Written by David Savage
Originally published as Moving a veneer press in Woodworker Magazine / Circa 1991 - 1992
Part 2 of a series of 2
More production jigs and fine fixtures
Well at last we have got into our new workshop. As I write, the workshop has been set up and we are now making things in both “old” and “new” workshops. I must admit to feeling quite pleased with myself for the entire operation from exchange of contract to full operation took probably less than six weeks. This was only achieved through the good offices of the previous owner, Simon Clark, who kindly allowed me access to the building after exchange of contracts. This meant we could have builders, electricians and decorators working on the building before the sale was actually completed. So we effectively moved in on “day one” and began making things almost immediately. We are still sorting out details but that’s life.
Then very, very, quickly, taking very, very, short steps, dashed as fast as the man in front would allow between one workshop and the other.
All the machines were put in during my absence. I am not very good in these situations, I tend to flap around like an old hen and generally get in other people’s way. But I was here when they moved the veneer press across to the new workshop. The whole operation was organised with great efficiency by our youngest apprentice, Chris Heywood. Taking apart and putting together the veneer press is a formidable task for any young person. Chris managed it very well. He arranged and labelled all the parts as the press was taken apart. He then sorted and cleaned them and put the whole lot back together in the right order. Organisation, intelligence, and calm are all qualities that I value in a young cabinetmaker. There were, however, moments of high comedy. Several of the components of the press are very large and very heavy and one would imagine should have been transported from workshop to workshop at a stately pace with due pomp and ceremony. However, what transpired looked more like a scene from the Keystone Cops. Many furniture makers were assembled around this beam, on the count of three all took a deep breath and hoisted the beam. Then very, very, quickly, taking very, very, short steps, dashed as fast as the man in front would allow between one workshop and the other.
As this is the third workshop I have now set up, I shouldn’t be surprised by the amount of small items and bits and bobs that is required to make the place run. I should know how many cramps, screwdrivers, hammers, extension leads, dustbins, kettles and light bulbs furniture makers need to have around them in order to function properly. I should, know but I don’t. There is, for example, a cliché that says you can’t have enough cramps, though that is council that could drive you to the bankruptcy court. We did try buying some cramps from a very reputable Sheffield maker. The trouble is the cramps were, if not completely useless, then not very satisfactory. If a cramp is to function properly it must be acting squarely upon an opposing jaw. The illustration here shows what happens if cramps are poorly made. I’ve got to be careful here, I had better not name the organisation otherwise your editor will be jumped on from a very great height by his advertising manager. But I bet you can guess who they are, they live in Sheffield and change their corporate image about as regularly as you change your underpants.
We had much more success buying cramps from Sandvik. I’ve had cramps of this type in the workshop for eight or nine years and they have been absolutely superb. We have not broken one and they have not shown any sign of wear in that time. I had thought they had been discontinued but apparently Sandvik have seen the light and reintroduced this very good product. They are, however, wickedly expensive and, should you decide that you can’t have enough of them, then be prepared to pay a hefty price. At the other end of the scale we found in our local tool shop some Taiwanese imports. These were absurdly cheap. We could for example buy a quite small cramp for £1.75. They were not very well made and certainly not very strong but for very small cramping jobs they are probably about adequate. The argument is that at that price we can afford to replace them every now and again. However, I note that so far nobody has gone down to the shop and brought them even though the budget is there to do so.