Day Release

Well in this past week it seems I have mostly managed to burn stuff! It started with the pizza on Tuesday which turned so black that it became camouflage with the pizza tray on which I was cooking it! I opened the oven and couldn’t see anything beyond my garlic bread and thought for a moment my pizza had disappeared! Well it did shortly after… into the bin! This incident was closely followed by a toast burning ‘incident’ on Wednesday evening at work which set the fire alarm off and resulted in the fire brigade coming out and charging a fee! Whoops! Apologies have been made and hoping that I live it down quickly! I shouldn’t be allowed out!!

Anyways lucky for Chris he has had a more successful week, splinters a plenty (OK around three – its more than average!) from last week have healed up (including one that involved a bit of digging!) and he has been finishing up his mitre box. This features a recycled Blackbutt floorboard with Tassie Blackwood and Queensland Walnut veneers and Celery Top Pine inlays and keys. When it’s completed it will have a French polished lid – Chris is putting his knowledge into practice after their lesson in French Polishing from David Marks who came in to Sturt on Friday.

This past week Chris has also been on several trips and started preparing for his first big project! A tool cabinet – time has been spent on completing the technical drawings. I think Chris is developing a penchant for Oak so is excited at the prospect of completing the cabinet in American White Oak. One of the trips was going to see a local maker and ex-Sturt student Ian Factor at Factor Design which was really interesting.

day trip
The Hannah Cabinet, the ‘Geezer’ at the London and Evan from Dunstone Designs with one of his chairs

Having caused only a minor amount of mischief the class was allowed out again… They also went to see the Hannah Cabinet at the Bungendore Wood Works Gallery. Made by Geoff Hannah, the Hannah Cabinet features a mere 18 doors and 140 drawers – lovingly hand made over 6 years with an astounding 34 timbers, 4 species of shell, 17 kinds of precious stone plus 24 carat gold! Rumoured to be worth in the region of 1.6 million bucks it’s nothing short of amazingly awesome! With that many drawers however it might be a challenge to remember where you put something! If you are interested in woodwork at all then it’s definitely worth going as the talk was really interesting and the marquetry impressive to say the least. Ask the others on the trip for any other notable happenings and they may or may not list the Geezer Burger – Chris’s meal of choice at ‘London’ for lunch which was apparently as big as his head. I think Chris lost the battle of the burger but swears one day to return and defeat the Geezer. After lunch they had a great visit with Evan Dunstone at Dunstone Design who makes some great chairs so recommend checking them out. Then they ended the day at the other end of the scale on a large factory visit at Creative Design – all very interesting stuff apparently!

Timberbits team performance at the pub quiz last week – placed sixth – a shocker! Talking of shockers… Anyone else hate cockroaches… Don’t ever trust them! I had one that looked like he might be dead but he was either just resting or asleep – imagine a cockroach slumped forward and to the side – like he just collapsed. Last seen trying to make a run for it except I was armed with a spray and a tin to capture him! I will not be outsmarted – well… not this time anyway! Will let you know what happens this week!

Day Release

It’s knot just a bit of wood.

I am not going to pretend I know much about wood or woodwork in this blog as it’s not me who is learning and obviously Chris is just starting out and of course I have yet to meet anyone who knows everything there is to know about something. Like they say… You learn something new everyday! (I do love a good saying).

Having got that disclaimer out there… I think its OK to share with you things that we talk about and are interesting! (Although perhaps you can be the judge on the interesting stakes)…Have you ever looked at a bit of wood and considered what knots are and how they are formed? I hadn’t until this week when Chris mentioned it… Knots are where branches or the beginnings of branches used to grow out from the trunk of a tree. A knot marks the point where the branch intersects with the cut of wood you are now looking at (assuming you are now looking for knots in any wood nearby). Apparently the wood used in most things is usually cut from the trunk.

knots
knots are where branches used to be!

I immediately looked at the nearest piece of wood … I sat there and imagined what it looked like before it was one of our floorboards – a tree with lots of branches?! They have so many knots in! Were they all from the same tree trunk? How big was the tree?! We will never know the answers to these questions but maybe this little fact will make you also wonder where your wooden furniture came from (other than ikea… incidentally there’s nothing wrong with ikea (if you are not a woodworker) and their meat balls are pretty good!) or marvel at exactly how far removed we are from that woods previous life!? Or maybe not and that all depends on how long you think about it I guess!

