Thursday, April 30, 2009

Back to school

NUS Card
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker
Could I be the new Chipendale ? Probably not but I've finally taken the first step with my first class in furniture making. It's taken me two terms to get into the classroom, it's a popular course, and probably a year faffing around meaning to enrol and doing nothing about it.

I'm not one of those serial attenders at evening classes. Some people always seem to have one on the go, often trying to tick off courses like a trainspotter ticks off locos in his Ian Allen. A few years ago I tried watercolour painting for beginner. That quickly proved to be watercolour painting for people who've done this course several times and are actually quite good - I bailed out after three weeks when it became apparent I had no talent and was holding the other two "beginners" back. Since then I've welded for 6 weeks which worked much better as this was mostly practical and carried out in individual welding booths where you could have a go and no one watched. From this I discovered that MIG is OK, gas is fun, Arc just a way to stick to the bench and TIG a great way to blow holes in metal.

Furniture making falls a bit between the two. Yes I am the only beginner. Of the three new people, one has done the course on another night already and just transferred for convenience, the other has done some serious woodwork in the past. And me who won't admit to much on the grounds that I probably do it wrong and have come here to find out how to do it properly.

My first piece will be a frame. Nothing exciting, just 4 bits of wood joined in a square with 4 different joints. It's a test piece to get me through the basics. After all, if you can't join the wood together you can't make furniture !

Anyway we don't get to start with nice planed wood from the DIY store - or even that wonky stuff that our local sheds provide. No, we are issues with a square-ish lump of tree and get to cut it down to size. This means using big machines that can KILL YOU TO DEATH.

After a quick tutorial I'm conversant with the cross saw (big killer blade), ripsaw (even bigger killer blade) and planner (whirly blade that could make a mess of your hands). The very well stocked workshop is of course why people come back term after term. For just over a hundred quid you get access to loads of machinery and can get on with your own projects. While I was there we had a demo of biscuiting and the use of the veneer press.

So, at the end of the evening I have two lengths of wood which have a flat side. Not a lot but soon I'll be cutting plank with the best of them. In the meantime I am officially a student so it's a life of watching daytime telly and not getting up 'till noon for me. Then I'll put on my ex-German army overcoat and get out to sell a copy of Socialist Worker or two and then finish up in a Wetherspoons pub...

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