Sunday, June 29, 2014

Intergenerational Woodworking at the Stirling Men's Shed, 2014.

Another successful program completed. Recently I'd had the privilege of facilitating another woodworking program at the Stirling Men's Shed, bringing together grandparents or parents and their grand kids or kids. The last one of these was conducted in 2013, where we made tables.

This time we set out primarily to make chairs and stools. The nice change this time was this program also being open to women. The Stirling Men's Shed facilities are made available every second Saturday afternoon to the women's recreational woodworking group, "Women Working with Wood".   This opened up the possibility for the program to be both inter-generational and inter-gender!

Unfortunately, I did not get many photos along the way - nor did I get pics of every pair or their completed projects, sadly. However, the few I did capture are shown amid the text below.

Dermot and his Grandad Bert together made a stool to match some others they had at home.
The Process.
We started looking at chairs and stools, their construction, the forces at play, and how we build to increase strength in the right places while also seeking the right balance between aesthetics and functionality. With curves, angles and even compound angles, getting it right is important. The best way to do this is to do a scale drawing of the chair/stool and any critical aspects. This way you can transfer the angles and measurements from the drawing, taking away the guesswork. We did our drawings on pieces of 6mm (1/4") MDF or ply. Each pair (there was one trio) decided together what they would be making before embarking on their drawing process. Once the direction was established, the participants could start with their cutting list, gather the materials, and start making components using the gear in this great facility.

Callum and his Grandad Bob working on their nice kitchen chair together.
The Joinery.
Participants could use whatever jointing method they liked, but I encouraged people to try out using furniture dowels. This was a new experience for many, but like any joint-making in woodworking, it's all in the accuracy of the marking out - and getting your head around the angles etc. The Shed has a nice big old horizontal dowelling/slot-mortising machine, which is rarely utilised. It needed a bit of work to become functional (thanks, Ashley!), but between that machine, the drill press, and some good self-centring dowelling jigs which I have, the dowelling process could be easily done - so long as you got your head around the boring angles. Here's a tip: always bore the holes perpendicular to the meeting faces!  
What a duet! Kanta and her son Aneesh made this nice piano stool together.
It has a music compartment under the hinged upholstered lid.
The Wood.
Unless you brought your own timber, the material made available to us for the project was predominantly pine. Some of this was structural, some was recycled, and some of this had formerly been packing crates. Whatever the source, the important thing is careful selection of the material to ensure no knots will end up in critical places, that you can machine the material down to the required dimensions, and that you can maximise the use of the timber. Just good old prudent timber selection... Most of the finished chairs and stools were going to be stained to their makers' preferred finish.

Hugh and grandson Cameron made and upholstered this nice stool together.
Upholstery.
A number of the chairs and stools would have upholstered seats and the rest had solid seats. I had brought my upholstery gear and some basic materials along, for those who needed it. For many it was the first time they'd tried this. While they discovered that it is mostly pretty straight forward, it is the corners which are tricky. Despite this, they all did a pretty good job of the upholstering. Those participants who upholstered their seats can justifiably be proud of what they did.

Suzanne and grandson Malachi made a good bedside table together, complete with drawer.
The days Suzanne couldn't be there, Malachi's Dad was on board. Another family effort!
The Results.
It is said that a picture paints a thousand words. The pics through this post have many stories to tell. All of the participants have much to smile about - they've made some nice furniture, and they travelled the journey together. Together they have shared the learnings, the ideas, the tasks, the frustrations, the anticipation and the satisfaction. There is always something new to learn, and it was great to spend time together working on a common project.

Grandad Bernie with Aidan, Eilish and their Dad Roger.
A real family effort designing and making this beaut pair of stools. 
Many thanks to the City of Stirling for sponsoring this great program, and to the Stirling Men's Shed for giving us access to their fantastic facilities over the five consecutive Saturday mornings to undertake the program.

Raff and his grandad Ashley together built this nice chair with a shaped wooden seat.
It also has a relief carved anchor and ship's wheel on the fore and aft of the backrest.
The Benefits.
How to you measure the value of a program like this? Yes, there were opportunities for each participant to learn a few woodworking skills and techniques along the way, and experience the process of drawing up a piece of furniture and taking the construction through to completion. There is also something tangible and practical that they have made together, in the form of useful pieces of furniture.
Amid these worthwhile outcomes sit other less quantifiable but probably more valuable things - the chance to create something together. Time together. Working together around a common goal. A shared experience. Wonderful stuff.

...Positively Priceless.

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