From my perspective though I have always liked wood and can appreciate a nice bit of furniture (particularly if it’s good looking, interesting or comfortable) but my levels of appreciating definitely need to be upped a notch or two after what I have seen and heard so far. Both in terms of considering the many different types of woods and where they’ve come from and the workmanship that goes into something that’s handmade!!

The amount of time planning, drawing, engineering, measuring, cutting, preparing, fixing, building and finishing that go into even the simplest of looking items is amazing.

I won’t be hugging trees nor swearing off mass produced wood items (for the moment) as everything has its place but the very least I can do I guess is look at things a little differently and maybe stop to appreciate them as more than just the end product!

You might have noticed and been worried about the lack of update on the TimberBits pub quiz effort well after a fifth place last week they returned to their top spot so far this week… Fourth! Chris’ random and extensive flag knowledge is yet to be put to the test!

In other news – a man offered me a wafer (of the biscuit variety) Saturday. Just on the street as I walked passed. He didn’t say anything just looked at me and held them out while he ate his wafer. I said ‘ohhh no thank you’ in a upbeat I would love to but I absolutely couldn’t kind of way and then proceeded to try and carry on my conversation I was having with Chris prior to that while the wafer offerer walked along by the side of us! Nice of the man but a little odd!

HANDY WOODWORKING TIP (From @ChrisINeal)

After sanding to your highest grit rub the wood with hessian – it burnishes the wood to make it shiny then you can apply your finish.

It’s knot just a bit of wood.

The Daily Bread(board)

Well I hope everyone’s week has flown by in a mostly uneventful fashion! (Don’t want it to be boring but nothing too dramatic is good right?!). Ours has flown by – there have been less missed trains and some work induced anger management required on my part and for Chris well he has been busy making stuff and learning to use some rather large tools which, imagine my surprise, he loves! I am still counting the fingers on a daily basis (all present and correct)! The week could have been a little more dramatic if Chris had eaten the peanut laden museli bar I put in his lunch box… He didn’t though! (Its not life threatening allergy levels but it would have made him sick!)

This week saw the crafting of a bread board and the beginnings of a mallet.

Breadboard
The breadboard – from the start to the finished product

Watch this space on the mallet front but its head is made of Jarrah – well known for its density and beautiful rich red colour.  I have seen it so far and it’s mallet’ish in shape but we’ll wait for the finished product until we give you a look-see!

A few of Sturt’s ex students have stopped by this week for various reasons – it’s great to hear what they are up to now. Other highlights include consumption of a Wham Bar (by Chris who was given it by Simon) – for those of you not familiar with UK confectionary… Imagine an exceedingly chewy pink bar made almost exclusively of a sugary toffee like substance that tastes like fruity candy floss which also features small pockets of sugary sherbet! Does wonders for your fillings if you have them! It’s one of those sweets (‘lollies’ in Australian lingo) that you had when you were a kid and when you come across them in adult life you pretty much lose it … and start raving about the last time you had one or the fact that you can’t remember the last time you had one or and my personal favourite reminiscing about how just maybe they were bigger back then?! Were they?! We will never know!!!!

Pub quiz update – ‘Timberbits‘ came fourth this time! (There was a joint third but still…) Improvement! Whether it was just luck or the team pulling together – time will tell. Last weekend we went to Towradgi Beach Hotel Food and Wine Festival. Scorchio!! Had some lovely food and gelato but no wine was consumed – mostly due to the risk of immediate dehydration. The festival was held in a car park in full sun on a day that was 30 degrees! Fun none the less, if not a little sweaty! On the way home we also managed to buy a rug from a shop that was closed! Good effort I reckon! Guy was unloading something from the van when we wondered into his shop – he did mention it was closed but encouraged us to look anyway! Said rug is made by Fab Habitat and is made from eco-friendly recycled plastic and is looking pretty snazzy in its new home.

This weekend sees some BBQ action! There is an event at the school – A Tools & Techniques Weekend and Chris, along with the other students, is going to be doing some shifts on the BBQ! Luckily Chris is a good chef and an aficionado of well cooked sausages! Personally I like them essentially cremated which I can’t help but feel is a little English of me! Maybe all English people don’t like their BBQ’d meat burnt but maybe that’s how it ends up a lot of the time? This is very stereotypical and I know many great English BBQ’ers but the fact remains is English weather does not encourage the fine tuning of BBQ skills so based on this argument alone there is a higher probability of BBQ mishap and unpredictably cooked food!

Gee some people go on don’t they… I hope you made it to the end this week! You can consider my ramblings over – unlike a face to face encounter hopefully there was no digital equivalent of nodding and smiling while backing out of the room slowly!

Until next time!

