An Ode to the Man Who Got Me Started

I owe a lot to my father. On the 5th anniversary of his death (cancer took him at 67), I miss him now more than ever. Now that my wood carving business is starting to take off, I know he would have loved to be involved. I wish he was.

Dad & Mom's Wedding Day
Victor & Sharon's Wedding Day

He was always involved – the best dad in the world. I’ve said in previous posts that he was born in the woods and was never very far away from wood all his life, and consequently I was always close to wood too. He built his first and only house in 1972, and there’s approximately one square foot of plywood in the deck that has at least 15 nails in it that I hammered when I was 4 years old, “helping” to build the house. In 1974 he built a desk for my bedroom using hand tools and a skill saw. It’s still in my old room, serving as a computer desk now. In grade 8, he helped me fix up a project I was doing in my school wood shop class. In grade 12, his mentoring in the basement shop helped me win the shop award for my high school.

He worked for BC Hydro for 28 years, but he probably should have been a cabinet maker or joiner and furniture maker. I mean, check out this dresser he made for my wife and I. Wow.

Oak Dresser
Oak Dresser made by Vic McMillan

The drawers fit perfectly and glide nicely, yet there’s not a nail or screw or piece of hardware in it except for the handles. From the outside it looks like a nice piece of furniture, but it’s the hidden joinery that truly sets this piece apart. It’ll never split or warp. The drawer faces are bookmatched from lumber that he resawed. It’s an heirloom piece for sure!

He gave me my first carving tools and got me started carving in 1995. When he passed away, he also passed on his shop tools – like a cabinet saw, jointer, and 14 inch bandsaw that are tuned and set up ‘just so’. With those tools, he created beautiful and useful pieces like this jewelry box he made for me:

Maple Jewelry Box
Jewelry Box by Vic McMillan

It’s made out of maple and walnut, and like all his work, everything fits tightly and perfectly. There’s even a secret compartment, which he must have had fun creating.

My father, Victor McMillan, taught me a love of wood and a love of creating new things. He was never really afraid to tackle any project, large or small, although sometimes it took him a while to think things through. He passed on his knowledge of how wood ‘works’ which helped give me a good foundation for carving. For example, he helped me understand how grain direction influences the strength of a piece of wood, and how important it is to cut wood the right way so as to avoid warping and wood movement. It was through him that I learned about how to avoid cracks as wood dries and even how to “stretch” wood (a trade secret).

Best of all, he passed on his love of God and creation to me and many others. He inspires me to do the same.

Who inspires you? Whose work of creation do you admire? Who are you inspiring?

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Published by

Grant McMillan

I am the University Registrar at Trinity Western University, and I've been in the profession since 1997. I have an MA in Organizational Leadership, and have made a career of going into organizations that are in very difficult situations and leading them to a much better place. I teach Leadership to budding managers in the Adult Degree Completion program at Trinity Western University. I speak and consult, with organizations. Contact me at grant.mcmillan@twu.ca

6 thoughts on “An Ode to the Man Who Got Me Started”

  1. I heard from my parents that your dad lived in a lumber camp when he was small. Your grandpa McMillan owned it and your parents live there. My dad even worked for your grandpa.

  2. I have a living room full of furniture built by him and a scroll saw that I actually know how to use, thanks to him. The kids in my class were so impressed with my hammering skills the other day. All thanks to dad!!

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