Friday Woodworkers No.12 16 Dec., 1988
Today is the last day of term. There is barely any feel of Christmas about, perhaps because we are all far too sensible, but that is what it is. Frank is tackling a chunk of October Hurricane walnut with a pruning saw - a much more effective roughcutting tool than anything we have in the tool cupboards. He tells me that although walnut cuts to light cream, it begins to darken very quickly. The amazing thing about it to me, though, is that it seems so soft and cheesey to cut. One could almost imagine being able to tear bits off with one`s fingers. Maybe if I were King Kong this would be a possibility.
There is a quietly jolly mood about, and very little is happening in the way of woodwork or design. People keep whispering to each other various eccentric-sounding instructions. I know because I overhear such things as "try putting it in the glue-pot," and "If we do it like that the others might not notice."
Somhow they get onto the price of a car. Nyrtle remembers their first car was an Austin 7 for £50. "Fifty pounds?" says Peter, "ours was eleven pounds." "Nine was six," I say, not being quite fair because mine was a Norris 8, which for some reason was never quite as sought after. But, you see, I have to get in on the act if there is any amusement to be got out of it. Various contemptuous comments change hands regarding these vehicles that none of us can truly remember the condition of. Peter`s contempt is for Myrtle's having paid £50. Mine is for Peter's £11. Someone probably bought one for £3, but they are not joining in this particular competition.
We are all busying away when Bill walks in with the punch. He starts to cook it up, and I know it's a part of the last-day lunch. (The last supper?) Lyrical Jim describes Bill as "filled with Christmas Spirit." We all will be shortly. But no. They are not fools after all. The punch is non-alconolic and they all really appreciate the fact. It certainly is delicious and most class members want to know how to make it. The answer is a craftsperson's answer:
Mix quantities (according to taste) of the following:-
Peter and Bill are discussing smoking. Bill gave up three times and daren`t even have one now in case he starts again. Peter gave up many times and started again. He started when he was ill! The silly thing is that when you are not smoking you hate others doing it. It seems antisocial.
A table-cloth appears on one of the benches. Real glasses, wine, silver plated cutlery and cooked food. This presumably accounts for all the whispering. There are fish sandwiches, meat roll, cheese, some salad and 2 large cakes, one chocolate and the other walnut ("made from the dust of Frank's piece of tree," some wit says). David the sewing-box has brought some of his home-made (grape> wine. But we are not allowsd to consume any of this most attractive fair. Patricia is, because she has to go on to another function, so she sits there and tells us all how delicious it all is! Like well-behaved children we wait for Myrtle to give the word. Some of the people aren`t here yet, you see.
The Scottish Davids turn up, but some of the others who were going to turn up don't, and eventually we start without them. The two Scottish Davids have also brought some wine, and so has Victoria. How we will ever manage I don't know. I feel very guilty for not being willing to drink more than the tiniest bit of red. They've all gone to such trouble. But I won't manage my evening performance (it's the gigging season) if I take any real quantity of alcohol at lunch. I have fish sandwiches (fish and red wine?) and a bit of this and that, plus a bit of each cake. I'm not very used to eating things with refined sugar in them. Not only does it feel like it is burning my throat as it goes down, it also tends to make me want to sleep for 20 minutes or so after I've eaten it. But somehow I survive. David the sewing box tells me he is diabetic and has a problem with sugar. That `s another illness I might manage to believe myself to have if I felt so inclined.
Hugh is planing a piece of 2X2 in the vice. It is about 3 feet long, so the vice is not a good idea because it allows the ends to 'spring' away from the plane, causing the wood to get more planed at the supported bit than the rest of the way. The most noticeable thing, however, is the fact that the more he planes, the less square the wood gets. The main thing is to be enjoying yourself.
Peter starts sweeping up shavings. "I've got my Job back," he says.
"Is that what you did?"
"Well, no. My first job was with a solicitor who wouldn`t let me wear Brilcreem. He was a real oldfashioned sod, like something out of Dickens. Used to wear black jacket and stripes. Well, my hair used to blow about all over the place, so I had to put something on it. He was walking past me one day when he said (nasal voice) `come into my of office.` I did as I was told. He told me I met never wear 'that stuff' in the office. Bit of a sod, really. I left soon after that."
