Friday Woodworkers. No.14. 20th. 3anuary 1989.
I am early. For some reason I woke up at 6 this morning and could not get back to sleep. So I got up.
As I arrive, I notice that because I am in good time there are ample parking spaces in the car park--and I also notice 3 or 4 of my students' cars in there! I drive in and park alongside Vi's car, which she is unloading.
"Aha! Caught you," I say.
"Well, there's plenty of space."
"That's the point. If everybody who sees plenty of space parks in it, there won't be. The school wants space for it's own staff and the school dinner van.'
"Well, I'll be going if it's not warm enough, so I'll stay for the moment...."
She wanders off with a big pile of worn-looking bits of wood. When I open the workshop door, she announces her intention of staying. "Shall I move my car, then?"
You could have knocked me down with a feather. Fancy so little resistence! Peter owned up, too, and volunteered to move his car.
"Thank you. Yes please. It does save a bit of aggro with Mr. Purkiss." Mr. Purkiss is the headmaster, and although a pleasant and friendly chap he does like things all in order. I envy people like that sometimes. His office is neat and tidy, his school is neat and tidy, the kids are neat and tidy, the staff are neat and tidy. The activities are very busy, but still manage to be neat and tidy---and then there's us! Luckily, our workshop is in a separate building. Everywhere you look there is something! There's a rack full of part-finished upholstery jobs, piles of odd bits of timber saved 'in case they night come in useful', 3 boxes of scrap-metal (the purpose of these has been mentioned before), coat-hooks, many sizes of work-benches, a radio (thank god nobody ever switches it on), sundry half-finished jobs, a kitchen counter, a flight of stairs, rolls of wallpaper left over from the 50's, piles of cupboard doors, bookshelves, a kneehole desk with 3 drawers and a cupboard in it on which we make the tea (and therefore no teacher's desk), glue pots, odd individual shelves fixed to the walls for no apparent reason, and all the usual paraphenalia of a woodwork shop.
Then there's us. Nearly everyone in the group is to a greater or lesser extent eccentric, and everyone brings in an untidy collection of string, paper, wood, tools, knobs, polishes, etc., until even if everybody froze it would still seem wildly active in there. Mr. Purkiss even has an almost clear desk. Clever man.
Whilst driving to work I had passed John, and he is now arriving on foot, and I am sure benefitting from it more than the rest, who have driven. He radiates energy. But then, so do the rest. He reminds me that last week he lent a G-cramp to someone (me?) and that I was saving it for him, thus proving that people only hold tools to be of importance when they actually need them. I don't remember saying I would return it to him (although that is implied when one borrow something), but he says I did, and I don't believe him to be dishonest. So there.
Jim I comes in specially to hand me the 4 tiny G cramps he borrowed last week. He is in and out, just like that. Very considerate of him to bear in mind that the others might need them before the afternoon, when he normally comes in.
Sandra keeps asking me questions. How does this go together? How wide should this be?, etc. What hasn't yet properly sunk in is the fact that I don't remember any of what is being made until I see the sketches that were made at the designing stage. We nearly all work from sketches.
John asks me if his taper dovetail housings are alright, and whether gluing them one by one is an essential part of the job. That's what 'the book' says, you see. It's where he got his design from. That is fair enough, of course, but surely if you are going to use someone else's design you should choose a good one. This one isn't anything particularly special. "It says here that you cramp them up one by one," he tells me. A tapered dovetail housing's a most important characteristic is that it doesn't need crimping up because you ram it home and it locks there! I point this out, but it is not in 'the book.'
Victoria comes in late. I go over to greet her. She's wearing bright red lipstick! It is quite brilliant in colour, and worn with no modesty at all. This seems somehow completely out of character for a person who makes things out of old floorboards, grinds her scissors to pieces on the grinder, and keeps a great bag of 'might come in useful' items in the spare tool cupboard.
