Friday Woodworkers no.9. 25 Nov., 1988

If I arrive only a quarter of an hour early, I can expect difficulties. Myrtle, Peter and Jim are in. Myrtle is going up and down being indignant that there is no heat. There are, of course, three heaters. But since none of them have any gas in them it doesn`t help. Luckily for me, I've recently had a cold and this has caused me to come in wearing a bomber jacket with a large American chequed coat over the top. It makes things a little heavy going if I wish to move my arms about, but apart from that it is fairly satisfactory. John comes in and recommends a bit of PT (I believe this is nowadays called PE--Physical Education).

Myrtle is fishing about in her sack of bits and pieces when I notice a piece of decorative copper sheet, all beaten and shaped into a kind of box. It turns out to be her completed drill stand. Her husband has really gone to town on this copper cover for it, and it has had almost everything you could think of doing to a piece of copper done to it. Not only that, but it also works!

Victoria being away, I am working on the storage shelves for the end of the shop. We can't get into an argument about them if I put them up while she's away. I need the extension lead to bring the electric drill to my bench. I walk past Peter and Hugh and plug in. "Just getting some power," I say. "Try to get me some while you're there," says Peter.

Frank walks in with a fine antique mirror frame. On closer inspection it turns out to be the cheval mirror he has been making with us. The antiqueness is because he has put a finish on it which includes a light stain before he has sanded out every tiny blemish. It looks far better in my opinion than it would have done had he done it perfectly. The stain has become slightly uneven as a result of his efforts, and it is very smooth and silky feeling. We all crowd round for a quick parley on the subject. "Nice bit of distressing," I say. I am amazed to find that none of them know what distressing is. It is when you deliberately give a piece a few dents and blemishes to make it look genuinely antique. It is frequently done very badly and evenly (when real life distresses would be uneven--just look at your own furniture) and the colour and stain tends to be even and lifeless. In Frank's case we`ve got odd bits here and there where small chips have fallen off and a scrape or two, and then the stain has rubbed into these more than the even surfaces, then the polish has gone on thicker as well as a further result. He has put a really good finish on the polish as well, so that it feels good to the touch at the same time as looking right.

Peter is struggling with something and muttering to himself. "I'm always deriding myself, `` he says, "quite right too."

It's tea-time. I decide to have hot water instead of tea. It's very good for the digestion. Myrtle won't stop. She's very busy, and what she's sawing seems outstandingly hard work for what it is. She's sawing the bench at the same time.

Patricia is making a box to fit the top of an old television-stand. The reason for the box is that the stand is not high enough, so that she can screw the box instead of the television onto the stand and then put the television on top. It has a rim round it like a tray to keep the television on.


Bill has finished the toy shop/theatre and is now completing a toy articulated truck started by someone else but designed by me. He's turning my Ford design into an Atkinson. But it doesn't really work. My original design was arrived at by considering the design problems of a real life truck. An Atkinson (an early one, which is what he is trying to make) has a different chassis layout and so is intrinsically impossible to copy on a Ford chassis. Never mind. He just wants a radiator on the front. He's planning to paint it with enamels. He tells me he annoys Carol the pottery teacher by using ordinary paint on some of his pots when he wants a bit of bright colour.

I want to know how to drill very thin holes in brass. Myrtle tells me that you start off with a needle the size of the required hole, rub it on the oilstone to make it like a screwdriver, then give it a slight point:


This you put in your jeweller's drill and work through with it. Peter talked about a tiny modelmaker's electric drill.

Somehow we get onto the subject ot electric shocks. Peter was working on a cash register and holding both terminals when a cashier came in and switched on! Happy days. I thougt I was the only person who was prone to sudden unexpected electric shocks. My car seems to specialise in going static.

There is much discussion of the new one way traffic systems in the town. Frank reckons you'd use less mileage going to another town than would be used going round the one-way system looking for a parking place. I wonder how many other towns have done themselves in the eye by accomodating so much traffic that nobody wants to go there. We (the nation or the world) should be looking at a way out of this predicament before we grind to a halt in one massive traffic jam:

"To let: Back seat of Marina saloon. Picadilly Circus. Brown plastic. White trim, Close all amenities., gents, trains, shops. Suit student, Box ZZZZ. "

It's lunchtime. Why won't they stop! They're all beavering away and so I feel I have to go on teaching. I assert myself and get out my saxophone. I play "What'll I do?".

"It doesn't go like that" says Myrtle.

"How do you know what I'm playing then?"

"`What`ll I do?`?"

"Quite right. How does it go then?"

Peter sings the same tune. I've been playing it in 4/4 and Peter sings it in 3/4, which is the original way.

"That`s how it goes. "

"OK. " I continue in 4/4 not realising that this is what she objects to. I want to do it in 4/4 and very gently with my new blues band, see. She tuts and goes back to her work. I wish she'd stop and have a cup of coffee.

I realise what it is. Like last week, there being no heat, nobody is relaxed enough to stop. I sit by the gas fire (which isn't going) playing. A small child from the school pulls herself up to the window to see what's going on and I manage to play "Baby Face." No one seems to see the point.

The gas-men arrive. We light the stoves. Myrtle sits down and offers me a cup of coffee - phew, I thought it was never coming - and lunchtime is at last with us.

Lately I've been looking at 'Country and Western' music, and the tackier the better. I love it. I'm struggling with "Your Cheatin' Heart" when in walk Jims I and II. "I`m not so sure," says Jim II.

Hugh is still not regretting his secret mitre dovetails. The fire can't make up it's mind whether to go or not, but it is beginning to warm up a bit. Elizabeth arrives. She is carrying her tea-trolley. She starts fitting the edges on the top tray. They are to be pinned and glued. But she makes so many mistakes with the positioning of the pins (and then pulls them out again) that it begins to look like someone has been poting it with a 12 bore. She perseveres. I try to convince her not to worry, pointing out that woodwork is more about knowing the right tricks than it is about having skill.

Cholly commences cutting lippings for his box lid. The lid only has four sides to it, but he has eight or ten lippings, and only one is anyhwhere near the right size for one edge. I ask him if he knows what we are trying to do. Yes. The next problem, of course, is to actually do it. "Terrible - it`s the wood," he ejects, "I should be working on something else." There's always an easy way of letting yourself off the hook if you want one.

David Woody Allan tells me his father knew Lloyd George. My father knew George Lloyd (or was it Goige Lord?) but I don't boast about it, He was a fine brewer.

One of the problems Cholly is having with the wood is that it Is not square. He tries to force the square to fit the wood, but it is of no avail. "Have you tried making the wood fit the square?" "Oh yea."

But it's the same problem. "What about if you planed a bit off till it was square?" "Oh yea."

Victoria arrives. The place already seemed crowded with us all beavering away, but Victoria makes it seem packed. She's going up and down the workshop moving people's belongings to make a space for herself. There will be chaos when it's time to go home. But she manages to create a space, that's the main thing. My shopping, that I bought on the way in, has become evenly distributed all around the workshop. It is, of course, my own fault for trying to keep too much in there and thus leaving no vacant space for coats, hats, personal belongings, et al.

I look up from helping someone and notice that all four Davids areleaving at the same time. How extraordinary.

Victoria again admonishes Myrtle for sweeping up too well, and I have to volunteer to chuck some shavings on the floor. I'm going visiting in East Anglia straight from work today, so I have to shoo everyone out to get away before rush-hour.

Another happy day.