There wasn’t a clear delineation for when we started woodworking. There wasn’t a clear decision by myself or with DeLyle that declared, “We’re woodworkers now.” It just didn’t happen. I was exposed to woodworking at an early age. My dad always had a wood shop in the basement through the 1980’s and 90’s. I learned some from him, either by his active teaching or simply by exposure. In middle school I took shop class with limited interest or success, but I did get my first real experience with the power tools then. After the eighth graded, though (roughly 14 years old if you’re not from the American school system), I took no interest and had no real exposure to the craft. My father had put woodworking aside because he was working many hours a week providing a very comfortable life for his family. While I was technically old enough to use the machines the interest wasn’t there. It was more than twenty years before I picked up such power tools again working on set builds for shows I was in. I was an utter embarrassment with the tools. I couldn’t manage to do anything productive even with a simple drill. Instead I’d limit myself to hoisting, carrying, and painting.
DeLyle was always the one who was better with tools around the house. She built a large cutting table in the basement of one home we rented so huge that I called it “the boat in the basement.” And it truly was huge. So huge that when she built it she couldn’t use any nails wood glue because the only way to get it out of the basement was to dismantle it. Later, when we were in the home we bought in St. Louis City she built storage shelves under the stairs. I helped out with these projects and even contributed ideas for improving them, but they were definitely her projects.
In 2017 we moved from our cute little cottage in south St. Louis to a one bedroom apartment in fabulous Las Vegas. We were happy enough in that apartment, even if the management wasn’t very good. After about a year we adopted a couple of kittens. That’s when things got interesting, creatively. We’d read that for cats it is recommended that you follow the n+1 rule for litter boxes; for however many cats you have (n) you provide one additional litter box. So, now we had to figure out where to put three litter boxes for two cats in a one bedroom apartment. Jeeze. Okay, we figured out where to put them, but now we had basically three open toilets in two rooms and a hallway. That’s neither fun nor attractive. What were we to do? I’m pretty sure it was DeLyle who said, “Let’s build litter box covers.” And so it happened.
We had a little chop saw that had once been my grandfathers, a palm sander, and a drill. We were also fortunate enough to live on the ground floor and had a 9′ x 9′ patio on which to do our work. With limited tools, limited knowledge, limited space, and a lot of ambition we took to crafting three crates, essentially, that would house our precious little angels’ poop pots. This was a great first little project. Because they were intended to look like shipping crates any inaccuracy and shoddy craftsmanship from these two novices would appear as part of the design. Brilliant! We did the first one together over about two days. It was all assembles with screws and wood glue. We finished it with a darkish stain and DeLyle dry brushed it with some color so it didn’t just look like raw wood. After this, I built the other two essentially on my own with DeLyle doing her magic on the finish. This was such a good project that we made one more for a family member back in St. Louis.
Who would have thought that the acquisition of a couple of kittens would spur on such a new aspect in our creative lives. After the litter box covers we decided that the kittens needed climbing space, so in a corner of our little apartment we put up simple climbing shelves. Then we decided they needed to go outside on the patio whenever they wanted without our supervision, so that birthed an 8′ long x 2′ wide x 5′ tall catio complete with a pet door coming from inside and a human-sized door in the middle. All for 2 kittens less than a year old.
Now we had the bug. We didn’t just want to build stuff for the cats. We had all kinds of ideas for what to build for ourselves. After moving to a larger apartment with a garage, we finally had some workspace to do more and bigger projects. The biggest, and in typical J&D fashion one of the earliest, was our bed. We’d had a modern-style aluminum platform bed for several years that was in good shape, but we felt didn’t match our style anymore. And I’ve always wanted a bed that was tall and I had to climb up in to rather than fall down on to. We also wanted something with under-bed storage. So, I designed a crazy tall bed that DeLyle would have needed a step stool to get into all with 2×4’s and 2×6’s. Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed and we went with the same design, but 6″ shorter. It wasn’t long after we started that we realized we were in over our heads and we called in reinforcements in the form of DeLyle’s brother, Steve. With him we put together this monster of a queen sized platform using 1×3’s as our platform slats. It also has removable legs to aid in the moving process. The rub was that our garage was not attached, or even adjacent to, our apartment. It was probably 1/4 mile away on the opposite diagonal end of the complex. so the three of us (me in my forties and them in their sixties) had to lug this 150 pound beast of a bed all the way from the garage to the apartment. We go our workouts that day.
Since the bed build we have moved twice more. Mercifully, both moves were to a place with an adjacent two-car garage which is both where we park our Jeep, and where we do our woodworking. We have continued to build items for both us and the cats. We updated their litter box covers. And we’ve build more furniture for our home including a set of tables for the living room (coffee, end, and console), a cat climb/room divider/bookshelf, Chunky book shelves, and a small dining room table. But stay tuned, there’s more to come on this front.
You can see our finished woodworking projects, as well as our needle craft projects in our gallery.