My father’s hammer, by Rob Hueniken (

Stepping into my father’s workshop always takes me back in time. Not only are my parents collectors of memorabilia, but they continue to make good use of the things they already have. So when I look around my father’s garage I see tools that have existed since I was a boy, including a vice, a band saw, and various ancient screw drivers.

While my mother prepared our lunch, my father showed me his latest project – to add a second door to the front hallway, to keep the cold air out, but with a window to keep the light flowing in. Their front door already has a window in it, so a second door with a window would let my parents keep the natural light.

Being a resourceful person, my Dad took an unused door, removed a wooden panel, and was busy inserting a Plexiglas window into its heart. It was at this stage of the project that I arrived – to help my Dad nail in the Plexiglas.


As he prepared to starting hammering, a big smile came to my face – he was using the same finishing hammer that I had used as a boy. It was a bit more worn now, but it was still the same light-weight hammer I had used, before I was strong enough to use a regular hammer.  But in my Dad’s case, he knew that this job required a finishing hammer, so that is what he was using.

My role turned out to be supplying my father with one inch finishing nails, one at a time, while he hammered them carefully into place. He has a steady, practiced hand and not once did he bend a nail or dent the door with an errant hammer blow.

As I watched him working carefully and skillfully, I remembered my own hand on that hammer, and him helping me on projects. To be working together, with the simple job of handing him the next nail, was a sublime and satisfying joy – one that transcended the moment — connecting the two of us through years of building and sharing time together.

One hammer but many moments together – the joy of working side-by-side is not secondary, but the most important product of my father’s hammer.


If you enjoyed this article, please read my poem about cleaning my son’s workshop area.

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