Canadian Woodworking


Author: Don Wilkinson
Illustration: Mike Del Rizzo
Published: February March 2009

By the time you receive this long anticipated issue of Canadian Woodworking, it will be February, the month of love when every woodworker’s thoughts turn to one thing: “What an incredibly stupid holiday!”


But, because we’ve learned from the mistakes we made last year, we now know that our spouse (or significant other) has been eagerly awaiting whatever it is we will build for them. Never mind that we already spent a minor fortune on them at Christmas – it is clearly obvious that they didn’t much appreciate the drill driver or other power tool gifts we’ve agonized over.

I learned early on in my marriage – after only twenty or thirty something years – that it wasn’t wise to buy my loved one any type of tool for Christmas, birthdays, silver anniversaries or indeed, any other holiday or semi-important date. Even tools for the kitchen are under appreciated. However, almost anything you can make in your shop, if you can in any way claim to have made it specifically for your spouse, will be greatly appreciated and will reward you in any number of ways, foreseen and unforeseen.

Sometimes just the promise of something made with our own little hands can be enough. As mentioned in a previous article, I once foolishly promised my wife a Mission bed for Christmas. The first of many Christmas’s rolled around and I put a lovely picture of such a bed in a big box and placed it under the tree. That gave me a reprieve for an entire year. She got her bed twenty-four years later, and I am sure she appreciates it even more for having waited so long.

The most important part however, isn’t that my wife was promised a bed, but that because of the promise, I was able to buy a new mortiser, and a tenoning jig for my table saw, in order to build the bed. Plus I got all the benefits of a nice new bed to sleep in now that I am getting older and hurt in more places. We woodworkers must plan ahead, though twenty-four years might be a little too far ahead. To help us whenever these circumstances crop up – and they will with disturbing frequency – magazine publishers should make a point of printing any holiday issues well before each holiday rolls around.

If you’ve forgotten all about Valentine’s Day this year, it may well be too late to make that special project, but here is a word of advice for next year: Keep every issue of any magazine that contains a holiday project. The night before a holiday or anniversary is no time to be madly leafing through a ten year supply of Canadian Woodworking (a shameless plug here) for some project to whip up overnight. I’m sure we have all spent many a night attempting to find and finish that last vital gift before the reckoning of the coming dawn. I know I certainly have! I have often wondered why the people in charge of holidays never give men an advanced warning.

One fine February I was happily working in my shop when my sister-in-law arrived to completely ruin my blissful ignorance by enquiring what I had bought my wife for Valentine’s Day. Up to that point, I not only wasn’t aware that Valentine’s Day was imminent, but I also wasn’t aware of any valid reason to care. I had managed to make it through many years of harmonious marriage without even once paying the day any attention. Why should I start now? (Although I seem to recall February as being a particularly cold and somewhat lonely month.)

Like all woodworkers, I have carefully hoarded every issue of every woodworking magazine ever published, or so it seems. Unfortunately, they are not arranged by month and many are missing covers, severally hampering a search for any Valentines issue. The saddest thing was that I had no idea what something Valentineish would look like, although I had a vague recollection from childhood of bunnies and hearts and baby chickens. I sometimes wonder how I ever found someone to marry me.

Eventually I had a ‘EUREKA’ moment when I opened a February issue of a magazine and found a lovely little, heartshaped jewellery box that I knew I could whip up in no time. Seven hours later as the wall clock was announcing to the world that it was 2:00 a.m., I stumbled into the house with not just one, but three, beautifully and lovingly crafted and carved, heart-shaped jewellery boxes. One for my wife and one each for the girls. I had forgotten about the boy completely, although he likely wouldn’t have wanted one anyway. The boxes were a huge hit and everyone “Oooh’ed and Aaah’ed” and exclaimed over and over how much time and care and effort I must have put into them. I declined to disavow them of their delusions.

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