My 10-year-old daughter joined me in the shop Sunday. I wasn’t her first choice, though: she’d done her chores in the house, wasn’t in a TV-watching mood, and none of her friends were around to play. So she decided to see what kind of help Dad needed.
She enjoys coming out when I’m wrapping up for the day, grabbing the big dust collector hose and sucking up all the sawdust. (The tidiness gene came from her mother.) But I wasn’t wrapping up, I was just getting started. “Anything I can do, Dad?” she said. I looked around and told her she could organize my scrap bin. She dug right in, sorting and restacking everything neatly while I set up the router table for some cuts. When she finished, she donned her hearing muffs, and ran the remote for the dust collector while watching me round over the edges of the drawer fronts for my shop cabinet. “That’s pretty neat,” she said, “Loud, though.”
This was more time than she’d ever spent in my shop. The noise, even with her muffs, usually drives her out. And she seemed unusually interested in what I was doing. I showed her how to sand the drawer fronts, giving extra attention to the end grain. She was curious about how the sandpaper made the wood smooth, so I explained how it works the way an emery board works on her fingernails. While we worked, she asked about my cabinet, and what was in it.
With the sanding done, I sent her to the basement to get the primer and a couple of brushes. She spread out a dropcloth on the bench, ran back in to put on a painting shirt, and came back with her hair in a ponytail, ready to paint. As we brushed, she asked what primer was for, so I explained how it helps paint stick to wood. She sang along to songs on the radio and we talked about some of her favorite songs. Then we washed out our brushes, rounded up Mom, and headed to the pumpkin patch.
Later in the day, she and I returned to put the first coat of paint on the pieces. And of course, she grabbed the big dust collector hose and sucked up all the sawdust. Here are the drawer fronts and pulls.
That evening as we carved our pumpkins, I let her run my cordless drill to make eyes and nostrils for our jack-o’-lanterns. She wondered what all the buttons and numbers were for, so I explained about the forward and reverse, the clutch and speeds.
I don’t know whether she’ll show any further interest in woodworking or not. It doesn’t really matter if she remembers our day in the shop next month, or next year, or ever. I will.