Quite literally, it was a whole new reality once I arrived at the studio tucked away in the quaint industrial district of Mysore. I first met Bram from when he began running woodworking gigs at THE Workshop, Bangalore two years ago.
Now almost a year into running his own business, Bram Woodcrafting Studio was hosting their first ever workshop, Know-How, a week long shop class where you can imagine, design and create with wood. I signed up as soon as I heard about it.
Arriving at the workshop was walking into at atmosphere of energy and responsible fun. Regular work went on at BWS while the whole team took the time to acquaint me with the space, facilities and tools.
‘Dimension’ is a community initiative by BWS to bring together more people into an ethical and process driven method of building and fabricating. Regardless of vocation and expertise, Dimension is to be a group of people who love to build and share ideas ranging from woodworking, metalworking and electronics.
Given the opportunity to be part of and talk about the first workshop from the initiative, I was excited and prepared to witness the next dimension of woodcrafting in the days to come.
Design and its constraints
As usual, I was unsure about what I wanted to build, after a longish session we managed to figure out that a laptop stand would be the most viable, both for me and as a showcase for the first project from Dimension.
Deciding the project was actually the easy part, figuring out the build was much more challenging. But when you have a master carpenter, his associate carpenter and two architects, you imagine everything gets more streamlined. Wrong. We had a multitude of ideas to choose from. Alternative fixing mechanisms and joinery details flew across the table.
When the design process started getting quite intense we decided to lay down constraints that would moderate the build.
The laptop stand was to be simple, functional, portable and have adequate ventilation.
Before we called it a night we had some semblance of a stand that stayed within the bounds of all the constraints.
Knowing the Process
Now that was the easy part. You’d assume that once you’ve designed something, the build process would just flow. Boy, was I surprised. Half a day into the workshop had me introduced to all sorts of machines, hand tools and material I could work with.
Deciding which wood we would use was a critical factor, one of the constraints being portable and based on the availability at the workshop we set on using Ash wood for the build as it was the lightest. Next came the process of going about the build itself.
I was honestly overwhelmed by the fact that there are multiple ways one could go about building their piece. You could do the whole thing only with hand tools or you could use just one machine for all the cuts, another process was creating jigs that cut down your production time and can even let you produce your piece in mass.
One huge chunk of ashwood, roughly three feet long and one feet thick got me all the pieces for the build. Bram and I refreshed the edges on the circular saw and then ran them through the planar.
Now being fairly familiar with the tools and after having cut out the three base boards for the table, I knew I could make the design better. I was back to the drawing board to figure out how to make the build a little more robust and aesthetic at the same time.
Once the design was solid, the process pretty much worked itself out. Once the table was traced out onto the wooden boards the circular saw got all my cuts done. By the end of day three, I had the basic skeleton of my table ready.
Next up was some fine work on the notches which got me doing some chisel time. Chiselling has got to be my most favourite part of carpentry. Despite taking a whole day of work, the final satisfaction of fixing the legs of the table into the notches and getting the piece to support itself was immense.
Before we get to the ‘finishing’ part I cannot not talk about what Bram keeps going on and on about- ethics.
This isn’t necessarily limited to just the workshop. Living with the BWS gang for over a week got me into a routine. Up at 7:00 a.m, run around the neighborhood, quick brekkie with strong black coffee and into the workshop we go.
The workshop was a sacred space, there were rules to adhere to with safety being the foremost. Simple things that ensure everyone stays responsible and aware.
Switch off the machine when you finish with it, if someone is working DO NOT approach them from behind (like me in the picture behind Nzan). Simple laws for a safer work space.
Anish working his foodcrafting
Shop usually always shut by 6:30–7:00 p.m. Even dinner is a team effort with Anish or Nzan usually taking lead. Most of the time everyone pitched in to contribute to setting the table with scrumptious fare.
It was nice to see ‘ethics’ percolating into every bit of activity at BWS, even having fun! It made work not just better but more efficient and most importantly enjoyable.
There wasn’t a single day I felt lazy to get up and get into the workshop.
The Final Cut
Pre-Workshop meeting on the last day of Know-How
This is where it gets exciting ladies & gentlemen. Day 5. It was the weekend, the workshop now had two new participants, Bram and Nzan who had been helping me with the build were preoccupied. I was bent on finishing the piece so I could build something new the next day. Bram and I had also decided to feature a live session showing the assembly of my piece on the studio’s instagram handle.
Masala being the spicy lady she is.
Tick tick. I was powering through the sanding and final router cuts of the piece. With a lot of help from Masala(the resident chicken) I managed to get most of the work done.
With most of the piece ready, we were at finishing stages. I couldn’t help but call in the big guns. With both Bram and Nzan putting their backs to it and me keeping them entertained with constant chatter the piece was almost complete.
By 6:00 pm the table was ready. Bram and I went Live and assembled the piece for the first time while we spoke about the process in brief and even threw in some promo for Dimension.
The ’How’ of woodcrafting
Building my first project and taking five days to do so certainly taught me a lot. I knew the lay of the shop, was acclimated with the tools and now confident enough to build something by myself(with minimal assistance at least).
I decided to build a small cross using scraps of rosewood from the workshop. The process now came to me like how you learn cycling and then it just comes to you. I picked the pieces, got the tools I need and voila.
I decided to work only with hand tools for this project. By lunch time I was done making a rustic little rosewood cross. Two pieces of wood held together with a simple lap joint.
Super happy with the outcome, I had sufficient time to build something new post lunch. These six days had taught me more than just how to use tools and the general build process, I now understood the importance of craft.
You don’t just build something, you craft it. It’s what makes it more personalised and refines your output.
I now have heavy respect for all the hand-craft folks out there, working everyday to make a living, taking their time and patience to build things that we use everyday.
On Sunday the Know-How workshop finally drew to a close, everyone was happy with their final builds. Roopa(BWS’s manager) had her easy chair ready, weekend participant Rashi made a viking chair and a whole lot of tiny wooden trinkets and I had a laptop stand, rosewood cross and a little bowl.
The quintessential group photo with the projects was not to be missed.
Know-How Participants proudly pose with their pieces
A wonderful workshop was done announcing the birth of a new Dimension for crafting.
Until the next build I’ll leave y’all with a photo shoot of my final builds with cameos by ‘Kypnos’ BWS’s Incense stand and Bram’s Pen holder.
P.S: Major props to Anish Uchil for all the shots of me in front of the camera.