Last Saturday I attended a beginners woodworking class at my local hardware store Mackays of Cambridge. The last time I did anything like this was at high school, so I knew it would be an interesting day for me! Our tutor for the day was Richard who has a fantastic YouTube channel full of woodworking advice. He was patient and really clear, so we left with a lot more confidence than when we started.
Now G was terrified I was going to come home with an injury (I am SUPER clumsy) so I promised to be alert and focused throughout the class. There was a momentary relapse at one point, but more on this later.
We began with a long plank of wood and a few basic tools (hammer, saw, chisel, screwdriver, plane, drill). We were about to turn the plank into a bird house learning a few techniques and types of hinges along the way. Richard began by showing us the correct way to saw and explained that tools needn’t be expensive. The saw below was 120 years old and worked perfectly!
Next up, we learned about the basic geometry of the bird box and the importance of measuring carefully. Like bookbinding, you usually measure one piece and then use this to measure all other pieces rather than grappling with tape measures and rulers for every piece.
We learnt the basics of creating a finger joint, where two pieces of wood interlock. CAN YOU SPOT MY FATAL ERROR IN THE PHOTO ABOVE? This is where my focus lapsed! I was concentrating so hard on being accurate with my work, that I completely messed up my joining pieces and had to cut a whole new piece with Richard’s help.
One thing that I did enjoy was the way Richard allowed us to make mistakes. He only intervened when he thought something might not be 100% safe. This was a great way to learn and by the end, we could see our skills improving rapidly. We even used a router which for most people is ‘scary power tool’ territory.
My bird box is a little wonky, but I was really pleased with how it turned out. Now I need to sand it a little more and finish it by painting/sealing.
After some sandwiches, tea and sausage rolls (proper builders lunch!) we got back to work to make a spatula. We started with a block of wood and a hammer and chisel. This was seriously fun – mostly due to the randomness and lack of precision required. After we had created our basic spatula shape (think cave man tool at this stage), we used a spoke shave which planed the wood into a smoother shape. Pretty chuffed with the outcome.
Richard kindly took some photos of Michelle and I whilst we worked and of course we posed with our makes at the end of the day.
The class was full on but really well paced and I left with so much more confidence and armed with tons of knowledge for using tools correctly. I told Richard I wanted to make a ladder shelf next so watch this space! Most hardware stores can cut the wood to length for you, so if you don’t have a saw in your collection it’s still easy to get started.
I would definitely recommend the courses at Mackays if you are in the Cambridgeshire area. The team are really friendly and helpful. I’m tempted by a picture framing course next!
Have you ever tried a course which pushed you out of your comfort zone?