My two kids enjoy playing with small plastic animals so I thought that I'd buy them one of those funky, wooden Plan Toys houses for Christmas. But when I saw what that these cost up to $200 each, I kept visualizing my Master Carpenter Dad shaking his head at me spending so much money for something he could just build from scratch in his workshop. But alas, I have what amounts to a Blue Thumb in Carpentry, and needed to call in the pro's.
So, while we were visiting my parents before Christmas, I played Elf to my Dad's Santa and we hid away in his shop one morning to make the toy play house. Lacking what might in technical discussions be called a "plan", I proceeded to share my broad vision for the house, and how the kids might play with it.
In response, Dad merely muttered, "Hmmmm...." and he puttered around in the shop to look for odds and ends of wood that might do the trick. He found two boards that had been previously bevelled to look like shingles, and we worked from there. We found a suitable floor, drilled round windows in the walls, glued them the foundation, built a second floor, cut a few doors and glued and screwed it all together. What emerged was quite different than my original design, but a lot more stable and more beautiful than I could have hoped.
From a learning and planning perspective -- for after all this is not a woodworking blog! -- two things stand out:
1. Sometimes visionary people need practical folks to help them put their ideas into something tangible. At the same time, practical folks sometimes need someone to inspire (cajole? beg?) them to try something different or innovative.
2. A successful planning process is not necessarily done all at the beginning. Sometimes you need to just start with what you have, improvise, reflect and gain new inspirations as you go. In the end, you get something that is more appropriate, resilient and/or beautiful than what you might have ever imagined before you started.
The finishing touch: he took a small piece of moulding, stamped M-A-I-L with an alphabetic nail-set,and created a mailbox for the house. just like the ones that my Dad has made for all of his kids and neighbours. It was a big hit on Christmas morning.