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May 31, 2019

Building a shed

When Arthur Thomas left Emu Plains to take up residency at RSL LifeCare’s Kingsford Smith Village, North Richmond, he knew he would not need his stockpile of wood-turning tools. Rather than putting them behind him forever, the 83-year-old decided instead to give them to the Village’s men’s shed.

“I had a garage full of equipment but I donated most of it to the men’s shed,” he says. “There was a lathe, bandsaw, circular saw, a saw bench, a scroll saw, and a joint sander.”

“The Shed”, as it is known at Kingsford Smith Village, recently received a $3,200 grant from the Men’s Shed Association.

Arthur, an award-winning craftsman, has been a resident at Kingsford Smith for more than three years. The former cabinet maker, car salesman and now decorative woodworker, says he likes being able to impart some of his knowledge to others. He said he learnt his trade “the old fashioned way” … where you did everything yourself and you did it properly. “I haven’t lost any fingers,” he says, resisting what must be a burning urge to say ‘touch wood’. “I’ve had more trouble breaking fingers playing cricket.”

 

First-hand experience

 

After completing his trade in Bangalow, northern NSW, Arthur moved to Sydney but soon tired of a mass-production work routine. Instead, he chose to make selling cars his vocation. “When I retired in 1998 I needed to take up a hobby and went back to working with wood,” he says. Since then, the accolades and the awards have come. “I’ve been going to The Shed at the Village and teaching. I recently taught a gentleman how to turn (wood) and he is now making pens. He’s thrilled.”

 

Outside the new Men's shed at Kingsford Smith Village Richmond
Outside the new Men’s shed at Kingsford Smith Village Richmond

 

Kingsford Smith Village resident John Kropman said “a shed” was talked about when he first moved to the RSL LifeCare Village five years ago, but that it only became active relatively recently. “We have members who used to be tradespeople and some who’ve never held a tool,” he says. “All of a sudden people are retired and thinking ‘now what am I going to do’.” The Kingsford Smith shed operates two days-a-week.

The idea of men’s sheds is national, with an umbrella association called as such, but The Shed at Kingsford Smith is also inclusive of women. “We have one lady who comes along who does carving,” John says. “She is hoping to teach people and to bring other women into The Shed.”

The residents at RSL LifeCare ANZAC Village Narrabeen have become aware of the Kingsford Smith Shed and in a collaborative gesture have donated equipment to the fledgeling venture. “We’ve given them some equipment such as a belt sander, small handsaw, pedestal drill, hand tools, and two power saws,” Narrabeen Men’s Shed’s Tony Philps says.

 

Time for a cuppa and a piece of cake at the Men's Shed Richmond
Time for a cuppa and a piece of cake at the Men’s Shed Richmond

 

He says the benefits of a place such as this, where people from disparate backgrounds could meet, were immeasurable. “We have great activities such as social events,” he says. “And we like fixing things, helping people where we can.

“Lately we’ve been doing the noticeboards around the Village. We’ve also made furniture. Recently we did a job for saddle racks for an equestrian group – somewhere for them to store their saddles.”

He says the Narrabeen Men’s Shed is open every day. “It’s a very social time,” he says. “We sit down and have a coffee and a chat. We talk about anything.”

For Arthur, working with wood is joy in itself, but he says he gleans other things from The Shed at Kingsford Smith Village. “I enjoy mixing with other men and being able to teach them things,” he says. “In terms of working with wood, I like it that you start out with a log and then, after taking to it with a chainsaw and a bandsaw, you have a finished item. Finally, you give it a wax.

“I feel proud of the finished product. This is how I Iearned my trade – by making something and being proud of it.”

By Rod Bennett

Arthur Thomas mastercraftsman at work
Arthur Thomas mastercraftsman at work

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