13 Cuts...

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Friday, 12.40pm, sitting on a wall outside a BMW dealership in Hull, South Yorkshire. There’s ten minutes to go before what seems an appropriate time to walk in to reception at the packaging pre press company next door.
I have flown over from Dublin at the crack of dawn for a 1 o’clock appointment with the production manager at Britain’s largest flexo plate manufacturer. I am here for an interview for a retouching position, the job I used to do before trying to make it as a cabinet maker.
Sun’s out. Never been to Hull before, it’s nothing like the shithole I imagined it to be. Full of grand, historical buildings, with a rich maritime history. I chuckled coming out of the train station, right opposite is a large, unashamed shopfront for a sex shop you can’t see into. It’s a far cry from where I live in Ireland, a grocery shop, two pubs and more cows to be seen than people.
So I’m killing time, I’ve already been in the Café down the road to compose myself. First time I’ve ever been in a place where you can order a ‘Cup-a-Soup’. Go back to the wall corralling the Beemers, next door to the packaging place. Palms a little sweaty, I look at the backs of my hands and count the cuts, little nicks that are part and parcel of this life, trying to make a living from woodworking. 13 Cuts, no major bleeders, just the little scrapes from last weeks exertions, ripping up a floor and laying a new one.
Do I want to do this anymore?
The meeting goes well, I manage to get through an intensive interrogation by the colour manager without cracking.
It was a long time ago that I did all that stuff, but it seems like only yesterday. I get the grand tour, I normally wouldn’t use the word ‘awesome’, but it is the only way I can describe this place. A sea of Mac operators producing artwork and plate ready files for the biggest brands in the business. I worked hard to get where I was before, but then that company closed down, a victim of devaluation, dollar vs euro. I spent my redundancy on a workshop and van to make furniture and do woodworking.
It hasn’t worked out that well though.
The first two years before the banking crisis were the best, with work lined up at one point five months ahead of me. Now it’s up and down, but mostly down. The wardrobe I finished last week has been the only furniture project of 2014, prior to that was just a couple of weeks work painting and decorating and laying an oak floor.
They offered me the job anyway. The pay is good, healthcare and pension, steady income and security in an industry I used to love being part of.
Do I want to do this again?
On the plus side, there’s a good income, I’m sick of having no money in my pocket, the orange fuel light blinks up at me far too often in the van. How nice it would be to swipe in in the morning and swipe out at night, paid for every minute I’m there, time and a half too after 37.5 hrs, a long time since I had that luxury.
The down side is having to jet off and find a place to live, leaving my family and home for two weeks at a time.
I never imagined it would come to this.
What to do, what to do…

-- Doing the best I can with what I've got


I was a management consultant for 30 years: going into a company to either buy, sell, fix or start-up something; knowing that when it was accomplished, I’d be out of a job, looking for the next company to hire me on to do the same. This work is what I did, and what I was good at; and you build and perpetuate a skill that takes you further way – It was hardest on my wife and family: I’d be away for months, up-to a year, at a time. I don’t know how people do this, and stay sane.
Rennners, I wish you the very best success in whatever you decide – these are the loneliest decisions.

Renners, I wish you the best of luck with your decision! It’s sad to see you have to make that choice. On the bright side, it sounds as if you really enjoyed your previous line of work, and would be going back to doing something else that you love. Again, good luck, and I look forward to seeing the projects you do for fun, rather than because you have to make a living!

checks & balances
and one’s gifts at contributing to society…

It sounds like you have indeed made your choice and are quite comfortable with the decision!

-- Toxins Out, Nature In - body/mind/spirit

Thanks guys, the tools are going nowhere. I’m not a bit down about this, there may even be the opportunity to refurbish a house while I’m over there and make some real money. The opportunities are just not here and won’t be for a couple of years. Something’s got to give, simple as that. I won’t be giving up on woodworking at all. Obviously it’ll take a while to get set up over there, but I’d like to get away from the pressure of making things for other people and concentrate on doing things that I want to design and make for myself for a while.

-- Doing the best I can with what I've got

I haven’t had a steady paycheck for 30 years. It often gets old Robbing Peter all the time.
Sometimes I wish I had a steady paying job, collect my check each week and leave my worries at work until I return. I’m not sure what is better, juggling money and having my freedom to do as I see fit, or collecting a paycheck and living off a budget, and doing what I’m told to do.
The facts are though that we have to pay bills and we have to do whatever it takes. Having a steady job is not always a bad thing. You can still woodwork on the side after you get comfortable. Good Luck in your choice, just don’t sell your tools…

I feel for you Rennners. 15 years ago I was offered the job as production manager at one of the largest sail lofts in the US. Only problem was that the loft was in Connecticut. I live in Houston Texas. That turned out to be a 4-6 hrs. commute each way every two weeks. We thought it would work because my wife was going to retire from the aero-space industry with-in the year.
I took the job because I had always wanted to have the experience of making the larges sails in the world, and also for the money.
As plans go, things change. My son from a previous marriage, now living with us, went pear shaped during his final year in high school and my wife was not given the chance for early retirement. But I did get the chance to build the largest sails in the world.
I lasted 8 months.
Once back, I got my son unpear-shaped and all was good. I had to take a lesser paying job for a while, in the wood working industry, learning to use the CNC machines, similar to the sail cutting machines.
You do not have an easy choice. But only the best of luck to you, my friend.


-- Tor and Odin are the greatest of gods.

A tough decision indeed.
If family involve little ones, it will be even tougher.
My brother struggled with that and he still does. He is a family man and he feels miserable sometimes.

Good luck!

-- Abbas, Castro Valley, CA

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