Riding The Horse – Part Four – It’s Only A Workshop If You Work

There is an Australian meme that says every man needs a shed. It is attacked by those who wishes to press themselves forward, demanding equality, but fortunately in this case that generally involves dirt and hard work. You can let ‘em into your shed to rant away, but leave the door open for when they discover the spiders and the pools of old motor oil.

If you wish to make a hobby of making things, you have a choice as wide as the world of what to do. Every object you see about you was made by someone. With the possible exception of an nuclear reactor, you can do the same. Indeed, if you are prepared to make scale modelling your thing, you can have your own Oak Ridge, Hanford, or Semipalatinsk. And the advantage of a scale model is that you won’t die of radiation poisoning.

Each hobbyist’s bent will be different, and each can be guided by what they like in life, and what materials they like to work with. 

You like wood? Make tables, chairs, beds, cabinets, boats, chessboards, boxes, etc, etc. The hardware stores and wood merchants are your friends and will have machines, tools, and finishes enough to keep you busy forever. There will be books, magazines, YouTube videos, clubs and societies all over that you can repair to for advice and admiration. Go on – knock yourself out.

Metal your thing? Howzabout blacksmithing, etching, welding, fabrication, boatbuilding, furniture, clockmaking, casting, railway work. Expect to get big and black and dirty doing any of these and become resigned to the blood blister and the burn.

Plastic? Model kits, artwork, fabrication, furniture, casting, imbedding.

Mechanical things? Oh Dear Me. Classic cars, hot rods, car maintenance, clockmaking watch repair, camera repair, motor boats, steam engines, oil engines, old farm machinery, tool restoration, appliance repair… be careful to get good at what you do but keep it secret because as soon as people find out that you can fix things they will come to you to have things fixed. Your hobby will become work and you’ll need a hobby to relax from your hobby…

Cloth? Clothing making, dressmaking, costume making, sail making, awning work, upholstery, knitting, tatting, crochet work, embroidery, lacework…I cannot list all the things you could make with fibres…

Leather? Shoes, saddles, belts, bodices, BDSM gear, military equipages, furniture, art, carvings, bookbinding, fake steaks at cheap restaurants…

Paper? Bookbinding, paper making, magazine and pamphlet printing, origami, model making.

Rubber? Well…besides BDSM wedding dresses, you can become a tyre repair as a hobby. Or make mats, boating gear, or other waterproof goods.

Electronics? Despite the fact that we get lots of goods from overseas, we also have good electronic stores that sell components and circuits. You can make or mend  – your choice. You can get zapped either way.

Plants? Grow a garden, grow a lawn, grow a vineyard, grow an orchard. Stop when you run afoul of agricultural law or produce boards and you should be fine. Exhibit, eat, or dig in the results of your endeavours. If you smoke them, expect to be visited by either the local Don or the local detectives.

In short, there are no end of things that you can make. If you make them for yourself, you are rewarded with both pride of ownership and competence. Sometimes you can gain a financial advantage making your own goods – sometimes not. Be wary of making things for profit, as this quickly erodes the hobby benefit.

Be prepared to go from one form of making to another as you gain skill and need to expand. Also be aware that you can get to a plateau or a rut – I have 5 tables made by an old hobbyist who was a friend of my late mother-in-law. They are a delight individually but a nuisance in a group. I hope to give several away to the unwary.

Remember, as well, that some making hobbies border upon the expressive or artistic pursuits. This is no bad thing in itself unless the maker sees more in it than there actually is – or if someone else tries to make art out of mere work.

You Get One Hour And That’s All

No, this isn’t a pay-per-view site with kitten videos…

I am at the computer desk for one hour while a coat of spray varnish dries on a model airplane. I’ve learned that it is dangerous to be in the workshop while paint dries as I eventually touch it to see if it is dry and it isn’t. See? Even perfect characters have flaws…

I think the one-hour rule would be good in many aspects of life. Meals, for instance – if you are going to dawdle for several hours either you are going to eat and drink too much or whatever it is you are pushing round the plate is not worth the time. And timing is everything.

Sex? Well, decide that one for yourself, but consult your partner about the issue. 60 minutes for a 63 -minute person is a bad time to quit.

Reading? Well, you might stretch a bit further if it’s a 19th century French novel with heaving bosoms and creaking bedsprings, but technical journals and political columns can definitely be limited to an hour.

Gardening? Oh, that one could definitely stop at an hour. But one always seems to be in the middle of a rose bush with secaturs – bleeding – doesn’t one? In the end you are not so much pruning as cutting yourself free.

Driving? Yes. Stop the car. Get out and either pee, puke, or purchase petrol. Reset the mechanism.

Television? Set aside an hour a day to watch television. Then don’t. Read a book.

Exercise? If you can sprint on a treadmill or do push-ups for a solid hour – and wish to do this –  there is nothing I can say to you that you can hear.

