Tuesday, August 28, 2007

"Super Carpenter" or How to Build Meaningful Children's Things (that Aren't Made In China)

Not that there's anything inherently wrong with Chinese manufactured goods, but a great homecooked meal beats Denny's every time.

I grew up with a father that told me stories about Super Carpenter, a hero that loosely resembled him. Super Carpenter's adventures were more exciting than my father's, but not by much. When I was young, my father built me a bed, bookshelves, and I'm sure countless other things that I've long forgotten. What I never forgot, though, was how proud it made me that my dad could build anything. None of it was beautiful by furniture maker standards, but it was always thoughtfully designed and built to withstand a hurricane. My dad was a general contractor and then a crate builder and small business owner (with a healthy dose of owning/running a preschool and being a landlord of a few rental properties thrown in for good measure). He was a Norwegian Son too, and a carpenter's son.

Suffice it to say that I was excited, when I became a father, to complete some building projects for my daughter. I don't have the extensive background with construction standards and practices that my father has, but I grew up going to jobs with him and having a huge working wood shop behind my house (though I spent as much time trying to shoot nails at the windows and burning the place down as I did learning to build things). My first two projects were a blanket/toy box and a large, standing book shelf. I then built a small tabletop bookshelf and more appropriately sized toy box. Today, with the help of Google Sketchup, I designed and built an indoor playhouse that fits in a corner of my daughter's bedroom. (See Photo for dimensions).

It's about four feet by three feet, and nearly four feet high. It has a window and a hinged door and a mailbox. I brought it home for her this afternoon. An attempt to describe the way she looked when she saw it, and realized it was for her, and that she could open the door and go in and out herself and check her mailbox, would not be true to the moment. She was elated and shrieking. It made my week, and it made me think again about how proud I was that my dad could build me things. I'm sure my daughter is too young to be proud that I'm her dad, but when she is old enough, I want her to feel that way about me too.

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