Garden Benches & More Beyond

The weeks pass quickly as I make, write, film, draw, plan and design. Behind the scenes other things go on too. I design for other situations too. A birdhouse here, possibly other simple things for others to make there. Across from me someone is making a table, beautifully, like poetry. Someone else new to woodworking is redefining his life and he is making his very first dovetailed box. The dovetails remind me of how we cut away waste wood in the form of shavings and chips, to get rid of the excesses, and we end up with a box and in the same way our woodworking somehow enables us to remove the waste of our past in our own lives to leave us with what we really want and see as best future for us.

I am in the middle of filming the Oak garden bench too so it seems my life revolves around benches of one kind or another at the moment. We had to postpone some filming because of sickness but it looks like we are over that now. While we were waiting for recovery we filmed and wrote and kept up with zillions of questions.

I have been building a working desk bit by bit, to incorporate my oak cupboards additional shelving etc. It’s on some very substantial wheels and rotates 270 degrees from its hinged corner. That way I can disappear from the more the public office area to any position on the arc to all the way around the corner and into my office proper.

This week too I am off to visit a very unique teaching facility for autists about an hour from where I live and work. We’ve met to discuss options from my own specific realm of hand tool woodworking to see how we can develop opportunities for young adults on the Autism Spectrum. I think it is especially adaptable for those towards the high functioning end as autists because it is so much less invasive to say nothing of safety and noise etc. In past classes through the decades I have seen how with the right tools, wood and workbenches, woodworking can develop and channel thought processing more directly and tangibly and thereby more understandably in many people. My friend Allan, a consultant paediatrician specialising in areas of autism, introduced a craft facility as part of his clinic to help autists and parents come together to understand more about how hand work can have the right rhythm for many of those on the autism spectrum.

11 comments on “Garden Benches & More Beyond

  1. You are a good dose of calm in my day. At first it was the woodworking, your teachings have begun to demystify the new world of working with hand tools for me. Now it’s your words I enjoy too.

    • We live in a consumerist culture where expectation is more a case of ever-diminishing returns than enhancement by anything resulting in value added. That makes the ones that truly care stand out to us and the others with razz and matazz seem all the more artificially the same. It’s all to do with integrity and honesty. In the world of true craft I learned from my masters, men who had true humility, integrity and honesty alongside those that had none. As soon as you start selling your personality in place of skilled workmanship you become the mere actor Shakespeare penned of in As You Like It. He said, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” I think if we only act out roles in our daily working, that’s when we’ve lost.

    • Yes, I would also be interested. My 23-year-old son is on the Autism spectrum. I haven’t been able to interest him in woodworking, but maybe an outsider could convince him to take it up.

      • I think it can be hard on parents to understand autism, they often look to blame themselves for some failure when there is no failure at all. My interest in autism started ten years ago when I decided to start reading up on the subject. I realise now that no book can contain the whole. At best they are just guides that may or may not help. I continue to read because of my interest. The battle regarding communication can be the greatest obstacle in expressing feelings, thoughts and emotions, but trying to cure what is not a disease is worse. It takes patience and kindness to teach woodworking to anyone. Not everyone gets it straight off. I have seen many new to the craft place the dovetails flat faced against the large face of the adjoining piece to trace around the dovetails instead of on the end. This happens a few minutes after I have just given a demonstration on it and even with a picture to follow. With autists it can be that they need no further explanation and get it ahead of everyone else or they can try and try and try, eventually succeeding or not. Helping anyone through their sense of failure is critically important to development. Self deprecation, condemnation etc stem from what some call perfectionism but that’s not at all what I see. Being accepted is one of the most powerful tools there is in industry, commerce, education, sport, research, academia and all of those so-called key areas of life. Piffle! Perception seems to me to be everything. How we see things, ourselves, others, our work and so on are how we feel we are validated and its only when we stop seeing any need for validation, proving ourselves to others and such, that we find true fulfilment from the simplification of making alone. I do hope that this helps, David.
        With regards to your son, the important thing is to find out what turns his head. He walks around a historic village and a blacksmiths hammer rings on the anvil and he turns his head because has to follow the noise and find out what it is. There will be something there I am sure.

  2. Paul, This is off topic, but if you were developing drawings to help you build a new design and the focus was entirely on building rather than communicating with a client, would you focus on an orthographic drawing of plan and elevations, as in your photo at the top of this blog, or would you do a perspective drawing? What are the roles of the two types of drawing for you?

    I’d very much like to hear more about how your work with the autistic children goes.

    • Hi, Ed, I have learned to sketch down my initial thought as a concept. How far to set back rails and aprons from the front faces of legs, notes on the page with measurements to confirm say tenon thicknesses, rail sizes and such. Just a stenographers notepad works for much of this and there I have a reference to refer to periodically. I like to trace back to points of change just in case it has a bearing on something I later thought differently about. I am in no way expert in the sense of following given patterns others might be able to pick up from but I am an expert in delivering concepts to those involved working alongside me. I am looking to make some changes here because I do need help these days to keep up with the gathering pace. Someone who is familiar with sketch-up and cad and also hand tools and woodworking.

  3. Any chance you could share some dimensions on the swinging desk cupboard. At least overall height and depth. The bottom panel appears to possibly be a foot rest. One other unique item it looks like the rail below the glass doors is set well back maybe even the thickness of the bottom door rail.
    Thanks

  4. Paul,

    You and your team of Craftsmen and Craftswomen are very inspiring. Even through a brief illness everyone pushes through. I have incorporated everything you and your team have produced(Shakespeare Quotes to Woodworking) every day. Life is the Stage and at work I’ve stopped playing the “Bravdo Role” with the guys(getting older and wiser) and respecting everyone’s positions on our Stage. Even though I haven’t read Shakespeare I played the part(good) for over 52 years. I wish that I could volunteer my time but with work, family, 5 plus 2 grandchildren on the way, home repairs, hobbies and two of my 5 grandchildren’s cars that need help “I’m Taxed…” but you Izzy and what you all are giving to the world from over the “Pond(Atlantic),” I am motivated and look forward to another day. It’s a tough road your team does with outside forces beyond your control. I thank you and your team for their time and effort.

  5. Novel design on the desk.
    How about furthering our education by demonstrating how you made the, I believe I see seven, different moldings with hand planes.
    I believe some of the more advanced techniques will give balance to your teaching. Some that have been following you are surely ready for the technique.
    Not everyone watching is at the basic level.
    Thanks for all that you do. You are above and beyond all other teachers of hand tool joinery.
    JIM

  6. Fantastic working with kids. You know, I’ve always felt the words down syndrome, special needs and so on placed those folks in a short draw. While I have very limited living experience with those that are labeled as such, I have spent time around them. What I have found is they are all on a moral level much higher than most, especially me.

    What I mean is I have never seen hate in any one person that would be labeled as such. I have seen hurt, fear, sadness (although always brief) frustration, but never the more detrimental of the human emotions. Blind rage, green with envy, hatred of any kind, greed, etc. They may to some degree, but I myself have never witnessed it.

    Many like to point out how they are different from all others, but it seems few ever point out how…better they are than all others.

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