Peter Lloyd

The Old School House



December 2006

I know, I know, you're wondering what happened to September, October and November! Well nobody's perfect! I actually think I’ve done well managing to write something for 9 months. I’ll try and do better in 2007 – honest…

As 2006 draws to a close I suppose it’s time for reflection and looking back on 2006 but I have to admit that I’m far more interested in looking forward to 2007 rather than back to 2006.

I’ve been working this last week on a brand new box. Earlier in the year I was asked to make a ring box and a little reluctantly agreed. I liked the result but didn’t really develop the idea sufficiently so as to be able to make them in small batches. The idea of a little ring box though has totally refused to go away and in this funny little period between Christmas and New Year I’ve been working on a new design. It never ceases to amaze me how long it takes to work out a new design, but I’m getting there. So hopefully before too long I’ll have a new page on this web site (provided I can persuade my son to do it for me) dedicated to ring boxes. In fact I’d really like him to make me a Victory box page and a personalise-your-box page. The trouble is he’s in his final year of his degree course so the pressure is on. We shall see.

I’ve also got several boxes that have been commissioned for rather a long time so I really must get those done.

I must go. We’ve visitors coming and we’re off tomorrow night to see in the New Year in Allendale in Northumberland where traditionally the men of the village run around the village square with flaming barrels of tar balanced on their heads before tipping them onto a huge bonfire… It’s all true! I might even put a photo up if I manage to take any good ones.

August 2006

I have neglected my ramblings for far too long. Again.....

As I write I’m perched on a stool behind a display of my boxes. I’m in the courtyard of Somerset House in the heart of London. Inside a purpose built pavilion which is the new home of the Chelsea Crafts Fair – now called Origin, the public are wandering by. Some pausing, some passing compliments and one or two actually getting out their cheque (or check if you’re reading this in America) books. Though today I have to say there have been very few of these cheque book moments. And I’m a bit bored. Quite a lot bored really, the gaps between the cheque book moments are too long and I’m just not very good at smooching the visitors. I’m not very good at small talk, somebody has just told me “your boxes are beautiful and clever” – all I could think to say was “thank you very much” – doesn’t really move the conversation along does it….In fact there’s somebody right now and I’m sure she’s trying to decide between one box and another but she doesn’t want to catch my eye so I don’t feel I should intrude. My attitude is that I’m here if she wants to talk or ask questions but if she doesn’t then that’s fine too. So right now I’m trying to look busy writing this and blending into the wall.

And now it’s tomorrow – or today depending on how you look at it. And not only did the lady yesterday make up her mind and buy a box but I sold another a few minutes later. So today I really must be more positive. I’m sure somehow that sitting behind my work with positive and optimistic thoughts makes people much more likely to buy boxes. Although quite why what goes on deep in my own brain should affect anything or anybody I’m not sure. Perhaps it’s all to do with aura. Maybe we’re all constantly sending and receiving signals on wave lengths we don’t even know exist. I’d better stop there I think.

So what else has been happening since I last hammered away on the keyboard – I wish I could hammer away. I’ve never mastered touch typing and really wish I could – but that’s another story.

I have a moral problem. A lady approached me after church and said – you make boxes don’t you. I want a box for a Christmas present for a friend of mine whose dog has died so would you make one for me, and perhaps put the dog's name on it too? The trouble is I’m absolutely certain she expects to pay about a quarter of the price of my cheapest box. Making something by hand to standards I aim for takes time, and time in the western world in which I live is expensive stuff. So do I knock her out a poor quality box as fast as I can and charge the sort of money she expects. – I don’t really want to do that because that puts something that’s not very good out there with my name on it. Or do I give her a realistic price which I think she would find horribly expensive. Or do I just treat it as a favour and make her something for what she can afford (or for nothing) and risk other people asking for the same? Surely I can’t means test my customers and charge what they can afford? At the time I was a coward and told her I’d have to think about it.

Slipping back into the present for the moment. It does annoy me when a group of friends meet in the isles of one of these shows and then settle down and stand with their backs to my stand and have a long and involved conversation effectively blocking my entire display. Gripe gripe moan moan. What happened to positive? Time for a cup of tea I think.

Somebody’s just stopped by who bought a box from me in 1994! And they’re still enjoying it and using it. I like hearing from them (the boxes that is); it’s as if they send me the odd Christmas card to let me know they’re well and happy………

July 2006

July 2006

And of course I didn’t need to panic at all because I didn’t sell nearly as many as last year so I had plenty of boxes! I wonder why it wasn’t such a good show sales-wise as last year. Maybe it was me. I know I started off in a bad mood. On the way down to Oxford I scraped the hired van across an innocuous looking yew bush. Unbeknown to me there were some very solid branches concealed under the wispy fronds and the side of the van got seriously caved in. £500.00 excess was lost in an instant. I was a bit cross. Who knows, maybe that affected the whole of the rest of the show. It was certainly good to be there though. The standard was as high as ever and, as always happens left me feeling very humble. So if you missed Art in Action this year – make sure you get there next year!

