BY: WILL FREDER
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON JANUARY 20, 2020
I know you are probably thinking from the title that this is going to start somewhere in the woods, or just somewhere where there is mud and filth. While my journey does take us to those places it actually starts in my fifth grade classroom with a ballpoint pen.
I can vividly remember sitting in my seat while Mrs. Velez was teaching. I began looking around and saw some students paying attention, others doodling in their notebooks and I became immersed in my ball point pen. Yes, how riveting it must sound that a young student was staring at his pen most of the day its true. I was amazed and confused with exactly how it worked and all the moving parts in the pen. I would look closely through the colored plastic and see the inner working mechanics of the pen but that was only when my interests peaked. I then had to find a way to get it open so I could see exactly how the pen went together and what each part of it did. Every part, no matter how small, has a purpose. First I unscrewed the tip where the ball point comes out of and the spring, causing tension, almost flung itself across the room. Once I felt that no one was looking at me anymore, I slid the ballpoint out and realized it was connected to an ink capsule that fed the ink into the tip. I was amazed and then started to think of how if I blew into the open end of the capsule that I could basically make a homemade blow pen but I had to focus and get back to the mechanics of it. Then slid out what looked like one white gear but when it hit my desk it split into two and that blew me away for a multitude of reasons. One of the biggest was because I had absolutely no idea what it did and why it was necessary, and secondly because I didn’t see how it came out or how it was put together so I knew it was going to be very difficult to put it back together. Lastly came the “clicker” of the pen, that part you push to bring the point out to write and it makes that clicking sound. This was followed by me holding the empty carcass of the pen itself. I laid each part starting with the cap, then the spring and so on until I reached the very last piece of the pen down where some girls of the class kept their 2,000 colored pencils. Looking at this expanded version of the pen that I thought I knew very well, I was in awe of the small pieces that made it work. From putting it back together and apart and back together countless times that class, it started something for me. It started with a lifelong obsession of working with my hands and searching for how everything works.
Pull to Stop
A little while later I told my dad I wanted a go-kart and he replied that we will do something that weekend. Overjoyed I was anticipating that weekend and when it came he said he wanted to show us something. My little brother and myself followed him outside and when we got to the garage I didn’t see a go-kart, instead I saw a couple of 2 by 4’s, a baby carriage and a black milk crate. As any kid would be, I was very confused. Then he told us that we would be making our own go-kart that day and I was through the roof. We started by measuring my… chair area… to make sure I would actually fit on the kart and then we took the wheels off the carriage and stuck them in some holes we drilled on either side of the kart. We tested to see if she would roll and it actually did! Which was a huge victory in my book. Once we saw that it worked we cut one of the sides off the milk crate so that it became a seat and tied a rope around where our feet would be so we would be able to steer. It was done and it looked amazing. I was so excited to test it out when we realized we didn’t really have a braking system for the kart. After telling us just to “run into something soft” or “put our feet down” and laughing to himself my dad looked at the kart got a better idea. He grabbed his drill, a scrap piece of wood and screwed it in next to our seat and proceeded to tell us to pull up on it to stop. My brother and I then spent hours going up and down the road right in front of our house while mom and dad watched from the front porch so they could help when we inevitably ran ourselves off the road. My dad is one of the biggest reasons I am who I am today. I really thank him for giving me the mindset that I can do anything myself and by having the right tools I can make anything I want. From helping remodel the bathroom to simple plumbing around the house, he really helped me learn life lessons hands on that I will take with me for the rest of my life.
From first grade to senior year of high school I built many things through my career within the Boy Scouts. Some being little pinewood derby cars, marshmallow catapults, some new trails or even my younger brothers eagle scout project of an event pavilion right outside of the civic center in my town. But nothing was more enjoyable and fulfilling than my own eagle scout project of building a 24-foot bridge for the National Audubon Society in my town. I realized I didn’t want to clean a cemetery or a church like so many projects I have helped with before me. I wanted something that would show that I was there and something that I could come back with my own children to show them what they can do to help their community. When hurricane Sandy came around and destroyed one of the bridges that they had along the Clovis trail I knew that was a challenge I wanted to take on. Once I gathered all materials needed for this project most of my troop of 50 came out to help. My dad and I went the weekend earlier to move the supports into place so all we had to do when the scouts got there was put the decking, steps and the handrails in. With all the support we were able to complete the project in one weekend and with minimal people falling into the stream the bridge spanned. But definitely a ton of laughs and enough memories to last me years which is all that really matters in the end right? In case you are wondering Charlotte the bridge is still standing after 5 years of service to the Audubon. I go to check on her occasionally to make sure she is still doing her job to the best of her ability.
Once college started I was more or less taken away from most of the things that made me feel like who I am. I couldn’t really find anything that gave me the building and the problem solving mentality that I had back home. I jumped into painting which gave me some relief but mostly I started to watch a lot of craftsmen on YouTube so I was able to watch them do what I wanted to do and learn from the videos. (If you’ve read this far and are actually interested in this type of stuff definitely look up Alec Steele who is a young blacksmith making stunning pieces as well as a channel called I Like to Make Stuff where a dad will make things for his house, his kids, and most importantly pieces that he knows will make his wife happy). Those are two of my favorite channels and have really helped me along the way here at the university. However, I just want to say a little side note of thanks to my brothers who helped out at the scout camp here in Alabama. You guys stepped up when no one else did and I can’t thank you enough for that. That project and sharing that day with those people is one of my fondest memories of my time here at the University of Alabama and if any of you need help with anything I will always be there.
Who knows what I may build in the future. I plan on making my own dining room table but we’ll see when that will happen. Now I leave you with this. Do what you love! Even if it’s simply a hobby. Start small and just start doing it! Who knows what can happen. And lastly, don’t be afraid to get a little dirty because the memories and friends you make will last a lifetime and if you don’t… what stories are you going to have to tell your grandkids?
about the author
Will Freder is a senior from Greenwich, Connecticut majoring marketing and minoring in computer science and technologies. He pledged AKPsi in the Fall 2016 and hasn’t looked back since. Will got into building because he saw what his creations meant to other people, loves to give back and give people what they need. With the help of his parents, brother and friends, he has been able to make that happen as much as he possibly can. Will’s favorite food is pizza. Hands down. (New York style cheese pizza, if anyone is curious.)