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Why so many bags…

It’s been a week of firsts…

First time we mowed the lawn, first time I had a huge spider run up my leg while gardening, first meeting of the neighbours, first splinter of the course (sustained on day one!), first time Chris has attended a talk from a nurse where finger loss was mentioned and the appropriate ‘digit bag’ was learned about (There was a discussion after about why there were so many bags?!) and of course the very first complete week of the fine furniture course! Good news – all Chris’ fingers survived the whole week! Actually I made Chris promise a long time ago when we talking about this course that he wouldn’t lose any part of any finger – not even just a little bit or else! I hope the seriousness of my threat will make him be more careful!? We will see – fingers crossed(?!) they all remain present and correct!

Class Photo
The Class of 2015 plus teachers – Neil and Pam

As you would expect the first week was a little admin heavy initially and day one saw the selection of a work space/bench, personalisation of a pigeon-hole for the year and the wearing of name tags!

The week has flown by and it’s been really good! Still got some work to do on catching trains on time and planning ahead so we actually have food in the house. The neighbours must already think I’m a little odd with the ‘spider related squawking freak out in the garden’ incident and then back I come from a run (to Coles the supermarket in Thirroul) with a zucchini and brocollini in one hand and a sweet potato in the other. Should have thought about it and took a bag!

Chris had some exciting goings on this week – he managed to take his Grandpas’ old Acorn plane made in Sheffield, England (Interesting fact – Acorn was bought out by Stanley by 1936.) and restore it so that he can use it! He managed to get a 0.02mm wood shaving out of it and that’s pretty darn good! There was also a reasonably successful inaugural pub quiz outing, the decision was made to name their team ‘TimberBits’ after one of the sponsors at school and they managed to come 6th out of at least 12 teams.

I have come to the conclusion that it’s going to be a fight for Chris to keep his fingers and/or clothes a normal colour – even in week 1 they have been blue (paint), purple (rust removal solution) and black/grey from slurry formed in the tool sharpening process.

Chris’ workbench has now been prepared (flattened, conditioned, oiled and waxed) and every tool has now been appropriately ground, flattened, sharpened, honed and/or tuned ready to go! The chisels are so sharp that you can wave it at your arm hair and end up with a bald spot! May the woodworking begin!!

Why so many bags…

All in…

It’s happened we have moved! We now live in Bulli! I am commuting into the fine city of Sydney and Chris starts his fine furniture making course at Sturt School for Wood next week!

Last trip
The last trip – just collecting the little bits?!

The move was mammoth, a sweaty four day marathon of moving far too much stuff down far too many stairs and cleaning! Thanks Sydney for the boiling hot weather – just what you need when moving house! Never mind… Everyone and everything survived! Even the washing machine which I swear jumped off the trolley when we were unloading it off the truck. It’s got the battle scars you would expect from leaping into the air and landing face down but amazingly it works!! The door required some not so gentle encouragement to reopen but hey! We got lucky!! We are not fully unpacked but that’s ok. We kind of know where the important things are for now!

Anyways before we get into actually sharing with you the learning about furniture making and all that goes with it, I realise you know a little about the new adventure – but not much about the journey so far?

us at a wedding
Introducing us…

We have been together almost 16 years… We are not married. I will just let that sink in for a bit as usually people marvel at this fact for a little while. The marvelling is usually accompanied by incredulous gasps and further questioning….We like to say its because we don’t want to rush in to anything or perhaps that we want to be sure but actually it’s kind of because we don’t feel the need and we spend our money on doing other things! We met when I was 17 and Chris was 18! It was Chris’ general aura of cool and his sideburns that did it and still do it to this day! That and he is of course handsome and hilarious although I am pretty funny too! (Well I like to think I am?!)

We have done the long distance thing. We have travelled to many places near and far. We have encouraged each other and mocked each other incessantly! We have sulked together (and separately on this one)! We have shared our oldest friends and made new friends together. We have spent months on the road together. We have muddled on and supported each other through thick and thin and I wouldn’t have it any other way. We balance each other out. We are a team!

I don’t want to bore you with a tedious timeline or be overly soppy (hoping the above doesn’t qualify as that) but happy to answer questions – random or otherwise. So what else do you want to know about the journey so far or maybe the journey ahead? Ask away!

All in…

Price shavings, heirlooms and good news!

