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#2: My Woodworkers 'Bar Code' - the story behind the slice:

Updated: Jan 24, 2022

My Daddy taught me a lot of good values and gave me great life skills to succeed in life. One of those traits was the sage advice that he and Mom both believed in, mainly from living through the Great Depression and WWII.

It was instilled in all of our brains early on, "Don't throw that away, we might need it one day." That is also a thin line of becoming a hoarder too. My parents were too frugal to be hoarders though. They were just very tight with their money, and extremely resilient.

My Daddy worked in a factory in Keokuk, IA. full time and spent about every other waking moment trying to scratch out some extra money on the family farm north of Luray MO. Materials and supplies came to the factory from Malaysia and the Philippines. The pallets those supplies came in on were made from various exotic hardwoods. The pallets were being thrown in dumpsters at that time. So, every Friday, Daddy would bring home a truck load of pallets in the back of the old '63 Ford Econoline van, or as we referred to it, the 'Blue Van'. Not sure why we had to ID it, as we only had one van....

We would head to our farm to feed the cows, and unload the pallets in the barn. On rainy days, we would pull nails and stack pallet slats. During the winter months, after feeding cattle and traipsing through knee deep snow, we would head to the barn and pull nails and stack slats. Then we would burn the broken pieces to try and keep warm.

Daddy worked at that factory for about 16 years. I think he brought home pallets for about 6-8 of those years. Then I left for college and the 'hired nail puller' wasn't around as much to help him, so that wasn't a regular activity much longer. Besides, we had already had to shore up one rafter in the hay loft because the stacks of pallet wood was bowing the beam too much from all the weight.

All the pallet wood was mostly 1/2" to 3/4" thick to start with. Once it was planed down, it was anywhere from 1/4" to 1/2" thick. So what good was it?

Fast forward 35 years later.....

Daddy passed away in May, 2017. Several trips home to Missouri, to help clean up the farm, clean out the Big house (Mom down sized), and bring back lots of wood, woodworking tools, and family heirlooms, because we realized Mom and Daddy really didn't throw a lot of stuff away.....

Out of the blue, I finally had a good idea - I could make cutting boards!

After making several cutting boards from the pallet slats, I realized they were a little busy looking. But I had all these thin strips glued together. So, I cut them into thin strips, added them into a board as an additional strip of wood with the segments running perpendicular to the rest of the board. Then Bob Nix, a friend of my sisters, from Greensboro, NC looked at one I had made for his wife, and coined the phrase when he said, " Ya' know, that kind of looks like a woodworkers version of a bar code."

And the rest is history, as they say....

So, to make my boards a little different, and to help clean out the scrap bin, instead of sending it to the fireplace, is save scraps, just like Mom and Daddy taught us. I save up a box full, glue them up, and cut them into strips and add the next slice into the next couple boards. Some people might think its more work than its worth. Maybe. But It lets me put a little back into the board and makes me smile that my Daddy taught me something worth while, and he likely gets a good chuckle out of it too.

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