.

Actually, this cautionary alert is timely for those of us who have established a "safe-bet" tradition of giving hand-made, signed and dated ceremonial gifts to family members.

Grandchildren are the focal point, and a great gift is a handmade wooden chair (sized to their size).

Other toys of our own younger years are great too – paddle boats, sailboats, tugboats, locomotives, cars and trucks, dolls, tricky-brain-busting puzzles, and books.

Handmade gift ideas for the older generations include pocket toothpick holders, ring boxes, gift certificates, and many more. You can find great free project ideas throughout past issues of both Wood News Online and The Highland Woodturner.

With six grandchildren growing up rapidly, I have done pretty well with personalized gifts in each child’s early years making small-people’s rocking chairs and benches, moving on to size and age-appropriate toys, as well as brain-twisting puzzles.

The problem for me as they become teenagers is that I cannot keep up with their wide interests and the newer gadgets that might impress and please them for birthday and Christmas gifts. I am also far too Scots/Irish and personally humbled to try to spend money on something that might or might not be something they want or would value as a personal gift from me. Judging by the growing collection of wood-made items on the shelves in their rooms and desks, I believe they do value what I have made for them and that I have made it. Typically, I sign and date the piece, often including their name and the celebratory event: "Christmas 2019." Sometimes I think I am pretty clever with hiding the cash, but they have a talent for finding it. The greater the difficulty, the greater the pleasure in discovery for us both, particularly if I am present for the unveiling.

I am averse to giving money in a festive envelope, cash dollars which are too easily spent and too easily forgotten. Such a birthday or Christmas gift seems far too anonymous and abstracted from the personal desire to be a supportive and active part of their lives. As a result, I choose to turn them a new woodturned item like a lidded box, puzzle, or hollowed form into which I can insert or even secrete the always-welcome CASH$.

They are collectively no strangers to my shop although in their teen years they seem to drift away, drawn more to others their age until they return in their 20s. As a result of all of this, I do recognize that they all like money – a universally appreciated gift that can either be added to other such gifts or summer job earnings or simply be applied to any of a number of "necessary" new gadgets, articles of clothing, and the increasing burden of bills for cell phone, license and car insurance, an excess of special treats, travel, and activities.

At the end of all this, I believe I have established a tradition of giving something personally that will leave a broad clutter of treasures of the past and memories of family times together that will bridge the gap when my generation hands over the family leadership to the next generation, and they to theirs. My 3-year-old grandson, pictured here with two of the chairs – his and his oldest sister’s, two of the benches – his and his father’s, and my own father’s original/restored toy-chest that is full of assorted wooden trucks and boats collected by an assortment of us over many years.

With luck, I will be able to pass on to him some stories of how I rescued the maple blanks in his small chair from the firewood pile, the rush-reeds from the streambed (later dried and then woven), and "walked through snow-drifts" to my shop to turn and assemble his special chair. The pink piano? Well, someone actually purchased that for him. No one remembers who did that.

Located in Castine, Maine, Highlands Woodturning gallery and shop offers woodturning classes and shop time, a gallery of woodturned art, custom woodturning for repairs, renovations, and architectural installations. You can email Temple at temple@highlandswoodturning.com. Take a look at Temple's Website at http://www.highlandswoodturning.com/

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