The Persistent Woodworker

Paul Buri, RSA

Paul Burri, RSA

I am a woodworker. I have been for many years. (More on that later.) I have a fully equipped workshop in my two-car garage. My wife insists that I have three of each kind of tool ever invented. That’s so untrue. There are many that I have only two of them. (But I always seem to need a few more.)

I began my woodworking “career” when I was about 12 years old. Back then I lived in a small, two-bedroom apartment in the Bronx with my parents and my maternal grandparents. It was a little tight but livable. I did all my woodworking on the wooden kitchen table, which of course, I had to clear by the time dinner was ready since we ate all our meals at the kitchen table. And of course, I was working only with simple hand tools and a small clamp-on vise that I attached and detached from the kitchen table.

At about that time, one of the most popular magazines was Popular Science, which was much different then than it is today. Back then; each issue always featured a project of some kind – usually a woodworking one. I was a dedicated collector of these and I think I still have a few of those articles in one of my loose-leaf project books. One of those projects was for a replica of a Swiss 15th century all-wooden clock. At the time I did not have the tools or equipment for a project that involved (it required cutting wooden gears) but years later I finally made three of those clocks. They were amazingly accurate and kept time to within about 15 minutes per day. (Close enough in a 15th century agrarian society.) Each of my children now has one of those clocks.

Another of those projects was for a set of naval cannon bookends. The cannons are exact replicas of what the real ones looked like. I started working on them on the kitchen table when I was about thirteen years old but because of my “workshop” limitations I could only work on the backs (that rest against the books) and bottoms of the bookends. Those pieces rested in one of my toolboxes, carefully wrapped, for many years waiting for the time I would have access to a metal lathe to make the brass gun barrels.

Then when I was about 43 years old, I found myself managing a 20-man machine shop. I finally had access to the lathe I needed to make the gun barrels – and I finally made them. A few months later, the bookends were finally finished.

It only took me 30 years to finish that project.

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©Paul Burri 2016


Paul Burri Collecton

Paul Burri Collecton

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