a design opportunity

Have you ever had that sinking feeling when you suddenly realise something isn’t quite right.

Despite the fierce dedication to the job at hand, whatever that may be – a task at work, an odd job around the house or perhaps the creation of a masterpiece (the case in this instance), despite maintaining a tunnel vision type focus, and repeated checking, double checking and triple checking that what you are doing is correct before going ahead and committing, whether that might involve saving/ fixing/ drilling/ cutting/ or sticking something… sometimes something goes awry!

Often once the brief denial/ figuring out something’s wrong phase passes then the speed at which sickening realisation sets in is astonishing. This is often followed by anger, despair, frustration and an outburst depending on who and where you are.

WELL – Have we got news for you, feel sick no more, do away with the negative roller coaster of emotion following your making what could be seen as a minor to significant error (munting things up is apparently the technical term). You have in front of you my friends A DESIGN OPPORTUNITY!

Completing the carcass
The tool cabinet is taking shape after exploring a design opportunity along the way.

This week Chris had his first ‘design opportunity’.

‘Yes – Some holes were made where they were not supposed to be…. Measured thrice from the end of the shelf and the base, the holes were dominoed in successfully, only for it to be revealed the base was the wrong way round and therefore it transpires that it was actually measured from the wrong end! So rather than the initially planned one divider… two dividers it is! This gives a small ‘cubby hole’ in the middle, but I kinda like it now!’ (@ChrisINeal)

As they say – there’s more than one way to skin a cat (I don’t need to say no cats were harmed in the making of this tool cabinet (so far) do I?) and the key is not to panic. There were a couple of solutions that were explored such as have the whole thing lean over and calling it modern art!

Valuable lesson learnt … who can’t use this approach on a daily basis (easier said than done perhaps) but it’s all about how you look at things and maybe whatever’s happened is an opportunity to follow a different path I mean really… what tool cabinet is complete without the perfect sized shelf for a whiskey tumbler!!

a design opportunity

It’s coming out of the woodwork!

I am one for embracing a good saying or phrase. They can be used a surprising amount if you know enough of them. They can be humorous, appropriate or inappropriate, they can go hidiously wrong if you don’t remember them quite right and are very often inherited. This may or may not be where they start to vary! One of my most used is ‘worse things happen at sea, like a crab biting your toe’ and it’s often prefixed with a ‘you know what they say’. Good on ‘they’ for making up some great sayings!

A few other family favourites

  • it’s about as useful as a chocolate fireguard (or teapot – take your pick)
  • it’s as rare as rocking horse ” (insert chosen word for ‘excrement’)
  • it’s a bit grey over wilf’s mums
  • if the cap fits… wear it.

I used ‘its blowing a hooley’ just yesterday and Chris who had previously thought he has heard me use every saying under the sun replied ‘a what?’ It’s a thing… It’s on Wikipedia! Apparently just because I say it doesn’t make it a saying but if it’s on Wikipedia … It must be true right?!

It turns out that there’s a couple of pretty handy wood related sayings out there too but these offer more than a general or humorous observation… They are wise words and ones we have come across so far are…

  • Measure twice, cut once
  • You can cut something too long a thousand times but too short, only once.

French Polishing – Lesson learnt! (From @ChrisINeal)

mitre box
Completed Mitre Box with Polished Lid.

I don’t profess to be an expert in French polishing or even that good at it! But I do love shellac and when I get it right I think it looks awesome! With that disclaimer out the way my lesson learnt is that when using shellac less is more! Thinning down pre made polish 50/50 with more metho (shellac polish is just shellac flakes dissolved into metho (1:4) doing this makes it so much easier to apply and so much more forgiving when, if like me you inevitably stuff it up!!

Interested in learning more tips and tricks? Read more…

I know, I know – you’ve waited this long just to get the pub quiz update – the TimberBits came sixth place last week. Again! I have been asked to clarify this is not last! It’s out of at least 10 to 15 teams!

It’s coming out of the woodwork!

A story of life, learning, career change and a foray into the unknown – the journey from here to where ever we end up – A Wood Adventure.

us at a wedding
Chris & Laursie

It’s with a mixture of nervous excitement and positive thinking that we have embarked on a new phase in our lives. This is not all about me, it’s about us, our new adventure and Chris’ journey, leaving behind the familiar and taking the future into his own hands, starting with a Fine Furniture course at Sturt School for Wood.

Not to forget of course it’s about you too – we will share with you wood, woodworking and life thoughts, tips and anecdotes that just maybe will come in useful or at least provide mild amusement. We invite you to join us on our journey however you prefer – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or right here!


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 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!


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.


Projects so far
My creations so far… 

So I figured it was about time for me to introduce myself! I’m Chris and I guess I’m the one to blame for this latest upheaval in the lives of Laursie and I. It may seem moving from Bondi to Bulli (about an hour and a bit south) would pale in significance compared to moving to Aussie from England but this feels just as big a change (although now as citizens there is no worry we’ll be sent back!) and in many ways more nerve wracking, but at the same time feels like the right move.

I will from time to time be writing blog entries, mostly it’ll be Laursie writing as she is much more wordy! But I will try to give my take on what’s happening in the wood side of things and try to explain what I’m doing, or at least what I’m attempting to do in the workshop.

I’ve been at Sturt School for Wood now for 3 weeks and so far I’m loving it. The teachers and the other students are great, we’ve completed a few little projects and learnt a lot about the basics as well as things I didn’t know that I didn’t know!!

It’s amazing how quickly the day goes when you are interested and enjoying what you’re doing! Something I’ve never really experienced in my school or work life, but I do get the feeling these are the easy days and the work will get much more intense, difficult and time consuming!

So it’s with excitement and some trepidation that I look forward to the coming months and hope you’ll join us on our adventure!?!

PS You can follow regular workshop progress on instagram @awoodadventure


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.

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!