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Sunday, 27 May 2007

Scarborough Revisited:....found.

There's no such things as accidents. The accident at Frank's shop, shortly before I started work at the JST was no accident, it was an incident, and an example. An incident where an over-enthusiastic, over-helpful, member of the stage crew got lucky and only cut off the top of his right index finger while using the table saw to cut perspex (called acryllic in Canada). An example of how not to run a workshop.

Perspex is prone to shattering when run through a saw, and it also burns, causing it to snag. This can be quite dangerous in a saw running at over 3000rpm, as the perspex often gets thrown back out of the saw as it snags. People have been killed by this. Chris explained to me that he's cut persex "often enough", but conceded that he'd never been shown how to do it. The table saw in Franks shop is usually engulfed in off-cuts and junk, and the blade is always set to maximum height. It is an incident waiting to happen.

Later that day I watched Chris trying to cut steel pipe with an angle grinder next to a big bag of sawdust in the paint-shop. I debated whether to tell him that an oxyacetylene torch would make a quicker job. Of burning down the theatre, that is, but in the end I simply finished my work in Scarborough as quickly as possible.

The work of a theatre carpenter starts with a model, and some badly photocopied plans. The first stage in the procedure is often to throw the plans away and work directly from the model. One of my projects was to make a kind of sideboard with drawers that had to look like a pile of old fashioned suitcases.

Next try to make the thing out of whatever materials the Production Manager, who is usually an electrician, has bought - in this case MDF .

Then you do the "breaking down" which means distressing and ageing the creation until it looks a bit old. Then its over to the painters - if there are any. In this case, the painter Lucy, did a really good job. The picture above shows the thing without the final handles and locks that finish the job, but despite travelling 3 hours per day, loosing my wallet, spending practically the whole of one weeks wages on food, and being in Frank's shop, I had a great time and found that after looking for various career options for months, the obvious path had been staring me in the face.

Hull, you see, is not overflowing with scenic carpenters. Strange as this may sound, I, like Tigger, would appear to be the only one. There may be several reasons for this, including that Hull, a very prosaic city, very literal, has no need of artsy ponces like me, but needs real men who work on big, practical, oily things and each lots of fish and chips. In my business plan, I have chosen to ignore this distinct possibility. I will become Hull's leading theatrical carpenter. As I am already Hull's only theatrical carpenter, this should be a snap.

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