The internet is a fascinating and very large place. I have received visits from England and Ireland, Australia and Italy and very foreign places like Louisiana. It is a vast sea and mine is just a tiny boat. So I am always pleased and excited when my little home is found. I received a request from Canada asking for a plaque of a special size and wondering if I would be interested. The plaque needed to be 24 or 25 inches by 9 inches and needed to contain the words “Remember to whom you belong”. I wondered about that quote and thought perhaps this was for some wayward child. It also needed to be made of maple (Canadians have this thing about Maple). I contacted my local UPS store about shipping to Canada and they assured me they would get it there and quoted a rate. I relayed this information to my customer, and after about 8 proofs we came to agreement and the commission was accepted.
I had just finished several bread boards and pastry boards and was out of maple, especially in such a size. I was about to head off to the lumber yard when I decided to check my little lumber shed one more time. There, in the very back of the shed and hidden behind many boards, was a piece of curly maple. I thought, just maybe, this is wide enough, so I measured the board and found I almost had a 1/4″ to spare. I uncovered the board and carried it into the shop and began milling very carefully. What was revealed was a beautiful piece of curly, sometimes called tiger maple or fiddle-back maple due to its preference in use on the backs of violins. This unique board was warped, of course, and I had just enough to try to meet my customers request. The grain was very pronounced and tended to tear out if touched by any power tools such as jointers or routers, so I carefully and slowly hand planned all surfaces,using light and careful strokes with very sharp blades. The board was magnificent. I was apprehensive about lasering for fear of ruining such a wonderful surface. The length was right at the max for my laser but with care and several light passes, all went well. The finished piece was carefully wrapped and boxed and taken to the UPS store, where I learned about customs declarations and the 5 pieces of paper it takes to get something out of this country.
I always check on the progress of my shipments to make sure that all goes well. I checked on my Canadian shipment and noticed that delivery was attempted but the driver was unable to collect customs duty. Customs Duty! What Customs Duty? I called UPS who transfered me to UPS Canada who told me that because the declaration stated “wood” there was a tax and duty assigned. Apparently some over zealous customs agent thought this was some plot to take over the Canadian lumber industry. This amounted to about 50% of the price of the plaque! However, I could not contest this because I am not a Canadian citizen. My first thought was “Well, no wonder they have free health care!”. I considered writing the President and saying “Dear Mr. President, I have this health care issue solved, just charge 50% tax on everything coming into the country and we will have this fixed in no time.” International politics aside, I wrote my customer and told them what had happened and offered to pay the tax if that was needed for them to receive their plaque. They assured me that was not necessary and that they had received the plaque and were very happy with it.
My customer told me ” I cannot describe how brilliant the plaque is. Truly, my family all love it and are incredibly appreciative of your effort. (We can’t stop looking at it and rubbing our hand over the grain!)”
“The plaque was a gift for my brother. He has recently converted to Christianity and was baptized on Sunday. The quote is one of his favorites it is from The Purpose Driven life by Rick Warren. The full quote is:
“Being included in God’s family is the highest honor and the greatest privilege you will ever receive. Nothing else comes close. Whenever you feel unimportant, unloved, or insecure, remember to whom you belong.”
The last part of the sentence resonated deeply with him and I thought it would be wonderful to have that simply inscribed in wood as a baptismal gift.”
I think it is wonderful. I will always remember this plaque for several reasons; it was my first international order, it was the largest plaque I have made, it was a beautiful and difficult piece of maple and I made some new Canadian friends. This is “To Whom you belong”.