Humble Beginnings

There are so many different reasons someone might catch the woodworking bug, and in so many cases it will be a combination of many small triggers.

I think the toys you have as a kid can play a big part: it is the first experience of just how real timber products are. I wrote about it just recently: the best kids toys are wooden, and even better if homemade.

When I was 2 or so, I remember being at a house (in America), playing with the children on a marble roller. It was a small one, and it was fun. Years later, my father made a large one for my brother, for about his 4th birthday. Not sure how much he played with it, but I spent hours and hours rolling marbles down it, seeing which side the marbles ended up. I can still hear the sound- it was hypnotic!

I can’t find an image of one exactly like the one Dad made, but this is the sort of concept


A year later, and we were on a PanAm flight (well that is my memory, but recently it sounds like it was actually Lufthansa), and an air hostess gave me a round container full of small painted wooden animal shapes. Simple, uncomplicated, each painted a single solid colour. Probably hard to find these days- toys seem to need to be so complicated now. The toys have become so complex, but I really don’t think kids have actually changed that much. We teach them their expectations.


Another year passes, and it was my 4th birthday. By this stage, our family had moved to New Zealand (my Father following an academic career). My RAAF uncle (one of the influences for me joining the military later on perhaps?) was visiting as he often did due to joint Australian/NZ operations. I was outside the garage, and the two of them (Dad and Uncle) were inside making something, and I was (unusually) not allowed in. I was devastated.

It didn’t take long, and my Uncle came to find me, to find out my favourite number. Well that wasn’t hard, 4 of course!

Soon there after, and the doors to the garage open, and a homemade billycart rolls out.

(Again, I don’t have photos of the real thing- all these so far are the best equivalent I can find online)


This became the first of many, many billycarts I made over the years.

The ability to make, and not just buy was constantly being reinforced, time and again.

Working with wood has been one of those themes that has followed me all the way through, but in a subtle way. There was never an actual woodworking workshop (although I knew another of my Uncles did have one, and my brother and I got a very cool marionette each he had made while we waited, that I still have, but I actually only saw the workshop for the first time 25 years later). It was all woodworking with basic tools – handsaw, circular saw, jigsaw, router, hammer, nails and screws.

Still, the seeds were sown, and from humble beginnings, look where it has all lead.


You know you want to!

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