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Men And Sheds

Dec 02 2016 News >> Latest News

I have been asked by our chairman, Ian Burdon, to start a series of newsletter articles on this topic as an ongoing feature, so we will be looking at contributions from you, our reader. This can simply be a picture or two, or a short article as to your shed activities and what started you along this path.

I am not seeking to be sexist in the title and we would especially welcome articles from ladies who have sheds; the word sheds is a little misleading, I am referring to any hobbies area from a large cupboard, a study room, to the traditional garage/ wooden hut in the garden.

Why do we do it? Is it a refuge from family and business life or a means of de-stressing or perhaps simply the joy of fixing things? Perhaps it is even genetic if it “runs in the family”. There are certainly a multitude of magazines on a huge variety of hobbies in most of the larger newsagents to encourage you.

I know of many people with sheds whose hobby areas are totally unexpected; a lady who likes blacksmithing and metalwork, a policeman who does exquisite needlework. The idea covers all classes, from the Victorian vicar/country gent who may have collected minerals or butterflies, to the working man who used the area to do repairs, mend his shoes etc. I think the shed was originally a household repair area and construction site for otherwise unaffordable goods that would improve family life.

Growing up in the 40’s and 50’s, most of my friends' father’s had sheds of one sort or another; thus my fate was sealed and I would become a shed person. At home I expanded my father’s shed for my main hobby of electronics. This requires lots of storage for a variety of parts and items being worked on as well as discipline in sorting things, or they are of little use. Upon marriage and moving from home to a small flat life became more limited and I had a small part of the spare room; with the acquisition of larger houses the area expanded again with some purpose built areas.

I now have a garage/woodworking area, a metalwork shop and a study for my electronics work/library. Storage of parts, sets etc. is in the loft. My wife has the second bedroom for her genealogy work as well as 2 garden sheds for the various mowers and tools associated with our large vegetable garden.

Why do we do this? In both our cases our families also had a variety of hobbies so it carried over. We also passed the habit on to our children who are now “shed people”. My daughter taught her husband to do their car servicing; my son, who is also an Engineer would always be going to follow this path. My particular hobbies started from an early age with an interest in electricity and radio, as well as family who bought me Meccano and other constructional toys. There was also a wide variety of war surplus equipment for sale at low cost in this period, a valuable source of “bits”. By the age of 9 I had built many things from a crystal set to assembling a TV from surplus units on which we watched the coronation.

I passed the 11+ and attended the grammar/technical school in Sunderland which was a revelation; tech drawing, woodwork, metalwork; mechanics were all on the curriculum. My 6th form project was to build a racing go-kart. Then on to university on a student apprenticeship with Reyrolle and yet more techniques and processes to adapt for hobby use. I had a variety of senior engineering jobs in industry, collecting more “useful bits” as I went and building various things including a 2-bedroom extension and sun lounge onto my house. We also acquired a piece of land to the rear of the house as a large vegetable garden for my wife’s hobbies.

During this time I have increased the range of my hobbies, both those that require a “shed” and those such as walking, travelling and private flying that do not. I have not been tempted to turn my lounge into a flight simulator with the cockpit from a 737 as one enthusiast did!

Now that retirement has come I am busier than ever in the workshops and slowly reducing my stock of “bits” as I complete more projects and restore many of the old radios I have collected over the years. The current major projects I am working on involving my “sheds” are a solar thermal heating system, electronic power supplies for aircraft instruments, car maintenance, a caravan fridge project, as well as various household repairs, the original reason for a shed! I also assist other people with their electronic repairs and designs of transformers and electronic projects.

As a member of FODM’s engines and repair team all these skills are now working for the museum and we have our own “shed” in the Science Maze gallery, come along and join us on a Tuesday and be encouraged in the art of “Shedmanship”.

I’ve attached some pictures of my electronics / study area, but the rest of the “sheds” will need to await another article; as they say, I’ve shown you mine, now let’s see yours!

Ed Dinning

Last changed: Dec 02 2016

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