Who did we meet? We met a number of children selected for a new programme between the East church and the school to help pupils develop confidence through learning practical skills that they might never otherwise encounter. In our planning meetings with Ken we had thrown around ideas of the kind of skills we might share. Alan’s ideas involving using his previous brewing skills were quickly discounted and the conversation turned to woodwork. It seemed a good idea until David started to remind us, or in Alan’s case explain for the first time, that using band saws, lathes and chisels all come with their own menacing risk assessment requirements. So, we settled on pyrography instead. Surely nothing can go wrong with burning wood at high temperatures in a confined space. Hopefully, we wouldn’t find out how to operate a fire extinguisher, but just in case, Sarah read the manual and looked up the price of fire-retardant gloves on Amazon. Ken quietly opened the windows and checked the smoke alarm battery.
Pyrography, writing with fire (from the Greek words for fire, pur and writing graphe), is defined by Wikipedia as the free-hand art of decorating wood with burn marks resulting from the controlled application of a heated object such as a poker. Some say this ancient art can be traced back to Ancient Egyptian times. Back then hot pokers were used, nowadays we use an electric ‘soldering iron-like’ tool with a variable temperature tip. Neither instrument sounds very artistic, but some of the pictures that have been produced down through the centuries are truly amazing; All done by controlling just how dark the burn on the wood is.
Pictures have also been produced using a magnifying glass to concentrate the available light. A comment which reminded Alan that he had indeed attempted pyrography, admittedly unconsciously, when he bought an Easter egg one year in Birmingham to take to his father in Perth. It was placed in the back of the car and when it arrived in Perth it was not so much an artful design made from chocolate, but an undefined lump produced through the concentration of light streaming through the car window.
Once we had set the tools up all the children engaged with the programme in a very positive way and have produced a marvellous variety of coasters, boxes and key rings all to a high standard and all documenting the growth of their skills as the weeks went by. They soon learnt how to control the relationship between the temperature of the tip of the tool and the length of time required to burn to a particular colour needed. On the way they learnt how to set up and adjust a craft vice and the range of skills, including patience, needed to mark up the wood with a pattern before the burning started.
We are now working on a group project; the decoration of a stool for the school, but sadly, this project has had to be put on hold during the current school closure. The programme has been well supported by the staff of the school. It is not about rewarding “bad behaviour”, but it is about providing a positive, confidence boosting school experience for these kids. Ken’s view of the project so far is that all of the kids have acquired a positive experience and he is very grateful for the input from Banchory East church.
And I have to say we have had a ball helping out. Where else would we get the chance to work on one of the other projects, the rebuilding of an old electric car kit? The car was stripped down by the kids who often demonstrated the superhuman strength needed to remove some rather recalcitrant bolts. It now sits waiting for the completion of the rebuild. Hopefully, there won’t be too many cobwebs to clean off when we return, but then again cleaning cobwebs is one skill even Alexa can’t manage and thus helps ensure the continued employment of people.
We are particularly looking forward to the projects planned to follow the car rebuild. These will be simple electronics projects with plenty to interest us all. Time will tell if the desired educational improvement is achieved, but the church’s help is much appreciated by the school and David, Alan and Sarah certainly look forward to our Thursday afternoons. We don’t all make it along every week, but when we do we have a great time especially since there is always a jig saw on the table to soak up the few moments while we wait for the pen to heat up.
Banchory East Church
A journal of the life of the East Church through the personal memories and opinions of our members.
We post on Tuesday and Thursdays. but not always every week.