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CREATIVELY SPEAKING - A Chip off the Old Block

by Robin M. Van Der Vleuten

At a local craft fair I encountered Chris La Pine, of Woodworks by Chris, and his grandson, Derek Millar. They were selling a range of beautifully crafted woodworkings, from pepper mills to charcuterie boards. Not only did I find some amazing gifts but I also discovered a beautiful story.

Chris’ passion for woodworking began in grade seven shop class, where he made a table for his mom out of pine which he still has today. Witnessing his mother’s love of this table inspired him to do more. “A mother’s love and saying she loved it was a bug and then I knew I liked working with wood.” responded Chris.

Although Chris’ career was in IT, in his spare time he fixed things and built flower pot stands for people. He gradually collected different tools and machinery to create more products. When he retired, it gave him a purpose and a special connection with his grandson, Derek.

At the age of eight, Derek showed an interest in his grandfather’s work. Chris was excited to teach him and started him with some wood scraps and a handsaw. He made his first airplane for his grandma, tacked together with just wood and nails. Like a ‘chip off the old block’, Derek became enamoured with woodworking after seeing her reaction.

As Derek got older, Chris introduced him to different tools, focusing on safety and their purpose. Derek started with the lathe and made a wooden pen for his mom and later made more for others.

Over the next few years, Chris mentored Derek on how to set up a booth, display products and engage with customers at craft shows. Being shy, Derek said, “The shows helped me to become confident when interacting with customers and other woodworkers. I watched and I learned. Once I understood more, I was determined to see how far I could take this and become a woodworker like my grandfather.” So, Chris taught Derek the aspects of the business, from overhead to the value of their products. A business relationship began and they migrated into selling together at craft shows.

As Derek gets closer to secondary school, their business relationship may be altered. Still, the greatest thing to come from this venture, according to Chris and Derek, is the time they spent together.

Robin Van Der Vleuten is a retired teacher, children’s author, artist and photographer. (

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