Jimmy Carter, woodworking, and doing what you love
Friday, March 4, 2005 at 06:24AM
Political Mammal in Values

My Winter 2004/2005 Issue of Fine Woodworking (the Tools & Shops Annual Issue) surprised me by having an article “Jimmy Carter on Woodworking.”

One of my own pastimes is woodworking: I have a shop full of serious hand and power tools; I’ve designed and built some of the furniture and built-ins around my house; when I was a kid I put up a series of small cabins in the woods with excess wood, handsaws, hammer and nails. I take pleasure in the solidity, the concreteness, the durability of wood – such a contrast with the ephemeral, transient, short-lived quality of the computer programs that shape my working life.

Jimmy Carter is a woodworker?

I keep being astonished at how much the most accomplished among us do with their lives. Here is a guy who was governor of Georgia, President of the United States, and perhaps our best model for life as an ex-President. He builds houses for the homeless with Habitat for Humanity (he has an article about he got involved with Habitat on their site now), he set up the Carter Center to work on projects like eradicating the Guinea worm disease, he works to promote free elections around the world. He is a busy guy.

Well, it turns out that when it comes to woodworking he is not just a dabbler like me. He has constructed over 100 pieces of furniture. He made a set of “chairs, stools, rakes and pitchforks” from a hickory tree that he cut down near his home, in that case limiting himself to tools available in colonial times. He has built and auctioned off about a dozen pieces to raise money for the Carter Center. He is published, with pictures of his fine furniture, in the very journal of fine woodworking that I read to envy the pros.

Furthermore, while I have browsed books on the furniture of one of the most famous of American woodworkers, Sam Maloof, and admired that craftsman’s art at museum exhibits in DC, Carter has a personal friendship with the man, and several of his chairs.

If you do the things that you love doing, it seems, there is time to do an awful lot.

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