Updated: Feb 28, 2020
It's hard to believe a year has gone by since the Men's Shed, Chard opened it's doors, and what changes we have seen during this short time. At the beginning, there were only three or four people who were regularly attending the shed each week. As the first couple of months went by, and there were no additional members, we did start to have doubts and wonder if we had done the right thing. Was there a need for a Men's Shed in Chard? have we chosen the right location? We encouraged each other to think positive and carried on with preparations in anticipation that things would turn around. A quote from a movie has just come to mind, "If you build it, they will come". And they did.
The original idea for the shed was to allocate one of the two days we were open as a social activity day, and the second day for woodworking. The idea behind it was to try and cater for all preferences. The first task a couple of guys undertook therefore, was to put up a dartboard in the main barn for use on the social day. Things, however, never quite work out as planned do they; everyone, to date, wanted to do woodworking on both days; the dartboard has had very little use! The next thing was to get everyone trained on using the available power tools.
Every conceivable risk had been thought through and risk assessments produced. The members were encouraged to read the risk assessments and sign when they had done so. One to one training was then given on the power tools. Instruction in their use was given by one of the members who has over 15 years experience in a workshop environment. When that member deemed someone was safe and competent to use a particular tool, they would be 'signed off' on that particular piece of equipment.
We would obviously need workbenches for the shedders to work from. We estimated that it would cost around £250 - £300 to buy a decent workbench and we wanted six of them. This, we thought would allow to guys to work from each bench. At this stage, the shed funds could not afford this kind of outlay, so we built our own benches at a cost of about £50 each; quite a saving. As you can see in the above image, the workbenches are sturdy and functional.
There was only a very small trickle of inquires about the shed when we started, even though we had put up posters around the town. The biggest thing, however, that kick started an influx of new members was when we got in touch with the Village Community Agent. There was a discussion between us and the agent about what the shed was trying to do and in return, the Village Community Agent was pleased that there was another social community arm that she could use to help her clients. In the meantime, the Village Community Agent had a request: Could we source and supply a table and chair for a #homeless man who had just been found accommodation? Yes, we could.
As the membership grew, we started out on some new projects that individuals wanted to make for themselves. These ranged from garden planters made from pallet wood; a small patio table; a tool box, the handle of which was made from a wooden curtain rail; a child's chair and an assortment of other wood projects, a selection of which is shown in the images below
Probably the most popular genre (if that is the right word) in woodworking was when we were fortunate to have an experienced wood-turner join our ranks. He brought with him a variable speed lathe that also had a friction motor. The latter was a great help when teaching fellow shedders the art of wood turning; if the blade of the wood turning tool jammed into the wood, the chuck would stop spinning, thus avoiding a possible injury.
One of the first things members were asked to produce on the lathe was a simple round object from a rectangular piece of wood. Usually, the object they produced was a candle holder for a miniature battery powered candle. The reason wood turning became popular is because the guys found wood turning to be extremely therapeutic. The guys have gone on from strength to strength producing wooden #bowls and a host of other items on the lathe, even a #chess piece made from an off cut!
So, after a shaky start, or so we thought, the shed has moved forward with a great bunch of guys coming to join us. We will all be celebrating this first year, with our partners, at a Saturday lunch in a local pub. There will even be a cake.