Good news! Well good news for all those hundreds of woodworkers out there who have asked me where I bought my miniature sash cramps. I’ve been replying for years now that they’re no longer made. I’ve just found them again! They’re in the new Axminster Power Tool catalogue – - They’re called Japanese Hatakane brass bar clamps and for a mere £8.45 for a pair of 300mm I think they’re great!

Not only did I manage to spend (or throw away) a large amount of money on the way down to Art in Action but I spent nearly £800 on the way back as well. I’m beginning to understand why I don’t make any money…… I was offered some wood. Some ripple sycamore at quite an attractive price. Mainly I think because it wasn’t pure white. It was a bit streaky with yellow bits in it. But I like it like that. So I bought it, and of course while I was there I saw some very attractive tiger oak and some rather nice brown oak. In fact they were both from the same tree – the tiger oak was from higher up. Caused by beef steak fungus so far as I know. So I bought some of that too. The only slight snag is I’ve nowhere to put it…

June 2006

June 2006

Oh dear, I knew this would happen. I’m falling behind. I started out the year full of good intentions too. I must try to catch up with myself.

June was spent frantically getting things finished for Art in Action. I absolutely had to finish ‘twins’ which was a box very similar to the ‘skeleton’ box featured in Making Heirloom Boxes but instead of one tower of drawers this one had two interconnecting towers. I’ll put up a photo of it soon. I had actually promised this piece for last years Art in Action but I didn’t get it finished in time so I felt I really couldn’t give them a load of excuses this time. And then there were boxes to sell. I had about ten desk boxes, six ‘back hinge’ jewellery boxes and three ring boxes all on the bench at the same time – oh, and a couple of commissioned boxes too. Why didn’t I just work on one, or at least one group at a time? Partly I think because I believed that I had to have desk boxes there and I had to have the jewellery boxes finished, but partly too because I think I work best under pressure. There’s far more chance of my staying up late at night if there’s a risk of not having enough boxes to take and a chance of another ten! So I work on a big group and try to fool myself into thinking that this time I will be able to squeeze the full quart into the pint space.


I didn’t succeed of course. Two days before the show and I hadn’t even finished ‘twins’ never mind the ten desk boxes! ‘Twins’ proved a very tricky box. It was more like an exercise in cross halving joints than a box! But it did get finished. And for the rest I managed two desk boxes and two jewellery boxes.

May 2006

May 2006

It’s mid June already and I haven’t added May yet! Where does the time go?

Why is it that when I’m busy sanding boxes I’m thinking to myself I must include that in my ramblings or – that’s a useful little tip I could mention next time – and then when I’m sitting in front of this computer my mind goes completely blank……Senility maybe.

Back in May I had a visit from a couple who wanted me to make a jewellery box for their daughter’s twenty first – which I was very happy to do. I showed them lots of different wood and they selected a piece of rather unusual burr sycamore. They took a photo of the raw wood and the deal was struck. I decided to make it along with a number of other boxes in some of the last pieces of rather spectacular burr oak I’ve been using and finally finished the batch just before heading off to Andover for the Project Workshops show. Which was quite a successful show. I sold several boxes and some good crack with some of the other exhibitors.

After the show I diverted to Norwich to get some more Victory oak which I needed a large piece offor a stationery box I’ve been commissioned to make. A long days driving but I made it back home some time around midnight still mostly awake.

The following day I had to catch up on the emails . There was one from somebody wanting to know where their birthday present was. They had a daughter who was 21 but no present. I had a horrible sick feeling in my stomach. They wanted the burr sycamore box. And I’d sold it! I just don’t know what I was thinking of. Why did I even take it? I’d sold it! How could I be that stupid? What could I say? They’d photographed the wood. I just had to come clean and confess. Fortunately I’ve got some more of the sycamore but I still feel horribly bad about it.

To add insult to injury when I came to put the card details of the people I’d sold boxes to at the show one of the cards was rejected because I’d forgotten to ask for the security number on the back the card and I’ve had no response at all to the letters I’ve sent to the buyer. I’m sure I’ll get my money eventually but I am a bit miffed!

I got a call a couple of weeks back from somebody who wanted a ring box. Which is something I have never made. in fact I’ve tried half a dozen times or more to make a small box - some that I can sell at a craft fair for £40 or so and there’s a shelf above me that’s full of small boxes that I’m just not happy with. So my inclination was to say no. in fact I think I did say no but then I said yes. She was so nice. I just couldn’t refuse. So I dreamt up a design and spent several days experimenting and playing with ideas and I have to say I quite liked the result. The only slight snag was that when I showed it to my wife she hated it. Normally she loves what I make - well she usually says it’s quite nice but she really didn’t like my ring box. I was totally deflated. I had another lined up ready to make. I’d cracked the problems, overcome the difficulties, all I had to do was chose the woods. Well it was made so I emailed a photo to the lady who’d persuaded me to make it. And she loved it. It was fantastic! Just perfect! I think there are two morals to that tale: believe in yourself – which is easier said than done - and it’s far better to have loving and hating than indifference.