The electric kettle has suddenly blown, so before we can have coffee we have to borrow one from the pottery. There is still whispering going on. "What about the caretaker?" I hear. Nore people trickle in. The afternoon group reaches 11. They are still very much doing their own thing. Hugh, despite appearing to have made his piece of 2X2 worse, has ended up with it cut into 4 pieces well matched in thickness. I've brought in a piece of my piano that has some 'relief' carving on it and Lyrical Jim makes a rubbing of it. He wants to try to carve one like it. Myrtle is going on with her bathroom cabinet. I'm putting on a coat of sanding sealer and at the same time helping Craig to get his job in order when Myrtle sneaks over and throws an envelope on my desk and runs away like a shy kid. It contains a card, signed by all the class members, with £20 worth of gift vouchers! I try to explain to them that they have been a little excessive. "You've already got your card, have you?" says Victoria, then aside to Myrtle: "I thought we were going to have a speech?. Well, Hugh (to me, in loud public-speaking voice) we really appreciate you. You' re such an unusual teacher, and let us do the things we want." Hear, hear all round. It brings water to the eye. Later, when helping Victoria I ask her what she thinks is unusual about my teaching. "Well, you accomodate all ideas. You allow us to develop our own ideas and try them, however unusual. You always accept that we might be right or have a good idea, and anything is possible. And the only time you interfere is if you think we might be going to spoil the job. Even then, you allow us to go on if we wish. This is something other teachers do, but only partially. Nothing is impossible in here." This, to me, is the greatest compliment I've ever had regarding my teaching. It sesms to imply that I have managed to create an atmosphere in which people can think both independently and creatively.
Myrtle has learnt to use the bandsaw, and very proud she is too. She is cutting neat little pieces on it at will. I'm concentrating rather hard on helping Cholly get his work together when I notice that though the handsaw is running nobody is actually by it. Needless to say, this is dangerous. "Now look," I say, in a very loud voice (though not aggressively), and turn towards the machine to switch it off. "Oh dear. I thought I was doing so well, too," says Myrtle, "I shall have to have a black mark and go to the bottom of the class."
At least it`s her own decision.
•4I-' Marram 1990 Friday woodoorkers "0.13 13 3an., 1989 It is New Year, and the first meeting since the Christmas party. There are seven of us in first thing, and I am a mere 5 minutes late. Before I've even opened the door (and through the glass!) Vi is telling me; "we've had a hell of a Job with this," pointing to one of the gas-fires. Vi threatens to go on strike from time to tim over the heating. "You don't have to work if the temperature's below 60 degrees," she tells me every so often, "Why don't you tell Frazer you' re not willing to work till it's fixed?" She has a point, I suppose, but I like By class and the others don't seem to mind. One day I suppose we will strike. Then what? Myrtle is not in, and before I've even got my coat off Peter inform ma that she has phoned him to say that she can't be in owing to acute bronchitis. She wheezes like hell even when she's well, so it really must be something. Peter tells me she could hardly talk: "Pet er--wheeze--I can' t --wheeze--come--wheeze in I've got--wheeze--bronchi--wheeze--tis "etc. I'll phone her up if she isn't in next week. Everyone's opening their new toys they got at Christmas. There are electric jigsaws, sanders, routers, pump screwdrivers, sets of chisels, fancy hammers and much excitement. "Does your one ", "Nine has a thing on it that... ", "That's a useful thing " The place is alive with ironmonger talk. I've brought in 6 cramps which I managed to get for 99pence each, and even though they are are only 2" in size they are in much demand. Last day of last term the kettle broke down, but I notice Victoria preparing to make tea. on close scrutiny it turns out that it is not in fact the original kettle but one of a very similar design. We experiment with leads and the class kettle and blow the fuse on her one, and are obliged to use an ordinary kettle on the glue-pot gas ring. Lucky Myrtle isn't in. She finds that sort of kettle so alarming she can't work. One must, however, get one's priorities right, and a cup of tea is where it's at. The planes and chisels are getting worse and worse. I was able to keep on top of them last year, but this year there is a furniture restoration class who seem to know little about tools, and leave