Frank originally donated the kettle, and now that it has given trouble he has brought along his multimetre to look for faults. And what a meter it is, too! It makes mine look extremely amateur. Maybe that is because it is. Really, it is made for people who make things with transistors powered by 1 1/2 volt batteries. Frank's, on the other hand, looks the sort of thing you might stand on by mistake and still have something left to work with. However, the only pronouncement on the kettle is that it only has 4 Ohm resistance, and that doesn' t sees quite enough. That sets me thinking. At this moment I don't know. There must be a fixed relationship between resistance, voltage, wattage and amperage that can be simply worked out. It seems at the moment that if the resistance is only 4 ohms, then as soon as the kettle is switched on it will draw so many amps it blow the fuse. We have a reference book that has this in it amongst the class books.
Myrtle is again not in. Peter got no response when he phoned today. I shall phone her myself just to make sure all is well.
I've brought in the music stand part of my piano, an antique walnut grand, because a certain cowboy 'restorer' who is well known in London (and particularly South London) and whose name is that of a certain very popular, sweet-smelling flower with a prickly stem, has bodged almost every bit of it before selling it to the previous unsuspecting owner. It is the sort of restoration that could last in bits and pieces for the rest of my life reversing his damage. It has obviously been such a lovely piano once, too. The proper piano repairer who did thr mechanism and strings and made it play properly (like a Steinway, in fact) charged me £600 just for his bit. He had to totally dismantle the mechanism, which had been oiled!
Bill is making another boot-puller because the one he made only manages to do his boots, not his wife's. Personalised bootpuller.! What will they think of next?
The two *********s arrive. They engage me in discussions of how to go on. I notice that one has a good pulpy strawberry drunk's nose. But more than that. There are one or two thick wirey hairs growing out of the pip-holes! You don't often find a substantial nose of that type. In fact, I would have thought it took some cultivating.
David the sewing box is pottering on. "That's part of a grand piano," he mutters as he passes. He plays a bit, he tells me, but was discouraged at school because others were so much better. I think a great many of us (or possibly even all of us) have made that sort of mistake at one time or another, and of course greatly reduced our chances by not trying. I was particularly prone to it myself until it dawned on me that failure is a part of success. It is very rare that someone gets something right first time.
The Scottish Davids are obvoiously finding the going heavy, because they decide to go out 'for a good smoke.' I don't know what's good about smoking, but that's what they' re doing. They go out for a good smoke, and don't come back for a while. It is alleged to relax one, but I've never seen anyone look more relaxed after lighting up, and when I smoked I felt even less relaxed. It is in fact a very silly habit indeed. To this day, I smoke about 6 or 10 cigarettes a year. How stupid can you get?
Cholly has actually managed to get string, but it seems to me that he doesn't actually mind whether he goes on with his job or not. Here he is with all these people who talk to him and ask him to help. That seems to be enough for him. I leave him alone. After doing several rounds of the workshop he decides to go on, and asks me what to do next. The problem for me is getting his attention for long enough to explain to him his next move. But I do it eventually by being rather forceful and keeping on reminding him to listen. "Listen!" I keep saying. I leave him alone, and when I next look round he's put on the glue and is now pushing joints together. Not bad. Since you have to put 8 joints together all at the same time I help him by holding some while he fits others. Luckily. they all turn out to fit tightly, so we save the string for the next stage, which is a kind of tray. He is making one of my plant-stands that I originally designed for mass-production in hospital O. T. departments. They sold well, too. When it comes to gluing up the tray he uses an old sewing machine (another item for the list) as a weight.
Everyone is grafting away when I notice it is 10 minutes past time. Busy busy. Cholly almost misses his pickup bus. Finally, there's Just myself, Elizabeth and Victoria beavering away like mad. Such a lovely peaceful pottering feeling pervades the shop. Not one of us is doing anything amazing, yet all of us are enjoying it.
Elizabeth identifies a need when we try to open the plastic glue bottle. There is nothing truly efficient and cheap for getting off difficult jar and bottle tops. I shall design something.