Sign here, please.
With an abundance of time on my hands last spring thanks to COVID-canceled activities, I decided to tackle a shop purge. Away went the “must have” stuff that I rarely, if ever, used; the “that’ll come in handy someday” detritus that never did; and the “I have no idea what this is or where it came from” junk.
Way up on a shelf I discovered an unopened box of miscellaneous stuff from Dad’s shop. Judging by its contents, I’d guess he never did a shop purge.
In the box I discovered an old, scarred hand plane—a rusty No. 4 Craftsman, with alligatored finish on the tote and knob (neither of which, amazingly, was broken) and yellowed paint streaked along its sole. The name “Virg” scrawled neatly on several parts, including the tote, body, and frog, told me that it once belonged to my Grandpa, Virgil Campbell.
Instantly I knew I would never restore the old plane, because doing so would remove not only Grandpa’s name in his own handwriting but also the patina created by years of his use. Grandpa is literally a part of this tool, and I can’t wipe away that history.
As I thought about my good fortune, it occurred to me that this relic of my family history could have easily wound up in the donation box or given away. But because Grandpa (who apparently was quite worried he might lose parts of the plane) signed it, the plane took on more value to me than it would have for anyone else.
The same is true of the woodworking projects we make. Will folks a generation or two removed from the pieces you’ve built know they were handmade in your shop? Or will they end up in the thrift shop (or worse, at the curb)? That’s why it’s so important to sign your work.
Last Christmas I experimented with miscellaneous metals and epoxy resins to create a stylized “DC” medallion (below left) to inlay into the back or bottom of each project I make. Aluminum tubing forms the outside ring, halved brass tubing shapes the D and C, and black-tinted casting resin infills the space between.
I’ll admit, my signature medallion isn’t as obvious as “Virg” in explaining the provenance of a piece, but it’s at least as legible as my handwriting. And I often add a handwritten “Love, Dad” and/or the year as a more personal touch.
The projects you make today are tomorrow’s heirlooms, so make that connection to your projects for generations to come.
See you in the shop!