Monday, September 3, 2012

God Speed Dad

On July 26th I lost my hero and mentor, my Dad, CMSgt Robert D Harbin.  He was a 30 year, Air Force veteran who loved his family, friends and serving his country.  Like many boys can I could brag about my Dad all day long and then some.  I had the honor of delivering his eulogy at his memorial service back home and the days spent preparing were filled with many tears, laughs and sweet memories.  While I spent those remarks on his love for my mother, my sisters and I, his brothers and sisters and his deep love for our country and those he served with I wanted to take a moment here to share a small sampling of his woodworking portfolio. 

Dad really enjoyed being out in the shop and his dedication to craftsmanship and learning was voracious.  He’s the reason that I began to dabble in woodworking, and the more time I spent working with him and learning from him, the greater my passion for the craft became.  For almost 20 years, every visit back home included several days in the shop and instruction from him on some technique, or a shared lesson on something we both wanted to learn.  The day we produced shavings with his LN No.4 that were so light they floated on air will be vivid for me forever.  I think we both actually giggled.

There are many years worth of work that I just don’t have pictures of, but I was able to find these shelves that were part of his earliest efforts.
About 99% of Dad’s work was done gratis.  There are probably at least a hundred folks out there in the world with one or several pieces of his work…one of the most desired, this simple footstool.  You may recognize this as the Kreg Jig stool.  I wouldn’t be surprised if there were four or five dozen of these out there, of various sizes and finishes.

Both Mom and Dad really appreciate Country and Shaker style furniture.  Here are a couple examples from the downstairs bathroom.

I believe that three of these Shaker Chimney Cupboards were built about ten years ago…
…and that four or five of these Shaker Clocks were done back in 2004.

Dad also made a couple other forays into building clocks.  Again, dozens were made to satisfy the high demand from family and friends.

These Mission style clocks were made with a cherished collection of wormy Oak that Dad and his good friend, Ray, bought from a local Amish community lumber mill.
He also started branching out into more modern designs.  I believe that this one was an old Wood Magazine design, made from Cherry (also from his good Amish friends) with Dutchman inlays of Cocobolo.

This wine rack was also a bit of a deviation from the Country/Shaker style…with the extra treat of a Walnut Dutchman inlay.
Moving back into the Shaker vein, many of these pieces were very popular with the family and friends local to the Maryland/Virginia area.

These wall cabinets became the go-to wedding gift for nieces, nephews and friends.  Of course a few were made for Mom as well.  Over the years, many were made from Walnut, Maple, Cherry and Oak.  This one that hangs in the master bedroom back home is made of Pine and Mahogany (salvaged from old railroad car floor boards.)
Here’s a reproduction of the Pleasant Hill Shaker side table, in Walnut, found in the guest bedroom.  Note the presence of one of the modern Cherry clocks and a Cherry step stool.

A couple more Shaker Stool styles that also made the most popular list with the regular cast of recipients…
Dad also experimented with a more modern design of the sliding dovetail, high backed step stool, seen here in the wormy Oak…paired with another one of the Kreg stools.

A good portion of that wormy Oak was also used in this tool chest that used to house Dad’s chisels, smaller planes and marking/measuring tools.  When he closed up shop a couple years ago Mom commandeered this piece as storage for table linens.

Inspired by an article on routed bowls, many of the ladies in our family received a pair of these Maple and Walnut pieces for Christmas a few years back.  I remember taking a road trip out to a local mill in the middle of the Maryland countryside to select the stock used to make these.
We also picked out several of the slabs on that trip, that were to become these stunning, end grain cutting boards.  Even as recently as last year there were rumblings from those who hadn’t received cutting boards yet!  J

Mom is a big fan and collector of Harbor Lights pieces.  Dad built these bookcases for additional storage in the breezeway room and to display Mom’s collection of favorite lighthouses.

Dad also experimented with a few different frame styles to display some of Mom’s lighthouse prints.

Of all the pieces that Dad had become “famous” for, perhaps none was more desired and appreciated as the collection of wooden cars.  There is not a grandchild, child of niece or nephew or child of family friend that had not received a collection of Grandpa’s/Uncle Bob’s cars and trucks.

The proof is in the pudding…our youngest son and Dad’s last grandchild was doing some serious trucking today as I was writing this entry.
Along with many tools and a collection of wood, there are several boxes of car parts and templates back in Dad’s old shop.  I’ll make the trip out to Maryland soon to pick up many of these treasures and bring them into my own shop.  The torch has now been passed to me as the toy car supplier for the family.  I hope I can give as much joy as Dad did over all these years.

And finally, I give you one of my favorite pieces…one of my most favored gifts that I’ve ever received.  Many years ago Dad honored me, on Christmas day, with his father’s flag in a display case that he built in his small workshop down at his parent’s old house on the Potomac River.  I was speechless when he gave it to me and told me what it was.  That was Dad though…
As I look around my own workshop I can see a couple of decades worth of birthday and Christmas gifts from my parents (selected by Dad) that have become part of my own woodworking journey.  It is impossible to enter my shop without seeing dozens of reminders of Dad and his investment in me.  It’s one of the reasons my workshop has always been one of my favorite places to be.

Dad and our family were greatly honored last Thursday, August 30th, when we finally laid him to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.  I was moved more than I have words to describe.  For any reading this who have served or are currently serving in our Armed Forces, know that my Dad had a great respect, appreciation and love for you and your sacrifice.  He believed in our nation and in anyone with the courage to stand in her defense.  I would also like to document for everyone that he attributed all of his success, all of his accomplishments to the love and support of my Mom.  He truly loved her above all and set the example to me and my sisters of what a true husband, father and warrior should be.

God speed Dad.  I love you.



bobthewelder said...

Thanks for sharing Pete. I think most Dads leave a legacy behind for others some good some not. I you're case they were good. And when you do something all of the sudden something will make you think about your Dad..
My Dad passed away back in 1987 and to this day I can do or use something that will remind me of him..
I think Dads now a days need to relize what they do/say will affect thier kids..
Take care......Bob

Pete said...

Nicely said Bob!