In the introduction of my upcoming book, “Build Stuff With Wood,” which drops in fall 2017, I look back fondly on my childhood in the 1970s and 80s, and the childhoods of the generations before mine, before big flat screens and little smart screens took over the world.
Before video games, when there were just four channels of bad TV, we were pretty bored, I’ll admit, but we did something valuable with all that downtime. We built stuff. Tons of it. Bikes (from other cannibalized bikes), model cars, model planes, model rockets (which actually blasted off into the sky), forts (both ground and tree), and more.
I had Lincoln Logs, and Tinkertoys, and Legos, and the generation before mine had these awesome building kits called “Erector.” OK, you definitely can’t call a kids’ toy “Erector” these days, but it was a different time! There were guys called Dick. Seriously.
Hoping to locate an Erector set to photograph for my book, I hit craigslist and found one that looked promising. I made contact and headed out. An old guy met me at the door and said, “This was my dad’s, and I think all the parts are still there.” He was right. The set looked to be in awesome shape. The box said it was designed to create a radar scope, but there were tons of parts in there, and a full book of project plans. So I went for it.
I dug through the plan book. It was tattered but amazing. There were tons of projects. All sorts of old-time vehicles, machines, and mechanical gizmos with working pulleys, cranks, etc. I decided to actually build something. A picture of a box full of parts would have been pretty lame anyway.
So I spent a night putting together a railroad bridge I found in the book. I had every part I needed, but wasn’t easy so sort out every detail in that drawing in the book, and the work was tedious! With Erector, everything goes together with tiny screws and nuts. (There’s a joke there, I know).
But the tougher the job, the more proud you are in the end. It was awesome building something the way a kid must have done 60 years ago. I tried to put my perfect bridge on a shelf in our house, but my wife said, Hell no. So it’s on a shelf in my shop, where I can still force my friends to check it out.