We have been neighbors of the Ferrin family for nearly 30 years. Keith has been an inspiring mentor to me. Several years ago, he showed up at our door with a beautiful plaque he created with his scroll saw. He has created dozens of these, but I was honored to receive mine. It hangs in a place of honor in a corner of our living room.
In the years since then it has been wonderful to be in Keith’s home and in his shop to witness firsthand his craftsmanship and kindness. He has blessed us with many other works of art from his wood shop.
A career Air Force fighter pilot and flight instructor, Keith is a veritable storehouse of wonderful stories about his service around the world. He is indeed a Champion of Freedom!
After I purchased a router (see previous post), my first project? A simple marble run.
I had built a little marble run for my kids many years ago, but this is the first one I made after starting to focus seriously on woodworking in early 2017. A prototype at best, it was a fun project that required the use of my table saw, router and drill press.
It wasn’t very durable, but it was a blast to demonstrate this to my family. Stay tuned, there will be more to come!
If you were to google the term “router,” the first several links presented to you will refer to WiFi routers that are vital to Internet connections in our homes and businesses. However, to the woodworking aficionado, the first thing that comes to mind is a “hand tool or power tool that routs (hollows out) an area in hard material, such as wood or plastic.” (Wikipedia)
So it was for me in the fall of 2016, when I received an email from my employer, Oracle Corporation, congratulating me on my 15 years of longevity with the company. I was presented with a list of gifts I could choose for the occasion, including things like golf clubs, clocks or watches. Things like that didn’t appeal much to me, but fortunately, a Visa gift card was also an option.
So, using my 15 year employment anniversary gift card, I purchased a router (the wood kind). This proved to be a catalyst for my growing passion for woodworking. As I took the time to use that router, I became starkly aware that time using my woodworking tools was a lot more fun and satisfying than doing my professional day job, which I found increasingly dreary, frustrating and unfulfilling.
Now, almost four years later, with Oracle in the rear-view mirror, I still love that router. I broke it out today to do some finish work on a shop stool I am building. An ironic unintended consequence of the employment anniversary gift? A hastening of retirement for me.
In 1967, when I was 14 years old, I built my first radio – a Heathkit four band short wave radio with 4 tubes (yes, it was that long ago!). I learned to solder components on a printed circuit board and tune the radio so it really worked! What a thrill it was to finally turn it on and experience something I had made come to life!
On a clear Idaho night, with a long wire antenna, I could sometimes pick up an English language broadcast from Johannesburg, South Africa! That budding youthful passion for electronics provided a strong foundation for my technology career. This old radio now occupies a prominent spot in the world’s smallest museum in the corner of my office.
Now later in life, a new passion is growing. I find great satisfaction in creating things out of wood and experiencing the thrill of completing a difficult project that really “works.”
When I was a young boy, I loved marbles. I really didn’t play the traditional marble games, but was fascinated by the various colors and styles of different types of marbles. By the time I was 12 years old, I had a large Crisco can filled with my collection of marbles. Then they were gone. Our house burned completely to the ground, leaving our family with only the clothes we were wearing.
Sifting through the ashes and rubble, I found only these five melted marbles from my collection, which I have saved in an old film canister for the last 55 years.
Now in my woodworking, I think I love making marble runs and toys as much as anything. The recent marble trees are just one example. More to come!
I recently made several of these fun marble trees. Originally, I made a batch of four and published a video on Instagram and Facebook. Almost immediately, they were purchased and several more people expressed interest. I recently made a larger batch to cover those who first expressed interest and potentially more. It has been a fun project.
Friday, August 14, 2020, was my last day of employment with Oracle Corporation. That evening, our kids threw us a COVID Style drive-by retirement celebration party! Claudia and Eric had invited dozens of people. Many drove up and offered their congratulations. The grandkids handed out ice cream treats. It was wonderful!
Here are a few photos of the event:
This final photo was created by out oldest daughter, Heidi Bartle, offering a synopsis of my 43 year career!
People often ask me what my favorite woodworking project is. To date, it has to be the case I made to display the flag that lay atop my father’s casket. He was proud of his contribution as a World War II Army veteran. It was a distinct honor to make this case and give it to my wonderful mother.
At the time I made this case, I struggled with my nascent woodworking skills, but finally, on the fourth attempt, I finished the case. I have been able to make a few more flag cases since that time, but none surpassed the significance of this first case.
When our oldest daughter was three and a half years old, I got the brainy idea to make a little cupboard for her, modeled somewhat after a cupboard Claudia had when she was a little girl. By this time, I think I owned a circular saw and jigsaw. I must have bought my first router to finish the curved edges. The important thing is that Heidi loved it. After 35+ years, the little cupboard, with most of the parts still intact, is still going strong. The grandkids love to play with toy dishes and other treasures that live in (at on top of) the cupboard .
This blog is the rebirth of a project first launched in 1998 by Angie Dixon, then 15 years old, as a school project to explore what people thought about personal freedom. Through a website designed and operated by her dad, Mark Dixon (me), she invited people from all over the world to share their “Testimonies of Freedom.” During the next couple of years, people from nearly every state in the United States and several countries around the world had shared their thoughts about freedom for posting on the site. I also added a rich collection of reference material about freedom and patriotism to the website.
Starting in July, 2009, Mark re-launched the site in WordPress blog format and periodically posted messages related to the topics of freedom and patriotism.
Now, starting in August, 2020, I am re-purposing the site to share my experiences in woodworking. After 43 years in the computer industry, I am retiring from professional life. This will allow me to spend much more time with my passion – learning the art and craft of making things with wood. Hopefully, this will be a place where I can share things I have made and lessons I have learned along the way.