From the Workshop – Part 2

Monday 9 July 2018

Over the school summer holidays I get to see quite a lot of Will as his Mum and Dad find it difficult to be at home for the whole break as both have jobs that take up a lot of their time. The days of Mums being at home all day while Dad is out at work have long gone; whether it is good for family life or not is a matter for debate, but I do know that it gives grandparents like me more time with our grandchildren.

It is good that Will has shown an interest in what I do as it means that he needs no encouragement to come and stay with us for a few days and it takes a bit of pressure off his parents. He came over for a couple of days last week and we did a few odd jobs in the workshop and garden. Because of the wet weather the garden needed a bit of clearing up, which we did while the sun was out and then retired inside when it started to rain.

Carving for beginners

Will asked about doing some carving so I suggested that we did a bit of preparation. I have made a point of not pushing him as carving is something that you really need to want to do or it can become very tedious and frustrating when things don't work out as planned.

I thought we would start with some simple, shallow relief plaques as they don't take a terrific amount of time and are not that physically demanding for an eight-year-old.

I always use something similar to the old bench hooks that we used at school when I do relief work as it means that I can pick it up at any time to look at it more closely – something you can't do if it is fixed down. I thought we could make a couple of these of different sizes for any future projects. When I suggested this to Will he was very enthusiastic so we went along with that plan.

Preparing to carve

I had some odd offcuts of MDF in the workshop so we decided to use them. I kept them at their original size because it is nasty stuff to cut with a power saw due to the dust. We cut some 50 x 25mm pine (Pinus spp.) for each edge and I marked the position of the screw holes for Will to help me drill. He insisted on screwing them together and, with a little extra tightening, all went to plan.

We then marked out and cut two blocks of lime (Tilia vulgaris), measuring 150 x 150 x 25mm and placed one of them on the board in a variety of positions marking out where would be the best place to put pegs. Will thought it great to have the responsibility of marking the positions and I made a point of not checking his decisions. The positions were not critical and it was worth the pleasure he got from his responsibility. We drilled all the holes on the drill stand so that the dowels I had were a fairly tight fit, making sure that we could get them out quite easily. This setup meant that he could secure the block in any position yet still be carving away from his body.

Sketching and safety

With the palm gouges we bought for him he was now ready to go. Because he had been watching the Olympics and Usain Bolt has become his super hero I thought that might be a good place to start. There was no possibility of him getting all the anatomy

and proportions right on his own, so before his next visit I drew up a simple picture of a runner using a picture of Usain Bolt as a guide and transferred this onto the block of wood.

Helen, his mother, has been a little hesitant about Will using sharp tools but he has tried using soap at school and is very eager to start using wood instead. The important thing is that if he is that keen there is a good chance that he will take more notice of the safety element. He has, after all, been helping me in the workshop for a considerable time without any major disasters. If this first real project turns out all right then perhaps Helen will feel better. I know he is keen to get started so we shall see how things go on his next visit.