Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Arbeit macht (gerade) SpaƟ!


In the Winter in the afternoon the sun comes in low through the windows in the machine room.

Work has been interesting and engaging since I returned from the holidays at home. One of our clients, Herr Besser (literally, Mr. Better) has a condominium in a high rise overlooking the Batic Sea. We made the hour drive up their three times to install the extensive bedroom cabinets we built for him. From his ninth floor unit the view was beautiful, with water out one side of the apartment and the tips of tall trees at eye level out the other. Going out on a build/installation (Montage) is always exciting for the change of scenery, new places in Hamburg and elsewhere, as well as snooping through other people's homes. Mr. Better--who is recently retired--and his wife have rather quaint, kitschy, and cheap taste in furniture for their weekend second home, so the view was in fact the most exciting thing there. He has nothing to do during the golf off-season, and thus spent the entire three days hovering over our shoulders, asking questions and wanting to help. Aside from this breathing-down-our-necks serving as a good source of humor, due to his easy-going character and utilitarian sensibility, this also proved to be helpful when a couple of small problems in our process surfaced.

On a recent weekend Katja and I made it to an indoor Flea market and antique convention here in the city... if you like garage sales in the US, image how interesting it is to rummage through people old junk (and some nice antiques) from a different country. This yellow leotard-ed fellow reminds me of a different item I did not muster the courage to photograph with the owners in front of it. It was the book, "Zehn Kleine Negerlein" (yes, "Neger" means what you think it does, and "lein" is the diminutive ending). As I found out online, this relic of a more racist (recent) German past, which was a counting rhyme book for kids, was the German version of the American rhyme Ten Little Indians. The book was published as late as the late 1950s.

Another "Montage" I was involved with for work took us to Kiel, another Baltic Sea coastal city, this one on bay that cuts in from the ocean. The work itself was a laundry list of rather small items to improve previous work we'd done for them before and take some measurements. Like Mr. Better, these clients had a nice view too, as well as an untreated wooden floor of Jatoba (Brazilian Cherry), and sweet cat on top of it.

This week I'm at the handworker's guild doing the first in a series of workshops required during my apprenticeship -- this one is on basic, hand-crafted joinery. We've thus far practiced several kinds of mortise & tenon joints (for frames, and for table legs), and spent the day today working on dovetails, which are tedious but rewarding to make.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Zusammenfassung: Schule

A lot has happened in the last four months! ...as much as it sounds like a tacky, self-indulgent holiday letter with such a start, I'm using it anyway for this recapitulation:

Since receiving my permit to legally work as a fine woodworking apprentice my whole outlook has relaxed quite a bit -- no matter what you're doing, it's a relief to have a sturdy plan and secure job guaranteed for a couple years. That certainty has not made the grunt work in the shop any more exciting, but it feels good to feel work and the procedures I've learned move more smoothly and naturally, and I've started thinking more about my goals during my time and how I can ensure that I reach them.

The required trade school (Berufsschule) has proven to be rather underwhelming while not uninteresting. I've enjoyed learning the properties of trees for example, and of their wood, how to identify them, and about various products into which they are processed , but have thus far been disappointed by the shallowness with which the topics are addressed. This has largely to do with the average age (about 18yrs) and education level (Junior High) of my fellow students, which are further sticking points at the Gewerbeschule 6 in Hamburg.

Perhaps it's unfair of me and the several other Twenty-somethings (I'm a close second to the oldest) to expect the same level of interest and desire to learn, but mustering a bit of attention span and maturity shouldn't be too much to ask even of the 16yr olds in the class. Yes, I'm back in school with Sixteen-year-olds.

Annoyances aside, I've gotten to know a selection of the more interesting and engaged students through an African exchange forum with which I will be traveling to Mozambique in the summer. My primary class teacher, who leads this trade school exchange, has proven to be one of the more positive surprises I've found at school.