In the Fall of 1909, just north of San Francisco, a 33-year-old Jack London was at home on his Glen Ellen, Calif., ranch resting from a decade of traversing the globe in search of The Call of The Wild and other stories to tell.
London sat at his writing desk looking out on his rugged California ranch surrounded by golden hills, Live Oaks, and vineyards. A coastal wind blew East, carrying the scent of salt water from the Pacific Ocean filtered through the forest of Redwood trees and tangled Manzanita.
He typed a letter to his old writer friend — my great grandfather Grant Wallace — about a business deal they were working on:
I want to tell you a story about this little house I bought 17 years ago for $1 down. It’s also the story of the American housing crisis, predatory lending, and the economic ripple effects of our nation’s disease of gun violence.
There’s a woodworking school in Portland, Oregon, owned an operated by a guy named Gary Rogowski. If you read the woodworking magazines, or buy woodworking how-to books, you’ve likely heard of him. That’s how we met: I was an editor at Fine Woodworking magazine when I was assigned a feature story working with Gary to build an Arts and Crafts Style table.
Over the years I learned a lot watching Gary work up close, and reading his articles and videos. My favorite of them all is a simple exercise he taught his students called “The Five-Minute Dovetail.”
The challenge: Cut a “pin” and matching “tail” in a pair of scrap pieces of wood and make them fit in 5 minutes or less. The required tool: A bench vice to hold your wood, a handsaw (western or Japanese-style), a chisel, and a coping saw.