M. David Lutz
Just for Laughs
"Writing is easy . . . Writing Good Ain't"
Carpentry and Brain Surgery  
by M. David Lutz on January 22, 2007  
© All rights reserved

Under the tutelage of Mr. Woodennuts, Instructor for the Seventh Grade Shop Class, who assured us students that we would produce enough works of wooden beauty to refurbish our homes (materials not included).  After only three months, Mr. Woodennuts couldn’t even walk by my table without breaking into tears.  The school board had to ask the county to raise more taxes to replace all the wood I had destroyed.  

All I had to show for my efforts was a half-finished chunk of wood remotely related to the knickknack shelf family.  I never did find any self-respecting knickknack that would sit on it.  It was a very traumatic year, watching the rest of the other lads making birdhouses, gun racks, dinning room sets; yachts; and condominiums.  

It should have been no surprise when the following semester I was the only boy assigned to Home Economics.  Not only was I not allowed to attend Shop Class, I was forbidden to be on that side of the building.  My dad, a master at making almost anything with almost nothing almost always, took it very hard having such an inept son.  

Despite my un-inherited ineptness, I plunged into constructing a 6 x 4 ft. terrarium with a glass front to house my turtles and lizards.  When my mother saw the finished product she made me put the terrarium outside and let the turtles and lizards ‘free-range’ in the house.  Did I give up after that?  No, I had a few more projects in my bowels that would have to get out.  There was the dollhouse I built.  Subsequently, the dolls sued me and with the settlement they bought a three-bedroom split-level in the suburbs.  

It seemed to me everyone who was anyone knew how to make something with wood and make it look so easy.  “That’s it,” I exclaimed, “all I need to do is find something so easy to building I couldn’t possibly fail.”  As my skills and confidence grew, I would simply take on greater challenges.  I seized the opportunity to make a wooden plaque for an award ceremony.  With one simple wooden plaque, I would be rehabilitated and redeemed myself with humanity.  The Award Committee took one look at my plaque and decided to give cash instead.  

Still believing I could still hammer out a success somehow, I passively waited for another opportunity.  Okay maybe eight years later was a bit too passive, one day I was sitting upon some rustic furniture I had recently purchased and noticed that the boards were little more than a combination of pine 2 x 4’s and 2 x 6’s with some 2 x 10’s.  Surely, I could duplicate my end table, at a fraction of the cost of buying a new one.  

With carefree abandon, I dashed out and bought wood, screws, tools, with a belt, orange jumpsuit, and steel-toed boots.  Without warning, I found myself obsessed, maybe even possessed.  An end table was not going to be enough.  A coffee table made me scoff.  I had never scoffed before and it felt rather good.  After that, I decided I would definitely scoff more often.  I sneered at the thought of building a chair.  Yes, I had sneered before but not as much as I probably should.  No, only a bookshelf would do and not any bookshelf.  This would have to be the mother-of-all bookshelves.  It had to be immense, big enough to hold all my books, TV and ten pieces of stereo components as well as all my records, tapes, and any deserving knickknack with ample storage space for anything else I ever acquired.  

Everyone kept warning me to make a plan first.  I had.  I planned to make it really big!  Big is not necessarily bad, if you keep in mind that in order to make it match my new furniture all the wood would have to be an inch and a half thick.  Groundbreaking took place the next day inside the warehouse at the company I worked at.  The boss gave me permission to keep my colossal erection at work as long as I kept it covered up during regular business hours.  Each side of the bookshelf, even to my amazement was seven feet tall, three feet wide.  When I looked upon all that I had created I said, “It may not be good but it is big.”    

Now it had to be moved but I was too tired.  Selling my blood to get more money to buy more wood was a good idea but I needed a lot of wood so I had to sell a lot of blood.  

Four blood banks later I had to stop when I kept seeing the animals of the Serengeti stampede past me wearing Hawaiian shirts.  It was a week before the dizziness wore off, color returned to my checks, and I had the full use of my colon again.      

Driven by the same passion of those who built the pyramids, I returned to work until my colossal creation had cabinets.  Finishing the construction was now very difficult.  It was so heavy it would take a dozen stouthearted men and a small lad to move it.  All I could come up with was Dale the stouthearted, Dick the half-hearted, leaving me who was fainthearted.  Good thing we also had a 2-ton forklift.  When it bookshelf was finished, I partially dismantled it and with my hands stuck to the wet varnish I proceeded to reassemble it in my apartment.  To my bitter dismay, it was painfully too big.  This left no choice but to get rid of it.  When it was gone it created a huge void in my life and a way for the other tenants to get out of the building.  I suppose if I had not spent the 500 dollars on that project I would have just ended up pissing away the money on something foolish.  The last I heard the bookshelf had been sub-leased as a high-rise for midgets.  

It is a lonely life for the hardwood handicapped, the dovetailed disabled, or the refurbishing retarded.  People can be so cruel, with thoughtless remarks like, “Did you make that yourself” or “Why don’t you make your own bookshelf.”  Sure, I sought help, worked part-time at night to buy books like the three-volume set; “Woodworking Made Easy,” “Woodworking Made Even Easier,” and “Woodworking Made So Damn Easy, We Come To Your House and Build It For You.”  Sometimes I would not even come home at night, just hung out with the boys at the local hardware store.  One night I got pulled over by the cops and charged with a DUI-HB, which means I was ‘Driving Under the Influence of Homer Formby.  In the end, I was a broken man wandering the streets trying to bum a two-penny nail.  

That is when I ran into my cousin Bobby, who I had not scene ever since he broke his father’s wine barrel, then running away and joined the circus.  To look at him, you had to tilt your head way back because he stood 6’6, whereas I have always been vertically challenged.  He now reigned with awesome power over men, enjoyed fame, fortune, idolized by people everywhere.  With the money he had earned from the circus, he attended college and became a High School Industrial Arts Teacher.  Since we were family, he did not shun me like all the rest.  He understood my sufferings.  Like the true professional he was, he took me in--to the shop and started me on the long road to recovery.  It was there I learned the proper names of tools and how they were used.  We spent hours looking at different types of wood and talking about how each would react to glue and stain.  Once he even let me clamp and glue a mitered tabletop; we are talking walnut here.  Those were the days.    

In time, I became a new man armed with the knowledge on how to square and brace a cabinet, drive a wood screw, and match joints.  I refinished the top of my dresser that fell off a pick-up truck.  With that meager accomplishment under my belt, I went on to build a workbench with a lift-up top.  Now when I walked down the street now, there is a slight swagger in my step and I am met with friendly greetings, nods of respect, and beautiful women stuffing their phones into my hands.  

You might be interested in knowing, year later I went on to completed a custom-built bookshelf that perfectly fit one entire wall, at a fraction of the cost and weight.  

Now with my new found confidence in woodworking, I’m thinking of giving brain surgery a try next.  Really, how hard could it be?  

My admiration and envy of an artisan’s skill is only secondary to that of a brain surgeon’s.  Unfortunates like me who lack the divine talent or genius to create wooden masterpieces find woodworking just one more mystery in life.  Carpenters will never know the deep pangs of inadequacy I’ve suffered being unable to successfully pounded two boards together without splitting them.  Regardless of the countless measurements and careful calculations I’d made, the board would still be a half inch too short.