By Vicky Alley

I began my joinery journey a little later in life than is considered usual. I discovered a love for woodwork whilst up-cycling furniture and decided to go to college to do a joinery diploma at age 38. Being 38 and a female made me rather unique as I was the only person over the age of 20 and also the only female in the group, however, I can say that my college experience was a pleasant one. It took me a little longer to pick things up than most of the class because I wasn’t an apprentice so only got any hands on experience whilst at college once a week.

Whilst doing my level 2 and 3 I began to get a feel of things and realised quickly what I did and did not want to do. After talking with fellow students I realised that a large group were working in large factories using CNC machines-a machine that uses the use of computers to control tools such as routers. At the other end of the scale were a couple of students that wanted to create things using completely traditional methods and by that I mean no power tools at all. While the former method is great for the large scale production of large quantities of the same pieces and the latter great for making unique pieces, I wanted to learn somewhere in the middle. I wanted to learn a hands on skills but use power tools to speed up the process.

Toward the end of my diploma I started to email various joiners and carpenters to seek some hands on experience to fit in on my days off from employment. I did not ask for payment, just patience and a person that would teach me the skills I would need to become a confident joiner.

The first person who replied was a joiner based in Gosport who told me he would be happy for me to go along on my days off and he would be happy to teach me what he knew. To say I hated it is an understatement! I lasted around 2 months and thought I’d made a huge mistake in my career choice. He was disrespectful, relied completely on a nail gun and wood filler and whilst I was there I saw approx 10 people come and go. He was constantly on the phone arguing with customers as they refused to pay him for his work and in the end I found myself feeling frustrated and upset. Was this what I had spent 3 years at college for? Throwing pieces of timber together with a nail gun and then having to chase payment? Being shouted at for cutting a hinge housing too deep when I’d never done it before?

As scary as it was I decided I was not going to continue letting this “joiner” teach me and I started to look elsewhere. As desperate as I was to learn, he was not teaching me any kind of skills and was horrible too!

Do not worry, there is a happy ending. His name is Ian Stone. I found his website and was immediately impressed with the wealth of knowledge on there and could see that the range of work on there was exactly what I wanted to learn. So I sent an email and was happy to receive a reply. We met for a chat and it was obvious to me straight away that this man was a professional. I have been taught by Ian for a year now and I have learnt so so much. Everything he makes is absolutely perfect and his customers are always extremely happy with the work he produces. THIS is how I wanted to be taught. He does not treat me any different because I am a female, he is patient and the things I learn I honestly don’t think they can be taught by any joiner/carpenter. This may sound like an advert for Ian but it is more of a message, if you are a female and wanting to become a joiner, carpenter or any other job that is mostly male oriented, find the right teacher, it makes the world of difference.

Attached are some images of a project we recently completed. It is very specialised work in which I was able to gain quite a range of different skills.

Firstly we needed to identify any rotten pieces of timber around the frame and cill. Then, using a specialised cutting tool, carefully cut these pieces away. We carefully measure and cut new pieces to replace the old. The new pieces are inserted using a method called scarfing. The new timber is then screwed, glued and sanded so that the join between the new scarfed piece and the original timber becomes a seamless joint. Finally, we paint with two coats of white primer ready to be painted in the customers choice of paint.

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