Hello from Malvern


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2 Jul 2022
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Hi everyone,

I joined the forum yesterday, so just a note to introduce myself.

Although woodworking played a part in my distant past it's only received sporadic attention since then because of a career change and my main, long-term hobbies crowding it out. These being microscopy and photography with some specialist activities that rely on them. So why have I joined a woodworking forum? Some background info first...

I left school over 45 years ago and went straight into an apprenticeship at J. H. Evertons boatyard in Worcester. The pay was pitiful for the entire 5 year term, but I stuck at it and got my papers - a City & Guilds in yacht and boat building. The very next week I received my first "proper" paycheck too. It bounced! The company had gone bust and I was out of work. Sigh.

I started a new career within 3 months and the rest of my working life was spent in software development - arising from my hobbyist interest in computers. I worked for various companies and freelance consulting for a time, living in the USA and Germany for several years, learning on the job and rising through the ranks as I went. This culminated in being "elevated to the board" as Technical Director of a small plc back in the UK. I stuck that for six years but hated it in the end! No money worries at all, but no life either. Just living to work. I missed the hands-on "doing" stuff most of all. Sigh.

So at age 46 I turned my back on the rat race and quit. I lived on my savings while I waited for a private pension to kick in (when I reached 55) but they ran low too soon. So I turned to my hobbies to save the day (again) and generate a bit more cash. Microscopy contributed to making and selling high-value prepared microscope slides and I later leaned on photography, doing weddings, events and studio-based product work. They got me over the hump and I've been fully retired for 6 years now. Sigh - of contentment :)

That's the backdrop against which my sporadic involvement with woodwork played out. I always had a decent set of hand tools and used them for any and all carpentry needed in my various homes. I kept my hand in. Some places had big sheds and I built workbenches in those. Being honest though, the sheds were primarily "quiet-places" for me. I'd often go in and plane a bit of pine for nothing more than the smell and feel of it, not to make anything. I produced almost nothing tangible unless there was a specific need for it.

But I never lost my love of beautiful wood, especially exotic veneers. That drove the one and only wood-related "fun" activity I regularly (though infrequently) kept doing throughout. I buy exotic veneers that catch my eye, stick some to small blocks, then try different finishes and techniques to discover which best reveals the intrinsic beauty of a given species. I spend even more time ogling the end results, tilting the blocks in the light to admire the shimmer and shifting shapes of the grain. Little blocks of wood porn, they are! This leaves quite a bit of spare veneer too, so I sporadically dabbled in marquetry to use some up, but haven't done any of that for a couple of years. My main interests always fill the bulk of my spare time, and then some. Or they did until a few months ago...

...when I bought some "always wanted" tournament chess pieces and started looking for the perfect board to put them on. Bearing in mind that the wood itself is *really* important to me, I find "traditional" chess board manufacturing techniques (solid and veneer) often leave or cause artifacts that trigger an OCD-like reaction. Examples being that one irritating square with a knot or blemish on it, or one that's a slightly different shade, or interesting grain features being cut-off at the edge of a square, not "composed" to sit nicely framed within it. Things like that. Given this, I doubt I'll ever find an affordable board I'd be content with, so I decided to design and make my own; one that dodges these issues with capabilities that a traditional build could never provide. Given my situation and environment (up to my armpits in microscopes, lab ware and tons of camera gear set out on optical benches) this has to be done by hand, almost as a kitchen-table craft activity. I do have a small patch available in a tiny shed. Just enough room for me and a Workmate bench. That works for the really dusty stuff.

Of course, there are very good reasons for following traditional methods and not ignoring them. I'm up against wholly predictable problems all the way and have been prototyping and trialing my way around them for months, on and off. All at the expense of my usual interests. It seems I've fallen into an unexpected woodworking rabbit hole with no way out. At least, not until I achieve what I want. No matter though - it's every bit as interesting as my usual pursuits, I'm making good progress on the prototyping (of processes mainly) and time is one thing I have loads of. So I'm sticking with it. Kinda nice to get back to my roots too - even withered ones :)

And finally, to the reason I joined the forum. When Googling information to inform some of my ideas, or understand the failed experiments better, I was most often directed to posts on this forum. So I've simply come to the source.


PS. I consciously omitted specific details about the project here as it's not the place. Looking forward to discussing the precise nature of my folly in relevant parts of the forum. Quite soon. When I've screwed up the courage to reveal the full barking madness of it all.... o_O
Wow that's what you call an introduction and a variable career , 5 years devotion as a boat builder and no job at the end must have been gutting, Time to enjoy your retirement , it IS a new world . Have fun on the forum and Welcome along .:)
Welcome to the forum. You have had an interesting journey through life and set yourself quite a challenge with your chess board, but that's what can often lead to real innovation. You don't seem the type to quit when faced with a challenge, so it will be interesting to see if you can make your perfect chess board. It sounds fascinating and look forward to hearing about it. Will you ever use it?
Welcome along the journey - journeys - that topics in the forum can take you along... have found some topics/threads at times I wouldn't expect to appear on a forum masquerading as for Wood Work 😉

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