Dec 012016

He sits in contemplation on an old oak Douglas chair, sometimes incorrectly called a Captain’s chair, with turned spindles for the back, a wooden panel replacing the cane seat. For warmth he’s placed a sheepskin off-cut on it. The chair is situated in the corner of his rustic workshop diagonally opposite the wood burning stove that transmits a gentle heat to every area of this special place.

Tools hang from the overhead beams. Clamps – quick release, metal and plastic, or solid metal – one under the other, grasp the edge of the wooden shelving. Chains with hooks attached, leather straps, all are suspended from nails on the front of the high Oregon shelf. Atop, old pattern maker planes, rebate planes and many more rescued from a skip at an education facility, sit side by side in an orderly row.

Above the beautifully crafted workbench, files – flat, round, coarse, fine – are lined up like soldiers on military parade. Hammers – claw, tack, ream – share the space with old wooden handled screwdrivers. Higher still are the metal hand drills secreting bits in their turned handles. Wooden and metal braces complete the picture in this space.

Old chunky wooden planes look similar to train carriages on the dusty window ledge, and spoke shaves, nine in total, ordered from smallest to largest, almost appear like crabs lying in wait. On a cupboard hoarding nails, screws, bolts, hinges and all manner of hardware hangs a red and black poster with the heading ‘Lost & Rare Trades.’

However he doesn’t notice any of this – his thoughts are elsewhere. Recently they, he and his wife, travelled down the Great Ocean Road visiting old haunts. Although winter cold was creeping in, the sun shone and the wind abated. The dark blue sea calmly rolled on its journey, only breaking into a mass of froth as it hit protruding rock ledges and cliffs. Little debris marred the beaches, reclaimed by the sea during high tide.

On the large bench in the middle of the workshop, he’s placed five flat wooden panels of differing sizes. Two of these are covered in diverse shapes and thicknesses of wood that’s been swept onto the sand after being set adrift from various vessels at sea. The panels display horizontal patterns, vertical patterns, patterns within patterns. Some of this water, salt and wind-affected wood is light, some dark, some deeply grained, some touched with worn colour. Each piece is cut, smoothed on the edges before being gently placed in position, arranged and rearranged – sometimes end grain, sometimes side grain.

Later, he’ll sit, soaking up the warmth, the quiet, taking time to contemplate his creation and how to proceed. In his mind he’ll picture the wall to be decorated and the overall affect he wants the panels to achieve. Only when he’s ready, will he proceed.