The Woodworker


Anyone who’s worked in the same town for many years will likely have experienced the – hopefully good – feeling of reacquaintance when coming across a past job unexpectedly. From an architectural feature here to a pair of balcony doors there, I always get a warm glow whenever I see my work still out there in the big wide world and being used for what it was originally intended.
For us woodworkers in particular, this revisiting a job is not just a pleasant excuse for some fond reminiscing, but a very useful learning opportunity with regards to timber movement, wear and tear and even, from an aesthetic point of view, whether a piece still looks good in a new or changed environment. On a return visit to an old customer, it can be quite startling when one beholds, say, a fitted cupboard which has shrunk like a wool jumper in a hot wash over the space of a year or two, but there’s every chance that the house-holder won’t be too concerned, having lived with the gradual change over the passage of time. There’s often the opportunity for a little maintenance for the small problems, but even the sight of a job-related ‘disaster’ gets easier to bear as the years slip by, and those in particular are the lessons that are never forgotten.
I was in a restaurant the other night when I got a text from my daughter, also eating out, with a photo and the query ‘did you make these?’. The answer was yes and we had a little chuckle over food-related jobs and the urgency that always seems to be a necessary part of the commission. Recent projects have included the tray-boxes pictured alongside, just part of a large number of assorted serving platters and similar. After mostly one-off jobs, I always find something very pleasing about making a batch of items. After the initial design and the making of a test sample, once the materials are all in it’s just a question of turning oneself into a human production line. By imitating the most desirable aspects of a factory robot, it’s possible to achieve a high rate of production, satisfy the strict demands of one’s own built-in quality control, and to ultimately meet those tough deadlines.
So, while it’s always good to meet up with old woodworking jobs, what about the ones that got away? With the widespread availability of digital cameras, there’s practically no excuse to not record one’s every creation (although sometimes the desire to get the van loaded and head home over-rides every other thought), but in the earlier days, many a job was simply waved goodbye and left to its own devices. Occasionally one might resurface (like half a reception desk from a much earlier shop fit did for me recently in a hairdressing salon), but, like those old friends we’ve lost touch with, we just go on fondly hoping that our paths might cross again one day.

Mark Cass, Editor


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