The First Project

My first project is finished. Yey! We started it the first week of college in September, and it took us all this time to finish but according to the teachers, we are on target. This first project was a wooden frame with each corner a different joint: a dove tail, a halving joint, a T halving joint and a mitre. It was hard work. I poured blood sweat and tears on that project! Honestly I did: I cut my fingers with the chisels which are sharp as razor blades; I sweated buckets as there is no air con in the work shop and it gets hot quickly when you are constantly moving about carrying heavy planes and sawing energetically; and I was close to tears on a few occasions when I just couldn’t see any kind of progress in my work. Alright I confess: I did cry in the loo when I was particularly annoyed by a T halving joint that just wouldn’t behave.

So here we are, in the third month of my college life and I am very happy to report that my frame is looking good. It isn’t perfect. I commented on a few flaws I noticed and my teacher told me to stop worrying about them. If my frame was perfect, then 1) I wouldn’t need to continue with this course, and 2) my skills could only go downhill from now: if a student realises that their work is good from the word go, then they usually lose the motivation necessary to work hard and make the rest of their academic year a success.

I must say, when my teacher agreed that I could stop working on my frame and that it really was finished, I felt really proud. The matchstick project, which consisted in planing a piece of wood on all 6 sides and making them all perfectly square, was very useful in showing what to do and what not to do when planing. So when I started planing my frame last week, I knew exactly how challenging it was going to be. In the end, I remember feeling annoyed because the sides of my frame were not 100% flat and square. My teacher checked and gave me a funny look. He told me that really, I could spend a long time trying to get this dead flat, but what I did was absolutely fine. He measured the difference on some of the sides to show me what he was talking about. The difference was no more than 0.02 millimetre. Basically, he deemed it insignificant. And that was fantastic because when we started on this project, we were warned that a particularly good student did, last year, manage to plane a piece of wood down as close as 0.01 millimetre of the dimension requested… <<smug smile>>

So next week, our new project will be the tool box. At the same time, I have to start making sure I know all the theory we have been taught since September as we have a test before Christmas. The theory involves all things to do with wood technology: Timber sawing and seasoning, wood diseases and defects, wood shrinkage and other movements due to drying, the different drying techniques, how to grade wood and to calculate its volume… It is a lot already and there is a lot more to come. This is when I wonder if there is an age limit for learning. The youngsters in my class don’t even make an effort to learn. To them, it’s like a game because college life doesn’t have the strictness of the school they left in June. I can see them laughing their way through the lessons, and still remember all of it the next week. I have to put some time aside to sit down with my course work and actually read it slowly and carefully; rewrite, it as I find this method works well for me to learn; and sometimes I do a little research online which helps to remember things.

So between work (3 days a week), college (2 days a week), karate (2 evenings a week) and learning (any time I get a moment), plus this week preparation for my new exhibition (all day Saturday), I can say that I am pretty busy.

However, one must remember to relax and take it easy once in a while, just to make sure one doesn’t start climbing up the walls out of sheer stress. So tonight, it’s home movie time. I may even stretch my tight student budget to getting some microwavable popcorn! Oh! The simple joys of student life!

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