Feature Mondays - In the Workshop with Peter Brooking archive

Monday 2 November 2015

This month, we visit the workshop of Peter Brooking, who sadly passed away earlier this year


Having undertaken various jobs after finishing school, Peter spent some time at Smithfield Meat Market as a salesman and, with an interest in carpentry, in his spare time started making beech (Fagus sylvatica) cutting benches and display stands in his garage for various firms at the market. This developed into a full-time business in a farm building and he was able to leave the market as a result. A big decision was made to sell the family bungalow and buy a small joinery works that was up for sale locally; this presented many problems as Peter wasn't experienced in this more complicated work. He employed a man who became a great friend and taught him how to make staircases of all types, as well as ornate doors and windows for conservation schemes, etc. By this time, Peter was working with Canadian clear pine (Pinus contorta) and many different hardwoods. A really practical man, he made his own spindle cutters for skirtings, etc. and had hundreds of different patterns available for local builders and carpenters.

The carving bug caught him on a trip to Bali where he was amazed at the quality of work being produced on the streets. He had interests in the military and many of his carvings were of soldiers, horsemen, etc. He also carved some amusing things, which are not really suitable for the magazine!

Over 20 years of carving, Peter accumulated a vast range of tools and made many of his own. Most of his work was carved in lime (Tilia vulgaris), the majority of which was lacquered and some was painted by a lady called Pam English who used to work at the art and craft shop below Peter's flat. According to his son, Peter never felt his work was worthy of 'showing off' so we are delighted to be able to feature it here.

How, why and when did you start carving?

When I was in my early 60s, I visited Bali on a holiday and saw a man carving in the street. I felt that I should try it, so on my return home, I got started. Some of the carvings in Bali were exquisite and I bought a number of pieces and managed to get then home safely. I became 'hooked' on the hobby and completed over 30 during my 60s and 70s.

If you were to offer one sage piece of advice to someone what would it be?

Don't take on anything too complicated!

What music and which book are you currently into?

I tend to thumb through books on antique pistols and rifles; I adore shotguns with lots of amazing detail. I'm not a big music lover but do enjoy light, easy listening jazz and swing.

What is your silliest mistake?

I can't think of any silly mistakes. My greatest challenge was a carving of a man on a horse with two dogs alongside. That was a very complex piece. 

Name one thing on your carving 'to do' list

A small face I started a couple of years ago that sadly won't be finished.

What is the one piece of equipment or tool you would not be without and why?

My straight knife.

If you could change one thing what would it be and why?

Better health to be able to carry on carving.

What is your favourite type of carving?

I can't say that I have a particular favourite style. I love all types of carving and was very taken with Vladimir Rusinov's cat in relief, which was featured in issue 144.

If you could have one piece of equipment, what would it be and why?

I have been fortunate to acquire all the kit I need over the years.

Briony Darnley

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Feature Mondays , Peter Brooking

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