10 Country: Jack's Giving Hands - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

10 Country: Jack's Giving Hands

March 10, 2005

Pelham-- A spry man has all the confidence in the world when it comes to creating special items, even though he has never taken a woodworking class and doesn't know how to read construction plans.

Many people find happiness in their own back yards, but few people deliberately test themselves repeatedly, so close to home. "I'm stupid to think I can make anything. I'll give it the ole college try," says Jack Wilkes, who tries almost everyday of the week, while knowing his limits. "If someone gives me a set of plans, I'm lost. I can't read a set of plans," says Jack as he sets a palm sander and a belt sander on an unfinished table in his garage.

While he admits he can read plans, he's certainly not blind. "When I saw this lumber, I saw a table," says Jack as he adjusts his planer that takes his rough wood and smoothes it to perfection. Jack wasn't going to build just any ole table. "She wanted one granddaddy built," says Jack about his granddaughter who asked him to build a dining room table ten feet long and four feet wide.

Without hesitation, Jack said he would build it even though he had never made a table so large. "I have about 75 hours in it. I'll have about 100 hours when I'm done," says Jack. An investment with quite an emotional return. "I'll have about 500 hours of joy in it," says Jack with a smile of joy, because his granddaughter asked him to build one just for her and her family.

The granddaughter wants all her family to have their Thanksgiving meal this year at her home, sitting around the special table. "I'd hate to buy the groceries to go around this table," says Jack with a laugh. The carpenter tackles just about anything that interests him, but something mysteriously happened to Jack.

He thought about trying to cane, and when he went to his shop one day, he found a book on it. In three weeks he learned how to do it, with the book mysteriously disappearing as quickly as it appeared. "I make rocking chairs, but I don't sit in them," says Jack, about his rocking chairs that look as if they came directly from a furniture store. Jack says he doesn't have time to rock.

What causes a man to spend hours building a table, to buy all the materials and to tackle almost any challenge? "It's just something I enjoy doing. I can't explain it," says Jack as he unplugs the palm sander and plugs in the belt sander. While he can't explain why he does what he does, he can explain when a project should end. "When it looks to please me," says Jack.

He frequently amazes himself. "Jack Wilkes I know you didn't build that," he says to himself. For all that work, all that wood he paid for and all those hours to build a big table for a granddaughter, he expects something in return. "This is a two hug job," says Jack.

Two hugs and that's all; Affection worth more than money. "Gives you a warm feeling inside," says Jack about how he feels when he finishes a project. But Jack Wilkes is never done, just between projects he loves doing.

His granddaughter got her special table, and Jack got three hugs instead of just two. He is 81 years young, and never builds from a kit.

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