Makers’ Marks

There is a growing pile of scrap wood in the workshop, which has come to represent tremendous opportunity and paralysis for me. Opportunity, because we can use the wood and tools–when we’re not working on class building projects–to make anything we can dream up. Paralysis, because when I stare at the pile, suddenly I have no idea what I want to do.

I love seeing what my classmates make–little glimpses into their lives beyond theTennessee College of Applied Technology. Our resident Egyptian carpenter has built a coffee table, a baby crib, and a scooter. he gave me a beautiful carved mirror for Christmas. Recently, he constructed a series of shelves to streamline operations at the hotel where he works nights and weekends on top of construction school.

My team’s captain just designed a really lovely low-profile light fixture for his kitchen ceiling, while one student built a shelf for his video-gaming system, and another constructed a wine rack for his sister.

Last fall, I built a Chippendale planter. I was really proud of it, because I cut all the 45-degree angles on the miter saw.


Lately, I’ve been trying to conquer my fear of the table saw, so my latest craft project represents significant vocational growth. As you may remember, my children recently got some pet mice, so I decided to make a mouse maze. To make grooves in the floor to hold the movable walls, I cut a grid of quarter-inch “dados” on the table saw.  I also used the miter saw, jigsaw, and circular saw. I used all the saws, not to mention the nailgun, router and various sanders.

When our instructor teased me a about using the nicest scrap of 3/4-inch plywood in the pile, I explained, completely straight-faced, “I really love those mice.” In hindsight, I realize maybe I should have said, “I really love my children,” but I think the instructor had already picked up on that. After all, given the opportunity to make anything in the world, I was making a mouse maze.

The more experienced students are always very helpful and patient with me, and this project was no exception. It was hilarious to see hulking former military guys noodling where the tiny mouse doors and walls should go. My children and Mr. Fluffball love the final product!


I still move pretty slowly and deliberately on the power tools, so the mouse maze took me a couple of days of working between various drywall and trim projects. In the same amount of time, the Egyptian carpenter built a complete sectional sofa.

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