Thursday, January 28, 2010

3 Generations In The Shop: A Handmade Family

I had planned to write about Milan today.  Sometimes life has other ideas.
Today my/our son  "A" came to work for Bob in the shop.  "A" told me he doesn't want me to talk or write about him.  Sorry "A", I can't help myself.   So "A" I won't use your real name, as I don't my own.  "A" and I still share a common bond of fleeing from a madman.  I don't want to compromise our safety.  We worked too hard to get here.

Bob is getting ready for the East Coast Custom Knife show the 3rd week in February.  So "A" worked on his day off to give Bob as much help as possible.  He also was going to take Mom for a ride in his new car.  We all worked in the shop, elbow to elbow, rear to rear.  We enjoyed our time together working with our hands in the shop.   Today "A" put his scraps of carbon fiber on my bench.  We all listened to last night's "Coast to Coast" that Bob "down cast" from the internet onto his iPhone.  At one point we all were standing at our individual machines when the interviewee said "Chicago has no problem with dead people."  We burst out laughing, and said at the same time: "vote early, and often" dead or alive.

Buddy keeps an eye on all of us.  He really
hates the noise of the shop.  But the dog's love for us keeps him there.  I am constantly brushing little steel curly ques out of his coat.  And checking paws for unwanted splinters.  Buddy is steadfast and true as a "good dog" should be.

At lunch time I asked "A" if he wanted anything special as I was going to the store.  He was at a breaking point in the action, and offered to drive me in his new car.   I got my list and bags and off we went.  He's a Subaru nut, and has another one.  This one is not a hatchback or wagon like before.  It's a sedan with power locks, sun roof, and a trunk.  Which he has a sub woofer in...and many more custom touches he so loves.  Besides much improved driving since the last time I was his passenger,  I was driving with a real young man.  When we got to the store, I asked if he'd like to split up and make it go faster.  He said: "no, I want to spend some time with you."  How sweet was that?   So we got all the items on the list together.  He's become quite the consumer, and showed me a few things.  It was a lovely outing.  Followed up by sandwiches he designed, that we all ate hardily. 

I have to interject something here.  When he was 5 the "professionals" in our school district told me he was "unteachable, untrainable, and should be placed in a residential setting for everyone's benefit."  My own family told me about the same.  It was a lonely place being the Mum (what "A" calls me) of the kid screaming in the store, school, church.  When he was in 3rd grade he asked me "why am I a boy nobody loves?"  But I knew if he could take apart the VCR at 5, that there was something there.  He used to call himself the "deengineer", because at 8 he could only take things apart.  He took apart many an item that he was not supposed to.  We would hide all the screwdrivers in the house from him.   A good friend at one point told me I had given up my life for his.  For  a  good many years that was true. I spent 12 years after his diagnosis trying to teach him everything socially I could think of.

I didn't do it because I am such a wonderful mother, or person.  It was selfish on my part.  I did what I had to do.  If "A" was to be independent some day, these lessons had to be taught.   He did the work.  And now he is independent.   This is where Bob comes into the story.   "A" was 14 when we met.  And a hormonal young teen.  Bob wasn't sure he could really love this woman, AND her kid.  Many others "A" and I had sent a running! ;o)   From the first day they met, Bob and "A" have had an understanding.   I am grateful he practiced on his two children first.  He was a seasoned parent, and has become a real father to a kid whose own father abandoned him.   Bob has loved "A" when he behaved horribly and needed it the most.   As parents we all know how hard that is to do.

Bob lays out trays of knives for the NY Show.

Last summer our 11 year old Grandson came from Denver and Bob had planned to help him make his first knife.  Lucas Burnley supplied a piece of steel for the event.  Bob planned step by step how he would teach him to make a fixed blade.  The night "E" arrived we gave him 2 Blade magazines, the bar of steel and a grease pencil...and sent him to bed. " Design a knife by morning" Bob told him.  It sounded a bit like a fairy tale where the hero must complete a task by sun up.  Bob had faith in "E." "E" had beaten us at enough adult card games for Bob to know the kid had the smarts to do so.  He emerged the next morning with a knife drawn on the steel and ready to go.  Below are a few pics of Bob and "E" making the first blade.  Heat treating was impressive.

The Final Piece

So 3 generations have worked in Bob's shop.  I see in "A" and in "E" a contentment when they are working with their hands.  Bob and I understand that all too well.   How fortunate they are to have someone to show them the way.  Neither Bob or I had that.   How great for Bob that he can impart his knowledge and years of experience with these two young men.  I believe that Bob and I have shown them that a person can make a living with their hands.

My Grandson also profiled a flock of my personalized birds in silver and copper.  I taught him how to use the grinding wheels to shape and smooth the edges.  I would look over and see him with his iPod in his ears, and grinding away.  He was a great employee during his visit.  He said "I could do this forever!"  Me too kiddo! :-) 

Thanks for reading.  I am still amazed that you do.


I am adding a few notes since I wrote this.  I will post again about Autism on Monday the 8th.

First, thank you for your kind words.  They mean a lot.

Second: the report about vaccines and autism has been withdrawn.  I never felt that autism was caused by vaccines, or wheat, or any of the "causes du jour" parents of autistic kids are faced with.  I believe it is an evolutionary development in the human race.  Who are our technology whizzes?  Yep, the "A" community.  More Monday.

Three: Saturday night on HBO is the "Temple Grandin" movie.  I will be plunked in front of the TV to see how Hollywood handles autism.  It's been a long time since "Rainman." 

Thanks for reading!


  1. I'm touched by this story. It sounds like you have been a very devoted "mum" and it shows in your son. Way to stick to your guns and not listen to what the docs had to say. Sounds like Bob is a wonderful man as well and you are lucky to have him!

  2. Yep "A" has turned out to be such an amazing person! I do kind of miss the fires, well only a little.

  3. I am always delighted when I read about parents who recognize that their child deserves their love, attention, and formation, regardless of circumstances, and especially when it gets tough. Standing in applause for you, and Bob too. :>)

    I like your knives too.

  4. Oh my goodness...your stuff is so cute. It is so great to see a person who is helping to change the world through such pretty things. I commend you for your struggle to help your beautiful son...I am sure he would be lost without you. Do you ever make semitic themed stuff? That would be awesome. your stuff keep going strong your son and your dog need you!

  5. I have only made menorahs. If a material I come across speaks to me, I will. Thanks!