My day started in my home workshop working on some old oak I recycled from an old oak gate-leg table made from quartersawn English oak stock. It planes so beautifully and the quartersawn oak figuring is stunning. I really like the idea of making something recycled from old pieces that seem not to fit with today’s lifestyle. Not sure yet what this wood will be best used for, but the £10 table has what would cost me £150 new stock in it. More and more people are taking their old furniture and having the wood remade into something special to keep something of their parents and grandparents.
Eric fitting his rails to the leg mortises
Everyone drifted in to the workshop at 8.30 and got straight into their work. I worked with them as much as they needed me, but now they are quite confidently working with all the tools and they get results first time.
Spokeshaves and smoothing planes clean up the surfaces as they shape the arched rails and legs. Planing the surfaces saves a great deal of time and of course money on what is today very expensive sandpaper. They go straight from the #80 cabinet scraper and plane to #250-grit abrasive paper and use only minimal hand pressure to get the results they need. That’s the advantage of using hand tools well. their skill sets are as good as most so-called professionals even though they are very young in their woodcraft.
Throughout the day we gather around the workbench to talk through each stage of the project. Pick up my tools and demonstrate for them. They feel challenged and inspired. That’s the essence of what we older craftsmen are supposed to be to others young in their craft, regardless of personal goals and ambitions. It’s real woodworking in a real environment using real tools and real wood. real joints come from the chisel, the dovetail saw and the shoulder plane. Smooth and silky surfaces lie just beneath each shaving and it’s a revelation to them that what they are creating is something absolutely never seen before.
Of course to my students the most important thing is to actually finish the project, which is for me merely secondary. It’s the dozens of techniques and methods they’ve learned in the process of making the project that’s so critical. All of these can now be in their arsenal of skill-sets . from this table they will be equipped to readily tackle a coffee or dining table. The box they made was also a learning project. yes they made a nice box. A very nice box, when i think about it, but now the world of box making is at their fingertips and the cutting edge of their hand tools. Jonathan with his table together for the first time.
It was late afternoon when we finally had the tables glued together and the tabletops scraped and sanded. At the close of the day we locked the workshop door, loaded up the projects and we all went home fully contented and with that awesome sense of fulfilment: They with their projects and newfound skills and knowledge and me with the reward of making my deposit in their woodworking lives. How great a feeling is that!
And that’s my Penrhyn castle gateway secure and fast until tomorrow. Have a safe journey home fellas! If you enjoyed it half as mush as I did, then I know you had a great time.