With world-class cycle facilities like this, you wonder why there aren’t more cyclists around…
Ecologically sound bike parking in Stuttgart centre.
Living simply in an over-complicated world
One of the many phrases my dear mother had to say, several times each morning.
Well, now I did. It took several more months than I’d like*, but finally, the bed for Youngest Son is finished, meaning that he no longer has to sleep on the floor.
I did learn a massive amount about working with real wood, not least that modern woodworking machines aren’t really made for this, so sometimes hand saws, mallet and chisels really do work better, with the added advantage that they don’t suddenly turn themselves on and nearly remove the ends of your fingers.
On the other hand, it was quite disturbing how little advice was available apart from ‘use the machines’: very few of the very experienced carpenters I work with have ever made a join like this, so I had to spend a fair bit of time working stuff out for myself. I did wonder at times if I should have made a few practice joins instead of just leaping in and promising a bed, but the idea of being dragged off to get a bed from a furniture shop provided powerful motivation for not giving up.
The joins looked pretty rough in places, but it is amazing what a bit of sandpaper can do. I used this method because we’ll need to take the bed apart again if/when we move house, and ‘normal’ joins wouldn’t allow for that. Besides, I wasn’t convinced I’d get the cuts perfect so the wedges would
hide my mistakes allow for some adjustment. Because I was using joins no-one locally had apparently attempted in living memory there was a question of how they would stand up to regular use, but after a week of being a bed/trampoline/climbing frame, the frame hasn’t shown any sign of wobbling or squeaking.
I brought the bed home on the Bakfiets, which only added to the strange eco-warrior/treehugger/village idiot image but which worked perfectly well except that I completely failed to take a picture.
Now I’m getting all manner of suggestions for future projects, and I’ll make a start on some of them as soon as the garden has received some attention, and I’ve fixed the headlight for Beautiful Wife’s bike, and done all the other extra jobs no-one tells you about when you read books on ‘living simply’…
*This will not surprise my parents either , from memories of how long it took me to do anything when I lived at home…
Found a shortcut through the forest between us and the next town. This has the advantage that we cross over the busy arterial road into Stuttgart on this bridge rather than having to zigzag through traffic lights.
Having grown up in the UK, the ability to travel cross country without using a major road still feels like a luxury..
Eldest Son and I tried to do some planing with an electric planer, the idea being that we can reclaim old timber and make cool things out of it. The planing didn’t work as well as we’d hoped, mostly because electric hand planes are not really made for this. Still, we had fun working together and trying stuff out.
Eldest Son is marking points where he is not entirely satisfied with the finish. Will have to think up a better method.
I don’t usually go to the Very Smallholding in the evenings because after dark you could be attacked by trolls, but I took the compost down just as the sun was setting on our picturesque (ie ‘tatty’) shed.
Note compost bin and bucket ready to go back up the hill. Try to ignore shadow of inept photographer.
In Germany an apprentice learns a trade with a company, so you really do learn on the job. It is great because a lot of young people learn a trade, but I’m hugely disappointed how much a carpentry apprenticeship here is about speed, money and feeding machines, not skill and love of woodworking.
I’m in a minority of one on this, so my goal now is to finish the apprenticeship, get my certificate, and look for some extra training in traditional carpentry. Meanwhile I’m getting as much practice as I can and currently that means making a bed for Youngest Son with simple mortise and tenon joins.
Last week a horrified colleague asked why on earth I was working with Japanese saws, chisels, and a drill inherited from my grandfather when there is a hall full of expensive and complex machines a few metres away. I replied that when my son sleeps on this bed I wanted the knowledge it was me who made it and not a machine, and because I wanted to build a future in working with wood, using my hands, not a computer screen. The joins aren’t perfect, but if you want perfect you can go to IKEA and get a perfect, soulless bed. This one is full of imperfections, and full of love.
Then with impeccable timing, the bedpost split.
Anyway, soon after this conversation, the tutor at a woodworking school I’m interested in posted a particularly passionate article on his blog about educating people in traditional woodwork, I commented and told him the story above. He replied:
So discouraging and yet I know it’s true. Eventually you will find others that feel like you do… … It’s what we feel in our hearts and minds in response to the whole wood we cut with saws and chisels newly sharpened and fit for purpose… …Hang in there, Andy. What we are doing is making a difference… …Andy, your letter just won you a free nine-day course here at the school. Just let me know when you want to come by choosing a date on the scheduled classes. Now all you have to do is make your way here.
So at some point in 2015 I’ll be off to this school in North Wales.
Even a feeding chipboard into a machine for eight hours didn’t stop me grinning for a day afterwards…
Life is intervening, again. The last few weeks have been a right thumper of an exam session because all the tutors decided that with the half-year report due very soon, they need to have a test at the same time, so I’ve been doing lots of revision, amongst other things about an hour of maths each night which is not very exciting blogging material, hence lack of posts, and replies to comments.
I’ve been feeling slightly guilty for a while about this post giving the impression that our local transport system was run by incompetents or possibly monkeys and that isn’t the case. (Having grown up in the UK I have experience of a transport system run by incompetents, or as they are known ‘politicians’. I think monkeys could do better) so in the interests of balance here is a ‘normal’ commute home.
When things are working, the last lesson finishes about ten minutes before the train and gives plenty of time to walk to the station One thing German education does fairly well is make sure schools have public transport connections.
The novelty of being on a top deck coach will never wear off. Bay seating fortunately hasn’t gone out of fashion in Germany.
Large amounts of bike space and a massive disabled privy downstairs. The things I photograph for you, honestly.
Cavernous bike and push chair (stroller) friendly doors.
Off train and on to bus which leaves exactly six minutes later. The bus takes longer to cover the next five kilometres than the train needed for 20, but saves me cycling 200 vertical metres so we’ll gloss over that. I can get off at the next village to ours and comfortably ride the last few kilometres straight over the fields, while the bus goes off on a tour of local landmarks, so I save about ten to fifteen minutes and I can start on assignments fresh and awake from the ride.
I don’t of course: I faff about and end up trying to solve maths problems when I’m half asleep before rushing to get ready for the next day, but never mind.
Half year reports are coming next week, so the pressure should let off for a bit.