Friday, October 23, 2009

The Wonders of Recycling.

Over the last few days I had the pleasure of running a program held at the Earthwise Community Association in Subiaco, focussing on the use of basic woodworking hand skills to create wooden products from timber which has been discarded on roadside cleanups.

Diverting discarded timber and wooden furniture from landfill.
Much of the timber resources I gathered up for the program by doing a kerbside crawl in a neighbouring suburb on the morning before. What a treasure trove! This included an old jarrah desk, made of nice wide boards. The current cost of the timber in this desk would be over $250. There it was waiting to go off into landfill. Crazy. We put much of it to good use. This picture shows some of the wonderful resource obtained from a quick drive around a local cleanup area in progress.

The program was sponsored by the Mindarie Regional Council, Western Australia's largest Waste Management Authority. The MRC manages the disposal of about 350,000 tonnes of waste generated each year by people living in its seven member Local Government Councils. These are the Cities of Joondalup, Perth, Stirling, Wanneroo, and the Towns of Cambridge, Victoria Park and Vincent.
The series of workshops run over 3 days were intended to help the participants understand how so much of this roadside discarded timber and furniture can be diverted from landfill and given new life as new pieces of furniture or as functional wooden items. This also involved the participants learning basic woodworking skills in order to know how to utilise some of this huge resource.
Utilising timber and wooden furniture from the kerbside cleanups will often involve the demolition and cleaning up of the timber first. So we started out with people learning how to use pincers, claw hammers and pinch bars to separate components and remove the nails.

Session 1 - Making a kitchen chopping board

The project for the first session was to make a kitchen chopping board. Some great wide pine boards were obtained from a large packing crate. More were obtained from some old bookshelves. There were some jarrah boards, ex 8"x1", which had previously been ridge pieces from a house. A discarded imported kichen benchtop provided a solid laminated timber from something like plantation oak. The 12 participants learned how to use panel saws on sawstools to cut their pieces to length first. Then it was on to how to use a hand plane to plane the faces, shoot the edges and then shoot the ends square. The arises were chamfered with block planes, a small amount of hand sanding followed, and then olive oil was applied to the finished chopping boards.

While some found muscles they hadn't used before, all were delighted to take their piece of grotty looking timber on a journey to new life as a functional kitchen implement which will last for generations. Along the way some basic woodworking skills and understandings of timber were gained. For many this was a new experience, and opened up new possibilities for the diverting of material which would have previously been heading for landfill.

Session 2: Making a book shelf/DVD rack.

Based on a plan from a 1946 woodworking text book, the project for the second session was the making of a small bookshelf, modified to also be a good size for use as a DVD rack. Wider boards were used to make the ends, and several people used jarrah obtained from that desk. The timber used for the horizontals I had previously machined from old 4"x2" jarrah and blackbutt rafters and flooring. Nice timber. The 10 participants learned how to the use a tenon saw, marking knife, marking gauge, sliding bevel and chisels to mark out and cut the tenons and mortises. While none of the bookshelves were actually completed by the end of the session, they were just about there. A couple of people borrowed some chisels just to finish off their mortises at home. It had involved the learning of many new skills, and some nice bookshelves will yet be completed.

Session 3: Making a wooden Spoon.

This session is always fun. The 6 participants used an array of timber to make their spoons. We recycled bits of a barbeque trolley, flooring offcuts, and a piece of 3"x2" wall stud for this project. The participants learned how to use gouges, scrapers, spokeshaves, coping saws and rasps to make their spoons. A bit of sanding and the application of olive oil completed the project. Each spoon was an individual expression of its maker, and were a fantastic collection of beautiful designs and functional pieces which will last for many many years - again from timber diverted from landfill!

At the start of Day 2, I had 28 planes to sharpen! I was very pleased it only took me 80 minutes!

The message behind the activities.

This program was a heap of fun, but had a serious message behind it. One of the key educational messages for the participants is this: It is time we were a lot less wasteful and more conscious of where all that kerbside cleanup material ends up.
Landfill is a growing problem for us all, and there is no need for us to throw out so much wonderful timber which can be utilised - and diverted from landfill - once we appreciate it's potential and have the basic skills to use it.
Session Four: Making New from Old.

The last session was a full day, a Saturday, and an opportunity for the participants to make whatever they wanted to. I arrived early to get organised, before the group arrived. While preparing for the day, I was knocking apart some discarded drawers to get the timber from the drawer sides and faces. I was thinking how good it was that the material (pine) was all dressed to a nice consistent size. So I knocked up an egg rack in half an hour. When the mob arrived, the egg rack provided some inspiration, and sure enough another egg rack was made from some drawer sides before the day was out. Some participants made jarrah spoons and kitchen spatulas from bits of barbeque trolley, or continued on working on their bookshelves. There was also a fantastic combination bench hook and shooting board made from an old aloes drawer front, and a jarrah photo frame made from timber I had previously machined from an old rafter. A small old ledged jarrah door was made into a table top with legs for the table made from a discarded pine Ikea bed frame. A wonderful piece of which the creators were very pleased!
All in all a very successful program, and a heap of fun! The smiles say it all. Peg's yummy soup kept us smiling too.
The message also came through clearly about some simple ways to utilise timber which was discarded and destined for land fill until it put to a range of other uses by the workshop participants.
Special thanks to Peg, George and the Earthwise mob for their friendly hospitality, and demonstrated committment to community and responsible living on this Planet.
Let's hope we get to offer more of these workshops...

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