Workshop SwanSong

The old man has finally taken the momentous decision – after much kicking for touch, procrastination and setting obstacles in the way – to sell their house in Pietermaritzburg, home for the last (?) fourteen years, and – a way harder decision – sell his whole workshop;

Machines, stacks of wood, hand power tools, hand tools, nut screws and bolts, hinges, upholstery material; all the stuff he has accumulated over 120 years. Everything has to go. Well, almost everything. There’s a fair amount of ‘I’ll keep this’ and then ‘but where will I put it?’ OK, so he’s only 96, so its about sixty years worth of stuff.

The painful process is not without trepidation, hesitation and doubt, but he’s committed now: it’s going.

Luckily he has found a WONDERFUL person, ‘SUCH a nice chap’ to buy the whole workshop from him, lock, stock and barrel. ‘He has taken six bakkie and trailer loads away already and I reckon there’s about another four to go’ says the ole man.

Has he paid you? I ask. ‘What?’ Has he paid you? ‘Huh? Oh! No, not yet, but he will.’ OK, I say, but it’s perfectly reasonable to ask him to pay. Rather he pay now and avoid a drama afterwards. ‘Mm.’

So Sunday I go and observe the process. I thought I’d meet the wonderful Johan de Lange but he didn’t arrive.

16 Ivy Rd Workshop collage Dad

Already it’s half empty. You can now see it has a floor and some walls. I take pictures and ask What’s this? ‘Ah!’ He says, immediately animated, ‘that’s Indian waterbuffalo calf skin, tanned and dyed. I want to cover a chair seat with that.’

What’s this? ‘Ah! That was Oupa’s whetstone. That could be a hundred years old.’

‘Ah! That’s a Stanley spokeshave. They used them to make the spokes in the oxwagon wheels. I used it to make the speedboat I built. Remember I made a boat in the lounge on the plot? It’s also called a draw knife.’

‘Ah! That sketch? We went to Skukuza in Kruger and I saw a lovely bench there and wanted to make one, so I drew a sketch of it.’

‘These are wood turning chisels I made. I used special steel for the blades and turned the handles of olive wood.’

Where’d you get this old handsaw – a back saw – and the set square with brass inlay? ‘Old Mr Buckle had a Blacksmith shop in Harrismith down in McKechnie street before the war. I used to hang out there – remember I had horses when I first got to Harrismith? I used to shoe my horses there and he sold or gave me stuff he didn’t need.’ Before the war – so its eighty years of stuff, not sixty.

The fixed machinery is two thicknesser-and-planes, a Rockwell circular saw, a huge cast-iron bandsaw, a belt-sander (seen in the collage above), a 1m wood lathe with tilt and something. Each one has a story and why it’s a wonderful tool, its name and where it’s from.

I said I didn’t recognise the make of the one thicknesser. ‘Ooh, that’s from Austria. Its a good make, but not well designed; it’s tricky to set the blades. I rebuilt it and made some improvements.’ In fact he was so chuffed with those improvements he encased the moving parts in perspex so you can see them. It would have been sad to hide them under a metal cover:

Emco-Rex b20 thicknesser aus Austria

And on and on. We didn’t get much done. I’ll have to write another post on it.

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