The day began with us delivering our projects. There were two other students being tested, and they were busy unveiling very complex and very beautiful pieces of furniture that would have fitted quite well into an art gallery: a desk with glossy white surface atop an oak cupboard stood next to a tool box which opened in intricate ways to become a portable modelmaking studio. I couldn’t help feeling I was out of my depth.
Fortunately hand tool woodworking has something of a mystique even among carpenters, so the others were too busy looking at the carving on the lid of my box to notice the dodgy bits of the dovetails or the wonky hinges.
The exam was to make a child’s chair with a mix of traditional and modern joins. In seven hours. The three of us know each other and get on well, so we were more relaxed than you might expect. We also helped each other rather more than we were strictly supposed to, which I think irritated the examiners a bit, but it meant we all finished on time. As if this wasn’t enough, we also managed to discuss religion, ecology, global warming and the Tar Sands in the middle of all this.
Afterwards, we hung around for two and a half hours while the examiners poked at the exam pieces, and then at six thirty our tutor came out and told us unofficially that everyone had passed. We were not supposed to be told this, so I had to keep you in suspense for the weekend.
I am now a guild-registered carpenter in Germany, but I don’t have the paperwork so you’ll have to trust me for a couple of days…
Today I wandered over to my former employer’s workshop, tidied the tools away for the last time, swept the bench clean(ish), chucked some leftover pieces of wood into the bin, said my goodbyes, and left.