things covered in French polish, use chisels to lever out nails and all the other things guaranteed to wind up a proper woodworker. I'm sure it's not all of thert But even one is enough if that one is active. I have sent word via the caretaker. They also seem to put things back and take another when blunt, leaving me with the Job of sharpening. And then there is someone who sharpens at the wrong angle. That makes almost endless work. Sandra persuades ma to demonstrate the marking out of her mortice and tenon joints. I do one, she does the rest. That seem fair. Whilst we ar! playing about with the bits Peter comes over with a `wavey edge` of fcut, which he describes as a bra mou1d. We are taken back to the sixties, when you could buy paper underwear and throw it away after use. It would be very easy to cast bras, I aa saying. But Sandra points out that in fact the 60's stuff didn`t catch on. If it had, they would probably still be making it. There's no reason to suppose it would catch on now, so down the plug goes another good business idea. Patricia is making a lid for her water butt. All it is, is a circle of water-resistant ply with a hole through for the rainwater pipe to go into. I persuade her to affix 3 blocks underneath with waterproof glue to keep it in position. I have bought some water-bound gloss paint. I once put some on a front door in Wales. That was 18 years ago and it is still OK. So I am using it on my bathroom cabinet. There is only Victoria and myself for lunch. She won't stop, and somehow seems to drive me along with her. Eventually I stop with a vengeance. I stop walking about eating. and sit down eating. I then start playing my saxophone. She doesn't ltke it and so keeps asking me questions so that I have to stop playing to answer. She acts like she wants to get into an argument about anything and everything. "Why are you trying to push the instrument beyond it's natural limits?" "Becauss I feel like it." "It's not designed to do that." "No. But I'm trying to make it." "You don't have to. It's range ends lower than that." "Yes, but I want to see how far I can push it." After each sentence I try another. But she won' t give up? Does it hurt her ears or something? It being a baritone I am playing today, it is not in fact going very high. Anyway. she could tell me. Or does she just feel like a bit of aggro? After all, we argue about everything else. She finally succeeds in stopping me, and then asks me how to get the rivet out of her scissors. So that's it! I recommend filing the end of the rivet, and she goes to the grinder and grinds half the scissors away because she is grinding at the wrong angle. I did say file. But there we are. My, what a mess. Never mind. She has got the rivet out and is enjoying herself. There is now the strange contrast between the peace of an empty and resting workshop and the jolly yellings of the kids in the playground outside. This contrast between age and youth, and the odd bits where the two brush against each other is one of the things I particularly like about this class. Jim I comes in. His wife died Just before Christmas and it is the first time we have seen him since. A few of us know, and people are being supportive. Just exactly enough to let him know he's amongst friends, and no more. No one is straining themselves to be compassionate, and no-one is avoiding him because they don't know what to say. 3 Jim II (Lyrical Jim) comes in. I got a very fine cap over Christmas, and now I am looking at what other people are wearing. Jim's is like a pancake. Someone flipped it and it came down on his head by mistake. As it was nice and warn he kept it on, and decided to have it copied in something more permanent. And there it is. I am so intrigeed by it that when he takes it off I have to pick it up and look at it. It is just a plain piece of (pancake coloured?) woven wool with a peak and an elasticated band. How does it stay on like that? Jim I wears his pulled well down, and Victoria has a kind of deer stalker. I look around. There are all manner of hats and cops, but I like mine the best. Nine is in patchwork tweeds with quilted lining. Perhaps a little over-trendy. I`m walking about in my oily mechanic's overalls I've had the last 18 years because I'm painting my small cupboard. The Scottish Davids come in. "Aha. Hugh's dressed up." "Yes, I'm going for an interview." They want to make a magazine rack each and we plan one: illust. This is quite a good design to make with the particular equipment we have, but a bit of a sod for ordinary hand making. Craig has forgotten to bring the string he needs to go on with his project. There isn't a lot he can do, so he goes round tn~fr4nG auartr~n~ •t'~t~a~A Innib?." ~ ~ .a'~ I turn