Shop Night with Ellery

If you’ve been following the blog for a few weeks, you probably already know the pattern: I tend to post something substantive (nearly) every weekday, but weekends and holidays are generally met with either an abbreviated post or more likely radio silence. I spend 10-12 hours of each weekday in front of a computer screen, so I relish my days away from electronics and prefer to spend that time with my family or in the workshop.

Even better is when I get to spend time with my family in the workshop. My daughter Ellery just turned four a couple of weeks ago, and she has taken to the workshop like a pig to mud. I generally just had her a hammer, some wood scraps, and a handful of nails and let her pound away in the corner while I work on some other project, but she has enjoyed it so much that I decided to take a page from Joshua Klein’s book blog and spend one night a week working together on a project with her.

Since Christmas is coming up, we decided to work on a special project for Mommy – a birdhouse. I gave her some posterboard and a pencil and let her sketch out what the birdhouse should look like (in case you have trouble interpreting a 4-year-old’s architectural plans, the birdhouse is the steep-roofed structure, and it’s sitting on the end of an apparently truncated branch).

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Blueprints for a birdhouse.

We searched through my wood stacks for some suitable stock and pulled out some sassafras scraps and some 3/8″ Douglas-fir plywood. I sawed out the shapes and Ellery planed them to size (with a bit of help. I should really build her own workbench so she can get some more practice with planing, but I’d have nowhere to put it in my tiny shop!)

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Her form is impeccable. At least it is when she’s posing for a picture.

She needs no assistance at all with the hammering, though. She has practiced diligently for the last couple of months, and she can easily sink 4d nails to the head without any pre-drilling. I did pre-drill the holes for the birdhouse, though, to make sure things were aligned properly.

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This girl swings a hammer better than any 4-year-old I know.

Ellery was rightfully proud of the end result, but it’s been a bit of a struggle keeping Mommy’s Christmas present a secret. Next shop night will include painting the birdhouse, drilling the doorway, and turning a peg for the residents to land on.

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A proud carpenter.

I had to take a video as she was driving the nails. There was one brief pause to kiss a boo-boo, but she immediately gets back to work afterwards.