Sat Oct 6th, 2007 at 03:41:24 PM EST
After two weeks in my first carpentry class, I have made a lovely "gramil", or marking gauge (1) and a false square that I will keep the rest of my life. Only hand tools allowed! I had to make two trial gramil boards out of pine (and sharpened the chisels ten times until the teacher said I was leaving them shorter than the handles) before I learned enough to make it out of ash. (Read, like rock.) Up next are dozens of dovetail joints.
We have about half hour of theory a day and we take notes, copy drawings and look at pictures. We have covered furniture in ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome so far, but I forgot to bring my notebook home to review. At noon today, on a Friday..., we had the first theory quiz and I went blank because some classmates were making me laugh. It was so bad, I got maybe 4/10 questions right. I think I have no shame left and need some ´reform´.
It all started at coffee break, when a classmate started improvising the test out loud:
"Types of wood: Let´s see. We have domestic wood and imported wood, ...hard wood, soft wood, redwood...." and the puns started from there, branching out on wood, woods, sticks, trunks, hunks, etc., with every Spanish tone and dialect being added to the meaning by everyone. When we got to "madero" (madera = wood) as the slang for cop, goon, or tough guy, I choked on my toast and never recovered. We represented a vision of it from every area, accent and economic segment known to humankind, from traffic cop, good cop, anti-disturbance police and intel agent.
When we got back, I sat at the very back of the class and we got a sheet of paper with 10 questions like
1. What materials did the ancient Egyptians use for furniture? (Space for two handwritten lines...)
Well, duh! I wrote "Wood, " and out of the corner of my eye I saw shoulders and backs wiggling. I looked up and saw a couple of mates bowing their heads until they almost hit the desk and heard bursts of controlled laughter.
2. What was Roman furniture made out of? (Space for two handwritten lines...)
That was it! We seemed to be reading at the same speed and reacting in unison when "wood" came to mind. Most of us re-lived the scene from the break and laughed through the rest of the 5 minutes it took to finish it, or give up.
?. What made the Roman dining table different?
(What is he talking about now? A klinos, ...what was that? Triclinium has three legs, podium has one, ... What do I answer here?) The answer was that the tables were lower because the Romans pigged out laying down. I kneeeew that!
?. Where did they begin to use the scissor chair?
(Are you kidding me? I should remember thaaat. Mark Anthony gave it to Cleopatra, for all I know! He talked about frontal and lateral scissor chairs, but who was he talking about? If I needed to know this, I´d look it up on internet, anyway.)
Well, three, young classmates actually sat there writing, for over 20 minutes and used the backside of the page!!, which only added to the shameful laughter and disbelief in the back of the class. "Wha... They are confusing this with school???"
It´s a relaxed group of 10-12 people with a thirty-something, male teacher who learned from a strict father and is excellent, plus he uses a soft, pseudo-condescending humor. To my surprise, we are half of each gender and half also, are either early-twenties, or middle-agers and we mix really well.
I´m really lucky that I can walk to class --more like a steep, uphill hike in the morning-- because there are people coming from opposite poles of Madrid and they must get up in the darkest of night. Besides that, the first day in class I found a second cousin there, that I had not seen in forty years! We have discovered we both like to kid and his wife, whom I haven´t met, has invited me over for lunch next week.
Although the quiz doesn´t show it, I am serious about this class and whatever ´retaliation´ the teacher may take, I am going to make it through these "nine months of labor", no matter what. Although my thumb muscles and wrists have been hurting since I started, I will strengthen them and learn carpentry because I like it and want to practice it in the future. Hopefully, I can use salvaged, or recycled wood because it´s even nicer.
Wood is life and it gives me life to be around it!
Note (1) Let´s see if I can explain a "gramil", or marking gauge (trusquin in French). It´s a rudimentary, but really nifty carpentry tool.
Itīs like the Stanley gauge, but with two, shorter ībeamsī and I like mine better...
Made from a rectangular piece of wood, 12 x 7,5 x 2 cm. On that you chisel -through the board, centered, 2 cm. apart-- 2 square holes for 2 x 2 x 12 cm. pegs. Then, on the 2 cm.-wide side of the board, you chisel!!! a centered slot about .75 cm. high ----all-the-way-through--- with different widths and angles at each end, where you stick a .75 cm. piece of wood, (like a trapezoid?) so that it wedges the 2 pegs really tight. On one end of each peg you insert a screw until it is flush with the wood, then you file the screw points until they become a tiny blade.
Does it make any sense? As you slide the pegs to a given measurement and force the wedge in to tighten them, the screws will copy it from one piece of wood to another and mark it. I still don´t know what the second peg is for, but I have learned how to use one and I have turned the other peg´s screw inward, to avoid harming myself.