All-Around Craftsman

I come from a long line of women who created every kind of textile imaginable, but my dad also taught me many things about self-sufficiency and craftsmanship.

From my growing up years, I remember him doing everything from building rooms to re-roofing to wallpapering.

painting a dormer

Dad painting the dormer of his in-laws’ house.

I didn’t learn all his skills, but here are some things I did learn about renovating and craftsmanship:

  • There are lots of things you can safely do yourself.
painting the room

Lessons passed on to the next generation – we painted so often when I was growing up, that I didn’t think anything of having my three-year-old help paint her own room.

  • Have a place for everything and everything in its place.  After downsizing and inheriting lots of stuff from three generations of family, I don’t always know where everything is.  But I try to!
  • Do the prep work.  Good prep work makes for happy workers.  See the photo above.
  • A change is as good as a rest.  If you vary your projects, you’ll enjoy your work.
  • Take your time to do it right.

When I was in about seventh grade, my dad taught me to refinish furniture, using a piece of glass to shave off the old layers of finish.

scraping old finish

Why, oh why, would we want to remove that green spray paint!

When I was about 8 or 9, he made me a fabulous doll house out of scraps of wood.  Years later, he remodeled it for my older daughter, and then built a new one for my younger daughter.

remodeling the dollhouse

Dad remodeling the dollhouse.


The dollhouse is sturdy enough to really be played with.

I think the best lessons I learned, though, were on this day:

painting garage

Painting the garage.

This was a Saturday when my mom went to work, and my dad told us we were going to paint the garage as a surprise for her.  Lesson learned – Projects are more fun when they are to make someone else happy.

Here’s the way the day went:

8 – 10 – scrape and sand
10 – 10:20 – coffee break
10:20 – 12:00 – paint
12 – 12:30 – lunch
12:30 – 2 – paint
2 – 2:45 – coffee break
2:45 – 4 – paint and clean up

See what happened there?  As the day went on, the work sessions got shorter and the breaks got longer.  We had great neighbors during my childhood, and I’m sure some of them dropped by to help, or at least to help us eat  – Mom usually had a fresh apple pie ready on weekends.  Lesson learned – Work is inevitable so you might as well make it enjoyable!

I don’t exactly remember how that evening went, because we had so many similar summer evenings.  Mom probably oohed and ahhed over the fresh paint, and we probably grilled hot dogs and ate watermelon.  Lesson learned – A finished project deserves a little celebration.

Those concepts are still part of my work habits.  I will clear dead trees or build a pen all day long, but I am going to need some breaks and some lemonade to be effective.  And a little apple pie doesn’t hurt either!

So thanks, Dad, for good lessons!  Happy Father’s Day, and tell Mom to make you a pie!