Monday, September 20, 2010

Earth Carers Woodworking Program a Great Success!

A mob of Earth Carers came together in July at Perth City Farm for a 4 day wood working program with a focus on the recycling of timber which was previously destined for land fill.  I normally run these kinds of workshops with a maximum of 12 people, but this time I had around 20 people in each session! This took a fair bit of extra organisation, but Perth City Farm was a great venue where there was plenty of room for  group sizes that big.

The Workshop Program looked like this:

Thursday 22nd July 2010: 5.30-9pm    Make a Kitchen Chopping Board.
A great opportunity to learn and use some basic woodworking skills, particularly using saws, planes and scrapers. Turn some recycled/re-used timber into a beautiful and functional kitchen heirloom!
Friday 23rd July 2010: 5.30-9pm    Design and Make a Wooden Spoon.
Take some recycled/re-used timber, imagine a beautiful and unique spoon, and then create it using a range of traditional woodworking hand tools!
Saturday 24th July: 10am-4pm    Bring new life to old tools.
Here is a chance to bring along some old tools, and learn how to restore them to good condition. Do you have some old tools that belonged to an old family member? Got a bargain from a garage sale? Do the planet a favour - Don’t buy a new cheap tool when a better quality old tool can be brought back to life! We will repair, sharpen and rejuvenate a range of tools including planes, chisels and saws – and then we will use those tools to create some nice stuff out of recycled/re-used timber. Note: This workshop will involve learning the safe use of bench grinders and other electric sharpening equipment.
Sunday 25th July: 10 am- 4pm     Create something beautiful from timber once destined for landfill.
Let your head go! From the array of recycled/re-used timber available (and any you bring with you), create something beautiful, lasting, decorative and/or functional. You will learn to use some of the wide range of traditional woodworking tools which are provided, and take home your wonderful creation. If you are stuck for ideas, Greg will have plenty of suggestions, tips and techniques. Ah… you can hear, feel, and smell the wood as you work it…

Gathering the resource.
The morning of Day One, I drove around in the City of Joondalup filling my ute with a vast array of timber gathered from a vergeside rubbish collection. These "bring out your dead" events are both a bower bird and recyclers' paradise and a terrible reflection of our wasteful consumerism. 

I had also obtained from a furniture importer several cartons of furniture which had falled from a great height from a forklift.While the cabinets inside were damaged, there was plenty of useful timber and fittings in there.
This was further supplimented with some packaging materials which had been picked up from the verge of  the light industrial area near my home, and some other materials I had collected from a renovation site.  Did someone mention bower birds earlier? A treasure trove of timber viewed as waste and previously destined for land fill - now to be put to new uses...

A few pics from the workshops.
The following gallery shows some of the participants in action as they learned to use some basic hand tools and used those tools create their projects. We weren't too fussy about sticking to the script. If you just had another idea in your head of what you wanted to make, then you could just do it!

It was a fun environment to be in, with lots of people busily putting their energy and enthusiasm into their projects. Some found a few muscles they'd forgotten about (hand planing and sawing are good for that), some brushed up on skills they hadn't used for many years, and many gained some new skills and understandings they had never had the opportunity to develop before...  

Thanks to the three Regional Councils (Waste Management Authorities) who jointly funded the event, to the amazingly wonderful Peg Davies for arranging it, to Perth City Farm for providing the great venue, to Tracey and John for assisting me over the weekend, and of course to the Earthcarers who participated with such enthusiasm and passion for a more sustainable and less wasteful world.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Amazing creations by kids at the Hulbert Street Sustainability Fiesta.

A wonderful annual event, the Hulbert Street Sustainability Fiesta is a two day extravaganza in South Fremantle. This year it feature5 6 open gardens, 5 open art studios, 2 open homes, and 87 stalls.
The aim of the Fiesta is to encourage people to take on more sustainable behaviours. During the Fiesta a Living Smart Speakers Tent is set up to allow different groups and individuals involved in sustainable living to share information in a more formal way over the weekend. Topics include those generally covered in the award winning “Living Smart” course – water, power, transport, waste, healthy homes, gardening for productivity and biodiversity, simply living, and keeping yourself healthy.

