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Feather's Miscellany: Carpentry

"Im not a very practical person and the only tool I handle well is my pen, but I always enjoyed the woodwork lessons at school,'' writes John Waddington-Feather.

I was reading an essay by J. B. Priestley the other day from his collection: Delight, re-published by Northern Books of Ilkley. In it he mentioned the delight he had working with wood. I share that delight.

Im not a very practical person and the only tool I handle well is my pen, but I always enjoyed the woodwork lessons at school. To begin with they were physical; unlike the sedentary lessons which were academic and involved sitting at desk for the teaching period.

But in woodwork we stood up, working at a bench with a lathe and using a variety of tools to make whatever we were trying to construct. Unlike the chemistry lab, which stank of chemicals or the gymnasium which stank of sweat, the woodwork room threw up the sweet aroma of wood the moment you entered it. And once in there we were taught to use tools and instruments which would benefit us the rest of our lives in our homes and gardens: chisels, planes, saws, drills, hammers and mallets, screwdrivers, vices and a whole range of clamps and glues. They all became part of our future as fathers and husbands, so that when the DIY era arrived, we were already prepared, able to decorate, renovate, build and repair the homes awaiting us.

Like Priestley, I loved the whole process of working with wood: the smell of newly cut planks, the feel of the plane shaving off layers of wood and the crunch of curly shavings under my feet and on the bench. I suspect all boys take to woodwork and a good many girls today. It involves using the brain and body in a different way from the classroom; yet it also involves using classroom skills such as maths and art for measuring and designing whatever is being made in wood.

As I said at the beginning, I was never a skilled carpenter, but throughout my life Ive tried to follow and learn from a Jewish carpenter in Nazareth in Galilee, who worked till he was thirty at his bench before he went out into the wider world and worked miracles there.

John Waddington-Feather

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