Conclusion A Great Wheel

One day in Williamsburg, a message reached me at the carpenter's yard that the cabinet shop was shorthanded and needed help with something. I figured it was some high-end task like dovetailing a chest or shaving a score of cabriole legs, so I dropped my adze, told the crew where I was going, and headed down to the cabinet shop over the creek.

I eased into the visitor-crowded shop and waited for a couple of Japanese honeymooners to get their photograph. I shivered, chilled as my sweat-soaked colonial outfit cooled in the air-conditioned shop. Along the wall, I spied the work ahead—a great stack of heavy walnut spindle blanks, waiting by the lathe.

Well, I'm a pretty good turner, so I happily worked my way through the visitors toward the lathe and the wall-mounted rack of polished gouges. Then, I noticed that David, one of the journeymen in the shop, was already standing at the lathe and was nodding toward the great wheel that drove it.

Oh, fair enough, I thought. I stepped over the rope, set my hands on the drive handle of the six-foot diameter wheel and began to crank. Slowly, slowly, I worked it up to speed. The first ten minutes of turning were fine. I watched the flapping leather drive belt as it poured from the top of the wheel over my head, ran down along the wall to the wear-polished headstock pulley, and then came rushing back toward my feet. I counted the spindles in the stack. I watched the faint drift of brown shavings feathering to the floor.

I was craning my neck to see if there was any water in a mug sitting on the windowsill when I felt a rap on my shoulder. I turned around to see one of the visitors ducking under the rope barrier. This was easy for him, because he was a little guy, old as my dad, but moving fast. I tried to form the words explaining that the ropes were there for his protection, but I got only as far as taking in air before he pushed me away and grabbed the crank of the great wheel himself.

"Outta the way, kid," he said in some New York accent. "Here's d'way ya do it!"

I reached to direct him back across the rope into visitor world, but the room was transforming. I pulled back. Gone was the clattering roll of the wheel and the lazy cut of the turning. Now the great wheel was flying, the floor hummed along with it at some high-energy harmonic, David struggled to hang on to the gouge as a ribbon of sheared walnut hosed over his shoulder.

"Dat's how ya do it kid; ya gotta put yer ass into it!" he shouted.

I knew this couldn't last, but he kept it up, grinning and shaking his head, never flagging. He was still grinning as I reached out to him again. He grabbed me first and now had me turning the wheel as he ducked back under the rope.

He stood there grinning at me. "All right now, kid. Dat's it! Just put yer ass into it!"

I had no idea what he meant, but at that moment I felt the belt slacken as David parted off the finished walnut spindle. I let the wheel slow.

"Never thought I'd do that again!" he said.

"Ah. I was in the ball turret of a B-17 durin' the war. Two-six-two got us and next thing I know I'm in a parachute. I wake up with some Austrian farmer pokin' me with his pitchfork. Marches me back to his farm and puts me right to work. For six months, 'til the end of the war, I'm turning this wheel for this Austrian farmer." He reached over and rapped my shoulder hard with his knuckle in the way only old guys know. "And the one thing I learned was, ya gotta put yer ass into it."

As he faded back into the shuffling stream, I tried to re-establish boundaries by cranking up my historical interpretation. "The great wheel that you see here is just one of . . ." Across the room I saw his head poke around to listen to me. I stopped short. Here's this guy—one minute he's flying along, next minute a jet plane shoots him out of the sky, next minute he's cranking a great wheel on some Alpine farm in a scene out of the Middle Ages . . .

And I'm trying to teach him history.

Woodworking Tools and Installation Tips

Woodworking Tools and Installation Tips

There are a lot of things that either needs to be repaired, or put together when youre a homeowner. If youre a new homeowner, and have just gotten out of apartment style living, you might want to take this list with you to the hardware store. From remolding jobs to putting together furniture you can use these 5 power tools to get your stuff together. Dont forget too that youll need a few extra tools for other jobs around the house.

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