It’s a rainy Sunday and this week we have made some exciting progress but before I tell you about that I want to stop and appreciate the fine tool purveyors we have had the pleasure of dealing with so far. Armed with a spreadsheet, painstakingly researched and cross-checked, detailing must and good to have’s Chris has purchased what is needed for his first term of his course from two companies which I can only assume are going to be like a home away from home from now on. The first being Carbatec where the guy greeted the news that Chris would be studying next year with glee. Carbatec’s Price Shavings magazine is little short of awesome! (WARNING – I am a big fan of puns, dad jokes and one-liners and don’t hold it against me but I work in Marketing!) I was won over immediately by the ‘shavings/savings’ situation but looking inside its full of advertising gold!

Also want to appreciate the fine services of Henry Eckert – importers of the Lie-Nielsen heirloom quality tools. These tools are beautiful – I have no idea what some of them do but they say they will last a lifetime – I look forward to them being part of our journey and perhaps even creating things that also last for our lifetimes and beyond! So… good news! We have found a house to rent… I haven’t seen it in person yet but it looks great. We went from nothing to sorted in three days flat even though apparently it was a very competitive process (who knows whether what the property people tell you is true or not!). By the end of Wednesday we were the chosen ones! Bulli here we come!

new house
A new house to make a home!

It will be a big change from apartment living and being in busy Bondi with its hipsters, glamourati, backpackers, coach tours and ever loyal locals. What are we looking forward to most…

  • enjoying the sound of nothing other than perhaps some over enthusiastic birds rather than waking up to the sound of horns and angry drivers at the roundabout or some crazy backpackers
  • being able to get out of the house without stepping over a fellow building resident passed out drunk in the corridor
  • if we forget something on the way out, not having to climb 2 flights of stairs to go and get it
  • having an outside space … an actual genuine garden
  • being able to hang washing out in said garden! (Sad or what!)
  • feeling like we are on holidays even if it’s just the weekend in the much more sedate Bulli!

We will miss Bondi I think but looking forward to a change. Not looking forward to the actual move so much! Best get my muscles warmed up!

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Career Change – A Work in Progress

So no matter who you are, the words ‘career change’ followed by ‘going back to school’ sound pretty daunting. This is starting again, it is not a ‘this will look great on my cv’ type occasion, keeping up appearances or trying to get ahead with something extra – all this is of course hard work but ‘this’ – quitting work as Chris has known it for the last 15 years to study a course in fine furniture making – is putting what he has done, up to this point, aside and starting again! School starts at the beginning of Feb so the count down is on!

Were/are there doubts that this is the right thing to do? Naturally! But if a positive change (and hopefully happiness) hangs on a decision which is in your power to make and if no change was going to perpetuate the downward spiral of job loathing and depression then no matter how nerve wracking wouldn’t you choose to change something?

Making the decision to actually commit to change and embark on this journey seemed like the hardest thing to do but I have no doubt that the hard work is yet to come!! I am sure I don’t need to tell you life in general is expensive, learning is challenging and achieving success – whatever that looks like for you – the ultimate and elusive goal!

We are however doing it… well, Chris is doing it really but I am here to cheer him on and share the journey with all of you in the hope that one day you will perhaps see some fine wooden furniture made by Chris and know the story behind it!

Illawarra coastline
Welcome to the Illawarra – Looking for a new home and a fresh start in a new neighbourhood!

PS Once Chris starts his course we hope to share all kinds of woodworking updates including showing off all his hard work! Watch this space!

Career Change – A Work in Progress

Happy New Year!

So this is the year – the year we quite literally start a fresh! Top of the list of things to do is move house! Relocate from sunny Bondi to perhaps an even sunnier Thirroul or Bulli!! I am a little nervous seeing as we have yet to find a house and we need to be out of our current place by the 29th. It’s not for the lack of trying but apparently there are not so many to choose from down that neck of the woods! There is potential of course that we are being too fussy… But let’s say for now that’s not the case and the perfect property will come up in the next two weeks!

Whilst we are busily denying the shortness of time on the moving front chris has been on a tool shopping spree – I have made it sound spontaneous but it was far from it!!! It was like a second Christmas last night with wrappings flying everywhere, Chris proudly setting out some of his brand new tools on display (before wrapping them all up once more… just for now… there’s still a whole month before school starts and a move to survive!)

At this point I want to thank both sets of our parents! We would not be able to embark on this new start without them despite our best attempts to save everything we can! We are budgeting pro’s but with tools, materials and school fees this new start was never going to come easy! You would think that once your children pass the age of thirty you can rest easy and enjoy the low maintenance phase of parenting! Oh dear – sorry guys! We do try not to be a burden but for your help with our new adventure (and for all that you have ever done for us) we are eternally grateful!

Happy New Year!