Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Table - The Finale

If you missed reading about table - click on  Part 1 and Part 2 for the story behind this story. Take it away Manning....

After a few days from the last visit, Oumar said he was done with the table.  Sanded edges,  to my specifications and some sort of finish applied.  I arrived via taxi at his shop in Pikine/Guediawaye, traversing the usual chaos of markets, traffic, buses, goats and the continual stream of people going places on foot. 

The table was standing in the sand/dirt in front of his shop, "finished."  Things always look different "in the white" (woodworking term)  vs. after the finish has been applied.  Any remaining sanding marks, mistakes and imperfections all stand out more clearly.  This was no exception, and I realized rather quickly that "finish work" is probably not their strong point.  For instance, cross-cut rip-out was apparent on the top on both ends, the top was not sanded flat - although it was cut into three pieces and re-glued to prevent it from cupping (and they have this great, large planer in their shop - odd that they didn't use it!), the edges were rounded, not beveled (despite discussing this several times and with drawings), the pins used to hold the legs together were different than what I spec'ed out and later I realized the top was not centered, nor the right length! 

OK, all the critiquing aside, the overall look and design is what I wanted and it looks great in our apartment.  It's been nice to have another table - which is now used predominately for homework and sometimes even dinner!  

Oumar returned with me and the table (sticking out of the cab) back to the apartment where we further discussed some building techniques and design ideas (the best that I could).  He really wanted a set of plans so he make another one like this, which led to discussion on how to change his technique to be far more exact.  With that in mind, I showed him "Google Sketch-up" which allows you to make 3D drawings and plans for furniture,  buildings, etc.  It's perfect for something like this, and allows you to see the finished product from any angle, upside down, etc. not to mention each individual part/piece and it's associated dimensions.   Alas, Oumar indicated he didn't have his own computer, but has access to one at a cyber-cafe, but it's doubtful that they would have or let him install the application. It was pretty obvious that he understood the inherit value in the tool and how he could make use of it teaching and in actual construction.  Of course, woodworking at a high level has been done for hundreds of years without computer technology, so it shouldn't be an impediment to building quality things.  However, it's equally clear (to me) that basic tools like a computer, camera and Sketch-up could really help in the teaching and understanding of woodworkers learning the trade.  

Would I have another piece of furniture made here?  Well, it all depends.  Even though they have some or most of the tools necessary to do the work, it's not precise and the idea of using jigs (for repeatable, precise results) is non-existent.  I think I'd have to design and build each jig, show them how to use them and basically build the project myself as a demonstration/education project.  Then once everyone can do it, it could be done.  For a single piece of furniture, this isn't probably very helpful as the market they sell to may not care as much.  However, if they were making many of them (reproductions) and looking for a wider, more up-scale market, this would be necessary. 

All in all, my payment for the table infused some new funds for them to continue their work, the students got a chance to apply their skills on something new and different (other then building dressers, simple night stands and doors) and the teacher got some exposure to some new ideas and techniques.  And, of course we received a nice looking, functional table!

1 comment:

  1. WOW, how lovely. What a shame you couldn't bring it back.