The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

By Karl Terry
Local columnist 

Candlesticks bring back memories of shop class


Last updated 4/17/2021 at 3:48pm

My wife doesn’t think a story about candlestick holders could be very interesting. Her problem is she never took shop class with Glen Fields.

Those of you who’ve been out of your parents’ house for awhile (and haven’t moved back in with them) may have already had your mother send a box or two of things home with you. She was cleaning a closet or a drawer or de-cluttering her dresser top and she noticed things from when you were growing up you’d probably like to have.

My mother has sent home several boxes over the years. I’ll admit not all of them got unpacked. I ran onto one of those boxes in the garage recently and inside was a treasure I’d almost forgotten about — the wrought iron candlestick holders I’d made in high school shop. They were a little better than I remembered actually and I was concerned maybe Mom had sent my brother’s candlestick holders with me.

They were pretty simple to make actually, but Mr. Fields made it a lot harder than necessary. He wanted us to draw up a set of plans before we started, figuring out the exact dimensions of the materials before we started. He wanted us to study how we were going to use the tools and equipment involved, watch some demonstrations of said equipment and maybe even take a practice run. After that we were all schooled in safety — gotta have those goggles — and then we got to start.

The holders have round pieces of sheet metal stamped out on a press, as the foot and the dish on top that holds the candlestick holder, which was a small piece of pipe. The body was strap metal bent in a jig. It really seems simple but you used a lot of metal-working equipment and tools from vise grips and hack saws to bench vises and welding equipment.

Let’s just say by the time that project was over Mr. Fields and I were both pretty sure I wasn’t destined to become a blacksmith. By the time the class was over we also knew that I probably wouldn’t be making fine furniture or even enjoying woodworking as a hobby in retirement.

The best part of the class was that I sat next to the only girl in the class and she was at least a couple years older than the rest of us and kinda mysterious. She went on to take nursing classes and was training at the old Roosevelt General Hospital when I had my appendix out my junior year. She made a special trip to Pat’s one evening to bring me back a cheeseburger and chocolate shake.

I truly loved being in Mr. Field’s class, mostly because he was a great teacher and maybe the most patient man I ever met. It amazes me how he could deal with a whole shop full of knotheads at once.

Most of my projects didn’t turn out all that great but I gained enough knowledge about how basic mechanical things functioned to, for a time, actually run the back shop at a newspaper with machinery outdated enough that I often had to take parts to a machinist to fabricate. Mr. Fields at least managed to teach me enough to actually communicate my needs to a real craftsman.

I eventually abandoned my dreams of dating the girl from shop class and of becoming a famous silversmith in favor of being a second-rate wordsmith.

Karl Terry writes for Clovis Media Inc. Contact him at:

[email protected]


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