Friday, December 18, 2009

Day 2, 12/17/09

Where inexperience and desire meet, frustration is fueled. I find myself fumbling and moving slowly in the worshop. Retracing steps, standing for moments trying to organize thoughts. An interesting comparison as I can remember my grandfather moving quickly and effortlessly about the garage.

A new piece of wood is introduced into the workshop. The first of it's kind in quite a while since the garage has laid silent. It is a 1x6x18 clear redwood plank. Only recently have my eyes begun to see the beauty in such an object. My papaw would sight down the plank, smooth over it with his hands and say, "That's good wood." This particular piece will form the gunwales, pronounced "gunnels", which are the rails of the kayak. In a framed boat that is covered in a fabric "skin" the gunwales are the support, or foundation, if you will. Unfortunately the only measurable progress was safely arriving to the garage with the 18' long plank intact and still on the car. Inside the garage the work of organizing and locating continues. Strangely, only one sawhorse can be found. The decision is made to build an exact copy. After a few cuts and much calculation my saw horse has taken the form of an ostrich; two legs with it's head buried in the sand. I have however learned to remove a table saw blade without cutting myself. The vast array of band-aids and gauze found about the garage are, I feel, a foreshadowing of things to come. Time moves quicker than expected today so I tidy up and hide the evidence of my lame horse, give goodbyes to Grandma, Connie, and Holly and allow the workshop to grow dark and silent once again. But not for long.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Day 1, 12/14/09

Even in the simple action of opening the door a rush of memories filled my brain. Before I was even in the shop I can fully recall the person who was my Grandfather. Can you remember a time where you return to a once familiar place and have to stop to allow the memories and thoughts to completely move through you? You literally stop and take everything in. Not like entering your kitchen at home where you allow yourself to be moved by necessity and routine. I see my papaw. I see a little blond-haired boy shadowing him. Much of my time as a child was spent in my grandfather's garage although it was not by my desire, as someone had to watch me during the summer and that someone put me to work. To be in this place was not to resurrect the person but to see and understand him a little more. After all I am only here to build a boat. A skin-on-frame kayak to be exact and my grandfathers workshop contained the tools and the space necessary to build such a craft. I took this afternoon to inventory and locate tools. I soon realized that in order to do this I would need to clean and organize. As I began, I moved through layers of dust and wood to find little pieces of my papaw. Brushing through the sawdust I find a spokeshave, then a plane, then a sliding bevel, and so on. Then I found something that I had not intended to and I froze. On my grandfather's workbench were the letters "NPD" carved in the wood. Perhaps it was his handwriting, perhaps it was recalling his full name, or even just a reminder of his character, but it was a recollection of my papaw that moved me to tears. I ran my hands over the carefully carved letters almost hearing his voice, "Norman Perry Downs". Silence. I am building this boat alone, drawing on what little personal experience I can, wishing my grandfather was here to help. But with each sweep of the plane and pull of the draw knife I am continuing something greater than just myself. I know he would be proud. The entries that follow are a journal of progress, list of lessons learned, photo album, and recollection of memories. Please enjoy and comment if you wish.