Gather round my bench

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Derek Jones

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

I’ve never considered myself as being particularly interested in history. Come to think of it, along with woodwork, it was my least favourite subject at school and there were plenty to choose from as I recall. I did however warm to metalwork and technical drawing. Working in metal I achieved instant results in exchange for what seemed like very little effort compared to working with wood. I’ve often reflected over this equation on more than one occasion during those ‘what if?’ moments.

Clearing out the loft the other day I came across the one and only example of my early attempts at woodworking. It was a tooth-brush holder made out of softwood and 4mm ply. A more unsuitable choice of material is hard to imagine but under the guidance of Mr. Bone I faced and edged a piece of timber and used a small tennon saw and chisel to cut notches out of one side before nailing on the back. I can’t remember exactly how long this took but an ‘educated’ guess is that it was probably over two lessons, getting on for 5 hours, not exactly nail biting stuff.

Given that my first job on leaving school was to work for an antique restorer I’ve often been puzzled as to why I didn’t catch the woodworking bug in class. My theory is that in isolation the two subjects, history and woodwork, had little relevance to anything. It wasn’t until they were brought together that they had any appeal.

I experienced a similar reaction the other day whilst talking tools with a collector and historian who was able to chart social and political history across several decades through the design and use of the adjustable spanner. I’ve got to tell you I was fascinated and in due course I hope to be in a position to share the experience. You have been warned.

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