Building a woodworking CV

One of the main questions people ask about my career change is “What do you do on a year long cabinet making course”. Well, the simplest answer is probably to show the apprentice box. Creating the apprentice box is the equivalent of building a woodworking CV.

This box is a culmination of the teaching throughout the year that runs alongside the designing and making of three projects and a bedside cabinet. It incorporates solid wood techniques when building the box and room inside for panels which look at different veneering and edging techniques.

Mastering Dovetails

The first skill to master was dovetails. There was so much to learn! My first attempts definitely left a lot to be desired. I was being too cautious with the saw and leaving tricky sections to chisel.

It always felt like removing more wood from one side would open up huge gaps on others so the lesson learnt was mark up precisely to start. Almost all the processes you do on the course benefit from precise planning. I believe more so than any other skill. Next step. Repeat this for four sides! It takes a while.

Creating a hinged lid

With the sides built it’s time to design the lid. The lid top is possibly more important than the rest of the box because it’s actually the thing people first look.

Ironically, I probably didn’t give it more than 5 minutes thought but fortunately I’m really pleased with the design and it’s actually ended up being the basis for the logo. The triangle, spiral and shells on the inside of the lid all use the golden ratio (it’s in nature everywhere) as the dimensions for the image. I’ve really enjoyed being able to use maths in design work as it’s probably an area of strength. Lid designs sorted? Right, time to cut the veneer and boulle work using the fretsaws. The blades on these things are so fine that patience is the main skill required.

We’re 3 months in to the journey at this point. It’s the ‘small’ jobs that seem to take up all the time on the course. Removing a scuff or dried glue. Applying a fine layer of shellac. Sanding to a smooth finish. Trying to keep up with the new panel that we should have completed by now! People ask if you’d sell it and part of me jokes ‘I’m not sure I’d be happy to let that many mistakes leave the shop!’ but also it represents a journey starting from scratch and I don’t think I would want to let it go.

Let’s assume you’ve made it this far….. you’ve made your panels, lid designs, box, rebated the base, cut the lid, felted the inside and dividers. Hinges! I learnt the day after battling with the hinges that Graham (a tutor on the course) recommends allocating a day for hinges. They could take half an hour…..they might not! Mine didn’t. The first set of screws had too large a head so wouldn’t lie flush. Then two screws snapped inside the lid but perseverance paid off. A day later and it was aligned and attached. It was easy to do one of them!

It looks like a box and works like a box at this point so a quick sand and finish and we’re sorted. So why do it? Because a paper CV is a bit boring really….

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