I thought I would take a break today from the usual woodworking tips and advice. This was something I had to share. The desk above was built by James Hensley, and here is why it is something astounding (Besides the way it looks I mean.)
Sometimes we see woodworking giants that rock the most popular magazines out there and feel that we never could do what they do. Of course many of them have the right machinery and tools that can spit out elegant joints and perfect fits.
I ran across someone on Facebook in a woodworking group a few days ago, and he told me that he was in a wheelchair. What astounded me more than anything was his woodworking projects! Here is his story, in his own words, as well as some of his work:
My name is James Hensley owner and Operator of Baby Bear Woodworks. I was asked to tell my story of why I started woodworking. It started 38 years ago. I was a foster child. Who was adopted at age 12 by a dairy farmer and his wife. He also loved woodworking. They were both in their sixty’s when they adopted me. I was a very angered violent young boy.
The hard work and home helped, but I had anger too strong to wear out of me. He took me to his shop, and challenged me to build my own tool box. An open, single handle carpenter box. With hand tools sanded and oiled. He taught me to saw make joints sand and glue. This sparked a nerve in me.
This was mine! Many a project later he let me use power tools, and taught me to carve. I forgot to mention he also remodeled government sites. This became my living till four years ago. When I lost my ability to walk.
I’ll keep this short but within a year all saving was gone, my tools stolen by “so called friends” as well as my truck and I soon lost my home. My girlfriend gave up on me as she was waiting for me to get better. I was homeless for a year and a half.
A friend who I run a prison ministry with came to me and asked if I could build from my chair. I said “yes.” He brought me a wobbly table saw, an onsite Ryobi and an old chop saw. You had to use a square to set the blade at the proper degree because the saws settings were far from accurate. He also gave me a router and a 5” sander. Most of the things you see on my page and on here were done with those tools.
My hope for the near future is to get enough work to live. And to get better tools, and machinery like a Joiner and drill press planer sanders and hand tools like hand planer clamps glue tools bites for drill and router a good router table etc. I can only hope for help to help myself. My Wood working has saved me twice in my life.
I filled for disability three years ago. Twelve months from now I’ll have a hearing. If I get it I’ll get 725 a month. I will work to live even after I get it. It’s not just a job or hobby to me. It’s my sanity, it’s my heart, it’s my healing, and it’s a craftsman’s legacy to me.
It’s how we live on. In time our work done will carry our blood, sweat, and tears, as well as our history, pain, and joy. In everything we build we should build like your life depends on it.
Like I do from jewelry boxes to beds and caskets do it for those who will see it for their lives not ours. They pass it on. We live on through it.
Baby Bear Woodworking
Sw Oklahoma City
If you have anything that you can donate to this craftsman, whether it is wood, or tools, or even a modest donation, don’t hesitate to get in touch with him with the phone number above. Or check out more of his work on his Facebook Page, where you can message him as well by clicking the link below: