Hammington Steel was born to be a carpenter. When he was just two years old, his Unkie Shingle bought him a plastic tool kit; Hammington immediately turned to watching reruns of The Flintstones and adored his favorite strong man/boy, imitating him all over the house. Several hundred wall holes later, Hammington’s parents knew he would be a carpenter.
Like BamBam and Charlie Sheen, he liked to pound things. But he liked the feeling of building things even more. He wasn’t great in school – other than Shop, which he loved. And his teacher dug him so much that he got him a summer job with a major contractor when he was 16 (and could drive to get to the build site).
His first summer, his arms grew two inches. He claimed it was because he hauled almost seven tons of sand from one end of the lot to the other. He did 18 odd jobs, which were fun the first day, but grew old fast in the 90-degree heat. But he did them with a good attitude and the foreman noticed. So he got to do more, learned a few things from the older guys and did small tacking jobs at a very basic level of carpentry skill. That is, he started by tacking together 1” x 4” strips along the plywood that was strung along like a magic carpet leading from the street over the mud into the house. It was needed to keep the internal part of the home clean so that the workmen’s boots didn’t track mud everywhere.
He's got sole.
Doing all of those odd jobs did something else good for Hammington – he got to know every job. It was like a respect thing. As he progressed with the construction company, whenever there was a complaint or problem or hassle, Hammington could tell the whining worker, “yeah, I did that… back in the summer of ’69… 97 degrees and I had a sprained ankle too… did it for 15 hours one day… so… what’s your complaint again?”
After graduating high school, he landed gigs as junior carpenter in various areas. Hammington was able to more or less “apprentice” on the backs of seasoned carpenters doing a wide range of jobs – that was one of the big advantages of working for a large company at this stage of his career - he got to pick and choose what kind of project he wanted to work on. And he wanted variety. (Not the magazine.)
He spent a year fiddling on roofs with a lethal device called an electronic staple gun. After tacking in a million shingles, he’d had enough and moved onto framing.
Framing, in this sense, has nothing to do with tattling; rather, it is about building the bones of homes and offices. The bones are made of two-by-fours and other big hunky pieces of wood. There are walls, flooring, ceiling, mid-blocks and all kinds of other angular things inserted for strength.
Framing was a two year stint – it was hard, very physical work but he liked what it did to his body and so did his girlfriend, who really wanted babies, and didn’t mind the added motivation to go about making them. Hammington wanted kids too, actually. And he knew that meant he needed to make some steady, decent dough.
As a teen, he had witnessed a boom and bust real estate cycle about 80 miles from his house where a once-hot golf course community was now a refuge for raccoons, drug dealers and gals you’d meet on Craigslist. He didn’t want to live a life that was so volatile – so he realized he needed a deeper skill set. He needed to have things he could do for money to get him through the bad times, which he knew he’d face in the course of the next 40 or so years of work ahead of him.
So when his Unkie offered to pay for him to take his journeyman carpenter’s exam, he took him up on it. He passed, but didn’t think that the score at all reflected his actual skill. His school was the one of hard knocks (literally). He just didn’t study the trivia details well enough to get a 98%. But oh well, he got his degree and now was looking at the various career alternatives, leanings and how he was gonna buy his first used Corvette.
While all of this activity grabbed him, he found himself gravitating more toward “artsy” carpentry. He happened to meet a wily old man named Irving who had unique talent with this funky device called a dado. He also ran a miter board, mortice lathe machine and other big fat metal things that cut and smooth dead wood.
It's time to stage a Coupe.
One day Irving invited Hammington and his wife (the old girlfriend who wanted babies – the efforts were being made nightly now… and morningly… and at lunch breaks when she could find him on build sites…) to his house.
Irving had an amazing house. A guest house. And spectacular furniture. Hammington asked it bluntly: “How on earth?”
Irving nodded. “You have any idea how hard it is to find a master craftsman who can work in Brazilian walnut for fine furniture finish? Especially antiques…”
“Hundred bucks an hour kind of hard?”
“Harder.” Irving noticed Hammington’s wife rubbing against her husband.
Hammington was sold. He committed himself to learning the ins and out of fine furniture making and upgrading his Journeyman degree to be that of Master Carpenter… someday. In the meantime, he had the second story on the outhouse that Mrs. Jones wanted him to build for $300.
For now, it was back to making those babies. Hammington was very glad that he had used double rink shank extra-long nails in the frame of the bed.