Hobby work? A fair call. I’m waiting out a coat of varnish so that it can be smoother. if I had a spray room with a door sealing it, I could carry on with some other modelling task while I was waiting.

Photography? An hour in a studio with a glamour model is a short time. With a family of unhappy portrait customers it is an eternity.

 

 

 

I Think You Can’t…I Think You Can’t…

Or, The Little Engine That Worked For The Local Council.

I have a confession to make – I have stopped asking the local council for permission to do anything. I’ve stopped asking  the state government the same question. In fact, I’m even considering cutting the federal government out of the equation when it comes to deciding how to order my life.

I’m not going to go so far when it comes to the wife. That’d just be crazy talk.

But flouting the local authorities would seem to be a good idea these days. I am no longer in receipt of a big income, nor of a pension, so throwing money around for permits and licenses seems like a waste of resource. I am fortunate in that the things I fancy are lawful and reasonably healthy and can be made to attract little attention. I am not fool enough to activate the sumptuary laws buried in council regulations nor the jealousies buried in the hearts of my neighbours.

Case in point: The state government would like to have anywhere from $75 to $100 to register a business name for me. I would like the same amount for hard liquor and model airplanes. Therefore I have named my business to my own satisfaction, to the satisfaction of my clients, and to that of the Australian Taxation Office…without reference to the local Jobsworths. I figure the financial feds trump them anyway.

I also operate a model airplane workshop in my back yard shed. I’d be willing to bet there are a dozen council regulations that might be applied to it, but after getting the first piece of paper allowing erection of the structure 35 years ago I don’t see that it is any of their business what I build in it. If I start to assemble floating mines I will reconsider…

And so on. Our family parks our cars on the front lawn as there is insufficient space for them in the carport. Betcha that’d get a fistful of paper if I were an enemy of the council…but I’m not. They see the rates paid and the bins sorted and the anonymity this gives me is just what I want.

Good Morning, Sir. How May I Hell You?

Everyone should work retail at some point in their lives.

Indeed, I’ll go further than that – they should also, at some point:

a. Work personal service – wait tables, attend a public desk, man the complaints counter.

b. Work publicity. Write copy, draw illustration, serve at a promo show. Think up the bullshit and then have to spread it…

c. Work in dirt. Even if it is just a personal garden, everyone should work in dirt until they get a good result.

d. Work in a position that is monitored by a jealous and vindictive overseer. This may be a person or a professional board.

e. Work in a workshop. Whatever they produce makes no difference – it will cement their character if they can eventually do it well.

f. Work to a deadline. And fail once, and then succeed once, to know the difference in the way it feels.

g. Work to a financial bottom line. Unless they have had to watch the pennies, they’ll never know how to accumulate the pounds.

h. Work in a job where they were in command. Command of the job and command of other people.

If they have done all or most of these things, they are well-rounded individuals. But they mustn’t get cocky – so is the Michelin Man. And he gets tyred sometimes…

No… back to the topic. People who vault to command without ever experiencing the reality of work live in an unreal world and make false decisions. People who never rise also never see what command should be – there is always a battle between them and others that is detrimental to business. There needs to be a shared experience to share in effective management and effective employment.

 

 

The Little World – The Warm Orgasm Of Cleaning Up

Think what you will about the pride of accomplishment and possession that grips a modeller during their time in the workshop  – I say there is no thrill to equal that of cleaning the place up after completing a project. And in some cases it does not even have to be after successfully finishing something…sometimes just the act of getting free of the whole wretched mess is reward enough.

I don’t know what kind of modeller you are, or in what direction your work has taken you. Nor what sort of workshop and tools you have. I don’t even know whether you are a neat and tidy person in yourself or a wallowing hog. Wherever you fit in the spectrum from surgical cleanliness to cow pies on the counter, you will have gotten to the same point at sometime in your career – you’ve finished the last thing possible on your model and put it carefully up on the shelf for posterity.

Now look around. Does it look like a minimalist living room or does it look like Stalingrad? Can you see the floor? Can you see the walls? Is the paint on the ceiling? is the paint on the cat? Is the cat on the ceiling? Whatever – it is time to recover the place and get ready for the next idea.

Find the tools. You will not find them all the first time you look. You may not find some of them no matter how hard you look. Accept an attrition rate of drill bits and tiny hand tools during the best projects. If you have lost the bandsaw or the air compressor, however, check that the workshop locks are still present.

Then start to pick up the off-cuts from whatever you were using. Are any of them still useful? Save them in special boxes that you can throw out in a year when you realise you were wrong. Or save them for 35-40 years and discover that you were right.

Are there any half-used tins of paint? If so, tip them all unto a bucket and paint the back porch with the result. It will either be flat grey or a salmon colour, depending upon whether you are a good moral person or a pervert. The neighbours will know by looking at the porch.