Many local Hulbert Street residents showcase their homes, creativity, work and sustainable lifestyles.
There are seven practising artists living in the Hulbert Street, and most have their studios open over the weekend. Other householders take part in a Living Smart Poster Project where they share what they have done in the past twelve months to make their homes and lifestyles more sustainable and what their future plans are.

The family at number 14 Hulbert Street made their front yard available to me for the weekend, where I had been asked to run woodworking stuff primarily for kids. This is always a heap of fun. A huge array of timber scraps are available to the kids - pine off cuts from a building site (non-treated), cut up plywood packing cases, cut up pine crates and other timber waste material. The kids benches were set up each with hammers and nails on hand, and the timber scraps were piled into one of those claim-shell paddling pools.  For most of the day the place hummed and clattered with the pounding of nails as droves of kids created all sorts of amazing things. Many got to also do some sawing with both tenon saws and coping saws, and some got to do wome drilling with hand drills and a brace and bit. No power tools here.
Sometimes a kid who had just arrived on the scene would say to me: "I don't know what to make." My normal response is: "That's OK, just start hammering nails into wood and the ideas will come." Sure enough, it works every time!

Here is a bit of a gallery of some pics from Day One at the woodworking location:
As Day One drew to a close, I was staggered how much wood we had gone through! Twice as much as I had anticipated, which I had based on previous expereince. Then again, the woodworking activity for the kids had been an immensely popular aspect of the Fiesta.
Next morning early I was gathering up more timber from my stocks. I have a huge pile of pine offcuts salvaged from a building site (non-treated pine) after the roofers had finished. I normally cut these up on my docker and table saw into smaller bits of various sizes and shapes, and cut up plywood from packing cases into smaller pieces likewise. After cleaning out the remains of my pre-cut stock, I had to throw into the ute a great heap of the offcuts which had not been made smaller, and bigger pieces of ply similarly. After all, at 6:ooam on a Sunday morning it would not be neighbour friendly to fire up my machinery!
So my day started at the Fiesta before the crowd arrived with me cutting up timber by hand on site. The trusty 10 point Diston hand saw did a lot of work, including cutting up a whole pine pallet into smaller pieces. And a lot of pine stayed in large sizes as I just ran out of time. Besides, my arm needed a rest!

It wasn't long before production started again as the kids creative juices got flowing...

So what 's it all about?
In keeping with the ethos of the Hulbert Street Sustainability Fiesta, all of the timber used by the kids came from packaging materials and building waste. Stuff which normally ends up in land fill. Even the benches the kids were working are made primarily from recycled timbers. 

These kids were engaged in wonderful creative play. Unless there was a parent in the background trying to tell the kids to have a plan and interfering in the creative process, each kid came at their masterpiece from their own angle:

  • Some had a fixed idea and tried to find pieces of wood that would fit the picture in their minds. These kids often ended up using a tenon saw or coping saw to make the pieces required.

  • Some just started joining pieces together and soon something would emerge. It might morph into something else as it grew, but in the end the beaming face declared that it was completed. These constructions often just got bigger and more complex.

  • There were also joint projects between sibblings. Interesting how the older of the two or the more physically dexterous would often do the more complex hammering operations. Sometimes two projects would end up hammered together into a whole new thing!

  • Sometimes inspiration was drawn from other projects being constructed around them. But there were always a few who would push the boundaries and venture into unchartered waters...
In transforming the ideas into reality, the kids also had to confront the limitations of the materials they were working with, the limitations of their own physical ability and skill, and the challeges of how to join and hold pieces which they are hammering together. Selecting the right nail for the job, figuring out which way to direct the nail (eg through the thin piece into the thicker piece), getting the sequence right so that you could put it all together, and how to hammer the nail without bashing the whole project apart - there is a lot going on here. Many of the kids quickly worked out how to use the bench vices to their advantage for those tricky holding tasks. A little direction here and their in how to hold the hammer, hold the saw, which way to turn the hand drill, etc, how we might support this here, and away they went.  

In the end, isn't this all about developing life skills?

Aaah, the joy of working with wood...