This past Saturday, I participated in a fun woodworking session at Benchspace, a local woodworking workshop in Cork city’s Marina center. It was luck that I was contacted by David Scannell who invited me to be part of it. After being sick with ear infections most of Autumn and competing in a 24-hour hackathon at work on Thanksgiving, I needed some creative expression.
For me, my stress relief is creating. Whether it is knitting, sewing, baking, or photography, creating something with my hands soothes my soul in ways nothing else can. Perhaps that is why I am not much of a drinker, but love a good DIY project. There is such a mental buzz when something unfinished is carved from my dreams and fulfils its destiny. And in the case of Saturday’s workshop at Benchspace, it was a small slab of yew wood that inspired me.
This session’s focus was to make a holder for a bottle of Kinsale Gin and two glasses. The surprise was that we didn’t know we were going home with our handmade holders AND Kinsale Gin sponsored the event so we also went home with a bottle of Kinsale gin and two glasses!
I arrived on Saturday morning promptly at 10:00 to be greeted by the friendly team and other attendees – and hot coffee. Billy Lyons was there, so it was fun to catch up with him. And CathyFlamingo was there! And Kelly, Deirdre, and Maria and so many lovely ladies I knew of online but chatting in person was so much better.
We chose our wood pieces from which we would work. There were Birch ply, Dutch Elm, Yew, and other options. I was very tempted by the Elm because I have a fondness for the trees in my parents’ garden and know that the trees are fighting a horrible battle with Dutch Elm Disease and should be honored as much as possible right now and going forward. Any tree that succumbs to the infection must be destroyed once cut down and the wood burned. This will take a toll on the supply of Elm, so a gin holder made with that wood would be quite a talking point in about 20 years. But the Yew was what called to me. I can’t explain it, but it was the one.
I chose a small block of Yew wood that had great character. I knew it would be one-of-a-kind. Though a little more of a challenge to retain the wood’s character while still creating a stable holder, it
would be was well worth it.
Martin explained the process and what to expect, but he also checked in on us throughout the session to keep us going and help as needed in a pleasant way.
Using the flexible and sharp Japanese saws was a new experience. They love a light touch and I managed to cut the end of a block of wood all by myself.
Here’s a closeup of that edge I cut.
It wasn’t even, so I tried to fix it.
That didn’t work, so Martin fixed it with the machine.
Then I drilled a center hole for the gin bottle. This puppy is a serious machine and made easy work of it.
I also learned there is no possible flattering Instagram pose when I am 100% focused on using a power tool safely. Note the OWLS Sweater. Owls love wood, so I simply HAD to wear it that day. Though I was tempted to sport one of my flannel buffalo plaid shirts.
Then two more holes for the glasses, then I sawed notches for the glasses to slip into those glass nook holes. It was all very interesting to see the piece come together. Martin then chiseled the inner edge I cut to make sure it was smooth and not choppy.
I tested the board out at this point to make sure it would work to safely hold the Kinsale Gin bottle and two glasses… Spoiler alert: It does! And the bark and character of the wood make me fall in love again every time I see it.
Then Martin used a mechanical edge sander to round the edges of my board.
In general, throughout the session, one of the team members or volunteers at Benchspace helped teach us about the process and demonstrated it at our level of experience without any hint of condescension. Here is a shot of David helped Billy.
The day was fun and I have a bespoke made-by-me Kinsale Gin bottle and glass holder to show for it.
The entire time I was there, I kept thinking this would be an amazing hen outing or stag do. Of course, it is no shock that I would think that considering my own hen night included food, a dance off, and ice cream sundaes then last year when I had the good fortune to plan a hen do for Sara, we did a pottery session at Crafty Hands. But the workspace also has an annual membership and you can just work on your own projects.
In fact, they have two upcoming sessions in time for Christmas gifts or stress relief. Christmas Bites classes on Saturday, December 2 and Saturday, December 9 – two sessions each day: 10am and 2pm. Join the Benchspace team to learn how to hand make beautiful Scandinavian Wood Shaving Christmas Decorations. Benchspace Bites are short introductory sessions where you can make your very own piece in a single class. These sessions are a great chance to try your hand at woodworking with no experience necessary. The valuable skills learned during the class can be applied to almost any future woodwork project. Cost to members is €30 + Eventbrite fee. Members also receive advance notice of upcoming events. Non-members pay €43.68 for a Benchspace Bites session. Annual membership is just €54.44. You can learn about other upcoming sessions by liking and following Benchspace on Facebook and Twitter.