Collect all the parts that you find on the floor that skittered out of your hand or the bench vise as you were making them. Regard these as the working models of the parts that you then had to remake when you were unable to find the first ones on the floor. Throw them in the bin and curse them.

Clean the bench top. Possibly with a broom, possibly with a cloth. Possibly with fire. Just get it back to a semblance of flatness as you will be building your next project on there and it is no good trying to get things in plumb if you are sitting on old glue blobs.

Sharpen the pencils and cap the marker pens. Try the old ones out to see if they are dry enough yet to throw out. Hammer the ruler flat again.

Clean the paintbrushes by rinsing them in the appropriate thinner, working the bristles carefully. Rinse them, shape them so that they have a straight edge, and then throw them into the bin. They sell better brushes than you have just ditched in packets of five for three dollars.

Gather all the sprues, boxes, unused decal sheets, instructions, and spare parts from the kit that you have just finished – note that fully 3/4 of what you paid for at the hobby shop is still in the box and is now totally useless. Go to the hobby shop tomorrow and ask for 3/4 of your money back. Tomorrow will be a special day for you…

And finally, vacuum the floor and benches. No matter how clean you got it before, this final step will suck up the final detail part that you could not find on the sprue ( you’ll see it clearly just before it shoots up the vacuum nozzle ) and make for hours of fun as you sift through the dust bag to find it. We can supply a book of words to say while you look, but don’t let the kiddies read it.

The Little World – Heating It Up – Cooling It Down

The summer heat has just started in Perth. The modelling shed has climbed to the official pack-it-in temperature of 35ºC…that’s 95º F for the recalcitrants. Not the hottest that it will get, but hot enough to remove the fun from a modelling session.

As you will have seen earlier in this column, I have made myself a portable modelling tray you take inside when this happens – I can sit in the A/C and build plastic models quite happily.

But that hot shed is a valuable asset, if only you know how to manage it. Last night I planned out how it could be programmed. It all depended up timing – I set things up before the temperature rose and then let it work for me:

a. The facade of the new 1:18 building has a number of trim strips that will be held on by PVA glue. If they go on cold and stay cold they are weak. But glued early and then left to cure in the heat, they become like iron.

b. Sub-assemblies for a 1:72 model need paint. One spritz from the airbrush does it, but if it is a cold day you wait forever for drying and the next stage. Today, the coats of acrylic were dry within 10 minutes and the assembly could speed forward.

c. Warping of paper and wooden parts is inevitable when you use PVA glues or water-based paints. But if you paint or glue early and let the parts set in the heat under tension or pressure, you get the finish you want without the distortion. Plus any distortions that have occurred yield to a slight dampening and then pressure in the hot atmosphere. It is like a giant oven of gentle heat. You can straighten strip wood the same way.

d. Paint goes on well in warm conditions. If there is a good finish coat needed, do it about mid-morning and then beetle off before you disturb the air and stir up dust. The hot, fast dry means that you’ll get a hard skin before this can happen.

e. You need not wear heavy clothing in the hot shed. You can get away with shorts and a tee shirt, which means that you are not wearing good pants when you get overspray. You can clean your legs cheaper than you can dryclean trousers.

f. Real heat keeps the faint-hearted off the road. You can go to the hobby shop with less traffic. Mind you, most of the dedicated modellers I know would travel to the place in a hurricane anyway…

 

The Little World – Be It Ever So Humble

We are often told that we must be proud of our humble homes. This is generally written in magazines that then tell us we must renovate said humble homes and the quotes will start at $10,000.  The pictures that we are shown in the ads are generally bare and minimalist. A Shaker would look at them and feel deprived. Corbusier would draw doodles and curlicues on the sideboard. In short – they are selling you the chance to live in nothing at all for a tidy round sum of money.

Hot damn.

I have concluded that this is a load of, and have decided to make my decorating statement upon the Rooseveltian principle; I shall do what I can with what I have, where I am. To that end I have designed my modelling workshop – it is in the heading picture.

You see a combination of fortune and stinginess.

A cabinet that once housed dental instruments – bought at great expense in 1969 and never sold off.

A cheap hanging motor from the local DIY shop

An X-Acto jigsaw that has survived all my married life.

Discarded bookshelves rescued from the verge.

A cardboard office organiser.

Birthday, Christmas, and Father’s Day presents. That’s the good stuff.

A picture of my late father as inspiration.

His bench vice. Probably his only vice.

The drafting table that only gets used for serious projects. Most plans are drawn on a clipboard in builder’s crayon.

The shop teachers of my youth would reel in horror, but then they were the sort of men who hung tools on pegboards. I have tried to follow their example but eventually everything comes tumbling off the wall. Perhaps that happened to their careers as well.

The only thing I am sure of in my modelling shop is that I can do it. I may not do it well, and it may not last, but for a brief period of time there is always something succeeding. It is all I can ask for.