Memories of My Father
From my very earliest days, my dad was a DIYer. He couldn’t have afforded to do the things he wanted to do with his salary as a PE in the United Kingdom back in the early 1960s. One of my first memories is getting stuck in the footings for a double garage he’d dug by hand, which I still vividly remember towering over my 2-year-old head — fortunately, before he filled them with six tons of concrete, he had mixed in a Heath-Robinson/Rube Goldberg mixer he’d built from an old washing machine and an oil drum.
I learned to love the art of making and building from my dad. His professional career flourished, and he ended up forming an engineering design company which I joined when I left school, but at home he did all his own electrical work, plumbing, and carpentry — and he made sure that his son helped and learned on the way. I think he took great pride in knowing he could hand work off to me, knowing the work I did met his standards. I lost count of the times I would crawl under floors and pull wire for him, the number of copper pipes I prepped, and the thousands of nails I pounded and removed.
I watched him drill a 25-ft.-long 3-in. hole under the house, through two 24-in.-thick brick footings, so he could get hydronic heating through the old solid Victorian he bought for around $4,000, back when no one wanted Victorians and everyone said he should remove all the moldings, paneled doors, and classic gingerbread from his new prize. Dad didn’t listen — and was very happy when the pendulum swung back to period features. He built a drill with a scaffold pipe and a drill bit into which he’d brazed Tungsten carbide chips. He and I spent a week of evenings pushing that thing through — and it came out within 2 inches of the target he’d marked under the floor.
Dad’s gone, and the company he built is too. I sold out to an American company who so valued the tool set my father gave me in my professional life — based very much on the idea that we wouldn’t have been able to afford to get anyone else to do it as well as we could ourselves — that they got me a green card and employed me as their senior design engineer. It’s a whole new life for me and my family.