I should have anticipated that finding a suitable workshop space for the new operational HQ for Tree Couture in the European Union’s largest, most bustling city might not be the breeze that I’d hoped it would be. In fact, it was more of a head-on hurricane assault. How is it that estate agents don’t seem to get what ‘light industrial space for woodworking purposes’ means?
Despite my attempts to explain that (in addition to the handtools for the fine, intricate benchwork) we’re talking big, heavy-duty, cast iron machinery here that has the capability of planing, thicknessing, edging, boring and dimensioning tree trunks into match-sticks, the agents (with their selective hearing) would still insist that the lawyers’ firm on the floor above wouldn’t mind the sound of the odd bit of chisel work, or the gentle sweep of the plane along the grain of the fine cherrywood table leg. Hmmm. We woodworkers wear ear defenders for good reason. With each machine operating at noise levels in excess of 50dB, and maybe five machines going at the same time, oh and the added harmonies of the dust extraction system thrown in, trust me, that is loud. In fact so loud, you’d probably fail to hear the writ the upstairs lawyers had served landing heavily on your bench.
No, ear defenders are most certainly not fashion accessories (unless you’re a dog) – alas, they play havoc with a girl’s hair and look (at least on me) like fancy-dress without the humour. Nor, for that matter are steel toe capped boots, or eye goggles or dust masks, or any of the other paraphernalia we have to wear (that the Health and Safety Executive elegantly refers to as PPEs – or personal protective equipment), particularly stylish. An old woodwork colleague of mine, Tony, however would certainly disagree about the aesthetic value of such accessorising – he swore he only took up woodworking for the legitimate reason it provided for wearing a serious pencil behind his ear. I should add he was also the one who, when asked to lend a hand in lifting something excessively heavy, would look across at his huge bulging guns with a twinkle in his eye and explain that they were for display purposes only!
Anyway, The Hunt for the Perfect Workshop was nothing if not challenging, requiring tireless optimism and those steel toe capped boots. There were issues with access (having the possibility of getting machinery in, as well as manoeuvring forests of timber within), issues with light, (yes a bit of daylight would be a nice concept to remind me that I’m not in Ikea), issues with location (having to walk alongside great
swathes of railway lines, through wastelands and ganglands and no-mans-lands and unlit alleys, and across soul-less desolate industrial estates) as well as issues with layout (so many places ticked the boxes in terms of square footage but were laid out across numerous floors with multiple obstacle courses enroute). Trust me, it’s no fun carrying hundreds of components let alone complete pieces of furniture up and down narrow metal staircases, or having to turn a hair-pin bend in the premises whilst carrying a 12-foot long, 10-inch wide, 2-inch thick oak plank.
So I don’t believe it was over-fussiness or an unwillingness to compromise (such as the sort that would get Location³ ’s Kirstie and Phil tearing out their hair) that resulted in my shortlist being – after a month of searching… well, less than short. I had nothing to go back to for a second viewing. Until… I chanced upon a little gem in N4.
So I’m very excited. Negotiations are underway. Watch this space….. (all 1,725 square feet of it!)