We worked the past two days making and filming the bookshelves ready for the upcoming masterclass series on bookcase construction. It’s a strange world really, when you think about it. 25 years ago what we are doing now didn’t exist because it couldn’t. I would never have thought that my past prepared for a new career comprising writing books, filming video for online broadcast and making pieces that could traverse the globe. My new book is coming along with a mass of drawings along the lines of but different than Aldren Watson’s book, ‘Hand Tools Their Ways and Their Workings’. I thing this my favourite book of all. It’s a little old fashioned really, my book, but I like old for some things and this is one of them.
When I was a new apprentice joiner in my native Stockport, England, not knowing a wood knot from a resin pocket, I would never have known I would one day become what people call an expert. The men I worked with seemed more expert to me then than I am now, even though at my present age I would be 20 years more experienced then they. I think it’s because they could fold a paper napkin half a dozen times and work out the pitch for a spiral stair case and then make the returns on the stair handrails with such precision using only half a dozen common tools (thats real tools) and without any fuss of wanting accolades for what they saw as common work. I have to say that it has taken me 50 years to make me realize I don’t really know very much, but the saying goes, “In the land of the blind the one eyed man is king” and there are lots of kings in little kingdoms around these days; mine included.
First Class of the Year
Tomorrow will be all go as we take in the first intake of students of the year. I so look forward to our Discovering Woodworking workshops because they unlock the mystery created by our modern age of machine woodworking. If I offered machine classes we would be full six days a week year round. Thank goodness we don’t. Whereas machines have their place and are indeed useful for dealing with donkey work, the new-genre woodworker has so much of a future ahead of them, with or without machines.
I always liked working wood but soon after starting was forced more into machine systems when I was a mere 15-year-old. The thing that saved me from giving up was the percentage of time I spent using hand tools. I decided then that it was worth tolerating my being harnessed to a machine for a few hours provided I could work with my hands and so I stuck with it. It has been such a reward for me to get the zillions of emails supporting our work from countries around the world. Thank you everyone!
So, we had a meeting for future ambitions, hopes and dreams and somewhere in there we did discuss business goals and, you may not know this, but we all work from home when we are not working at the castle. Resi is in New Zealand for a couple of more weeks and hopefully she wants to come back to work here in North Wales. We miss her. But you know, she took her work with her and she has been working the whole time while she is on our other side of the world. She couldn’t make the meeting but we made it this time without her. Katrina was working too. She works her job as a teacher and keeps things in the hopper that makes what we do work outside of her school classes and little ones. When we do meet we meet at Bluesky or Terace (cafes) or someone’s house. We get to the nitty gritty every time, but we also enjoy a relaxed team input dimension that’s always been very real. As long as the work gets done, we are all happy. Without the input we all give, this would not work. And I would also like to say that without the volunteers behind the scenes out there we would not be offering such a rich and diverse way of working wood. Thanks everyone!
For Tomorrow’s Class
All I have left to do now is mill my wood. I like looking over the workshop the afternoon before a class starts. Clicking off the switches adds a sort of black and white image of substance to our work. You know, nothing of excess. A sort of distillation reality it brings in moments like this – tools out, wood prepped, floor swept and ready for the first hour tomorrow at nine. It’s a fast-paced course that totally dismantles some of the modern-day misconceptions of what real woodworking is all about.
I will keep you all posted over the next couple of days.