Friday Woodworkets No 8. 18 Nov 1988.
Today, not only am I late (5 minutes), but as I 'arrive I see Vi standing in the playground looking militant. "There`s no heat, and I`ve phoned the Education Dept. and they`re sending some new gas right away. It's 48 degrees in there." The system we have for heating in there is three compressed gas stoves, one of which we mustn`t use until another one needs a fresh canister. The reason for this is the fire regulations, which will not permit us to keep gas canisters. in the building. So we have to keep a complete heater - spare! When I go in the workshop, it is noticeably colder than outside.
There is no Victoria, and later in the day I decide that as this is the second week I will phone her in the evening.
Sandra wants to know how to go on with her ' housings' and I decide that as there are a great many to be done I will do one for her to show her a method. "That doesn' t seem square to the edge," she says as I mark it out. It doesn't seem to be, and I remark it using the other edge to mark from. That doesn't look right either. We conclude that it must be an optical illusion. What I haven't realised Is that in fact she has not made the panels square.
Pat is now in Full tea monitor mode, and we all get a cup of tea prompt at 10.30. This, she says, is because she needs my attention and until I finish helping Vi she has. nothing to do. "Oh well. I'll take my time then," I say. "There`s a limit to everything, you know," she says. She has brought a bottle (!) of milk from home and it has on it a bobbley plastic top that is designed to fit all types of milk bottles. Very simple and very ingenious. I help her.
Billl gets my attention. He Is trying to frame pressed flowers. The thing is they shouldn't touch the glass, so you put them on a board with a rim around it. How do you keep the gIass from falling back, he asks me. A bit of beading. But then you can`t get the new glass in if you break the old one. How about seeing it as a box with dried flowers in it and then you fita frame to it? "very good. Lateral thinking," he says. Can't say it`s quite what I'd call lateral thinking, but there we are. He was trying to fit a box to a frame.
Vi`s drilling holes with a brace and bit. She's really throwing herself into it and the brace is going round (and of, course her arm with it)so fast that sparks are flying off her nylon overall. We should wire her up and use it to heat the worrkshop.
Peter has been trying to make some round columns for a couple of weeks, and working out how has been a big problem. If, however, he made them octagon it might be much easier. I offer to find him something in my private woodpile to make them from. I find a piece about 12 feet long and quite narrow that could be cut into strips. It`s nice stuff, and we get it down (the pile is up a kind of loft) for a look. He decides against it, and when I put it back I give it a good shove to get it well back in position - straight through a window at the back of the loft. Not knoiwing quite how to sope, I announce "I`m angry, and I shall go on smashing windows until some heat is provided. I intend to smash every window in the building before I go home. "
"Then we`ll all be really warm," retorts Peter.
John is concentrating as though his life depends on it. He has been bent over his work moving slowly and deliberately for a long time when he asks me if I think his joints are alright. As far as I know they are, but he means the marking of the tapered mitre housing joints in his table pedestal. Nothing wrong with these, except that one is different to all the others. He talks about methods of sawing the legs to shape (not yet done) and actually chooses to use an old-fashioned bowsaw (as used by people like Jesus Christ) rather than the bandsaw. To me, most odd, but to him quite rational. Suddenly:
"That`s it. I hope the heating is back on when I get back in two weeks," says Vi, "I`m going on strike for a fortnight," and walks out.
Myrtle needs some sash cramps on her job, and Peter has some he doesn`t need on his. As he takes them off and hands them to her, I notice he is nearly hitting Hugh on the head by swinging them round. "Mind Hugh`s head," I say. "What`s that?" says Peter, swinging back the other way and nearly doing it again.
somehow we get rounf to the subject of crystal sets. Peter was a radio engineer, and he talks about an old radio shop in Hampstead. I`ve got a book of super-power crystal sets writtne in the late thirties. One of them "can even receive foreign stations". Not bad, that.
Lunchtime, and nobody lets up. I try stopping and feel guilty, so I start up again. Eventually, half way through lunchtime, they all calm down. But even then, there being no heat it is not the usual cosy affair round the stove. Myrtle has brought her silver plating liquidand I use it to plate the modifications I have put on my saxophone. Marvellous. You just rub it on and it deposits a thin layer of silver. I wonder how long it will last?
The discussion has moved to the two Jims, who were coming long before I took over as teacher. I am surprised they`ve kep[t on coming with a change of teacher when so many people don`t. Myrtle points out that Vi complained like mad at first because I didn`t do the work for her but expected her to do it for herself. On theother hand, Myrtle and several others were very pleased. All that waiting about for the teacher to do something foir you that you should be doing for yourself. She even started taking her knitting to do when the teacher was not available because he used to get upset if you tried to do it yourself (that annoyed him too, though). So (not surprisingly, since the others have left one presumesthe vast majority (all 24 or so of them) think I`m just the thing.
Myrtle reckons I should do carols with the Rhythm and Blues band I have got together. Some are more natural than others, however. "We three kings", for instance, ia already almost already R&B, but I`m not sure about "Away in a manger", which is perhaps more suited to reggae.
I try to have my lunchtime practice, but Sandra, who is not yet used to this routine, keeps saying things like "Oooah - I like that", and similar, so that I feel like a performer who mustn`tstop when things go wrong. Very frustrating. I give up.
Myrtle is drilling holes with the vertical drilling machine. But there is one she cannot get at because she is so tiny. There is, however, another machine. It`s called Hugh, and she manages to persuade him to do the drilling whilst she holds the job still. This is done with great deliberation and careful thought by Hugh, who is an absolute gentleman and would not dream of refusing his help.
The two Scottish Davids reached the stage where they separate their now totally enclosed boxes into a box and lid by sawing through them. As I`m showing them my approach to the problem in walks Elizabeth. David 3 turns to me and says in a whisper (you must be popular with the ladies." Well, we do have a great many ladies in this group, but I hope there is some other reason than that.
At 3 o`clock, a man carrying gas cans arrives! We`ll be gone by the time the workshop warms up.
Elizabeth has some small pins to bang in. Now, the problem, of course, is that you bang your fingers as well as the pins. Here`s how she solves it:
You just jam the pin in the little wooden handle, position it where you want it and hit it with the hammer. When the pin takes in the workpiece you pull the handle clear and bang it in the rest of the way.
David (the sewing box one) has turned a magnificent centre column for his box:
I am not quite sure if it is his first try at turning or not. He asked me for instruction, but frankly the result is so good I find it hard to believe that this is something he hasn't tried before.
Elizabeth starts to sweep up, saying Victoria always reckons this is a job for the caretaker. When she's done I get out my work and start making shavings. They're all hanging about the the workshop and it`s 3.45. Haven`t they had enough?
As the others leave, Victoria arrives. She tells' me she has a poisoned arm. She had an argument with the cat and the cat won.