Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Mini Land Rover.

Every year it's a struggle to find the perfect present for TC. I scour the internet, I rack my brain and I even make notes throughout the year of ideas as I stumble upon them. He's a man of many hobbies but none of them are very shoppable. And of course, TC is absolutely no help. I, on the other hand, make it easy for him. Here honey, this is a link to exactly what I would like under the tree. Oh, I don't do that every time, because that wouldn't be fun, but I help him out every now and then.

Last year for his birthday I tried to find a local woodworker to build a mini toy Land Rover for him. Several years ago we had seen toy Jeeps at the market and TC had mentioned how cool it would be to have a Land Rover like it. The idea seemed simple enough so I went back to that booth at the market where the nice little man promptly told me, "Sorry, I don't have a Land Rover plan."

The man did suggest a few other local guys to ask. A few phone calls later, I gave up and ordered TC a new pair of sunglasses for his birthday.

As the holidays were gearing up, I was staring at yet another gift guide online. It was mid November and I had no Earthly idea what I could possibly get him. But then, out of the clear blue, it came to me. I could try to make the Land Rover thing happen again - but this time I was going through Etsy. I swear I could hear angels singing.

A simple search for 'woodwork' on Etsy turned up a long list of artists. I scrolled through shops and photos looking for someone who specialized in cars, airplanes, boats, or anything else that was detailed and intricate. I jotted down a list of 7 artists and emailed the first three. I explained that I was interested in a custom built mini Land Rover based on photos of my husband's beloved truck. Within a day all three of them wrote me back and politely declined. Too hard, too time consuming, too bad they all said.  I emailed the next three artists on my list the next day. Same response. So I emailed my 7th choice. His shop mostly featured wooden pens, with the exception of a beautiful river boat that was intricate enough that I was hopeful.

It took a day or two, but my new friend Woodworker Jim wrote me back. He sounded positive but wanted to play around in his shop before he made me any promises. He also needed a few more photos of the Land Rover to look at...and sent me a list of different angles to get.

Well, that was just the beginning. Jim spent the weekend researching the specs of a 1971 Land Rover Series IIa and fiddling with dimensions, proportions, materials and tires. The man logged as many hours in the decision process as I expected him to for the whole thing. He sent me a list of the details he wanted to do and wanted to know if it sounded satisfactory. Yes, Jim, yes it does. I told him he was the creative genius and that I trusted his judgement completely.

The way his emails were worded made it obvious that Jim is the nicest and kindest man of all time. Throughout the six week building process we sent countless emails and photos. I stalked TC's truck while it was parked at his work, while it was parked outside of his friend's houses, even when it was midnight and I was armed with a tape measure and flashlight. Countless photos and dimensions later, the truck started taking shape.

Jim poured his heart, soul and every woodworking skill he had into it. His emails said things like, "The truck is like my child - it brings me so much joy and frustration." In the end I think it pained him to work so hard and then ship it off to a complete stranger. Although, he did say that he was glad to know that it was going to a good home. He even typed up miniature notes for each of us that he attached to the seats. Oh! And his wife created mini cookies as snacks that he stashed in the compartments underneath the back seats. He truly went above and beyond.

The truck is unbelievable. It is a perfect miniature replica, down to the license plate. And as wonderful as it is, the best part was the experience of working with Jim. He was patient and kind with me. He didn't stop just because we had blown the budget out of the water. He did the work because he was passionate, he cared and he loved it. Especially during the holidays when everyone is so frantic, Jim was the picture of calm and kindness. I think that's really what makes the gift so special.

Anyway, long story short, if you're looking for a custom built wooden something, or even just a pen, puzzle or helicopter, then my friend Jim is your man. You can check out his shop here.


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