Peter Lloyd

The Old School House


Tel: (0044) 016977 46698


June 2010

June 2010

I'm beginning to think that there is more to box making than meets the eye. Recently we have had high powered meetings over endless cups of tea, deliveries in the middle of the night and rushed deliveries for boxes to be taken to the other side of the world.

First there was the saga of a large copper bolt from the Cutty Sark. An engineering firm in London who are undertaking the restoration of the Cutty Sark wanted to present the bolt to someone and needed a box to put it in... This person was flying out to Hong Kong in three days so could it be done "now"? "Of course" says Peter who seems to say yes to everything and then thinks about the consequences afterwards! The bolt was then rushed up the motorway by Carly who arrived here at one o' clock in the morning. I think we could have started some gossip in the village if anyone had seen her arrive at that time and hand over a brown paper package to Pete who then looked furtively up and down the road before closing the door.  The next two days were spent frantically making the box from scratch but it did get off in time.

Then it was on to the next deadline which has to be completed in the next two days - perhaps it's because we live in a society that wants everything immediately but in the case of Pete's boxes so much time and thought go into them that it is hard to work it that way. I went into his workshop yesterday to find him staring at his bench deep in thought. There was large piece of paper on the bench covered in illegible scrawls, lines, maths, drawings and covered with an assortment of tools. It made no sense to me whatsoever but then I'm not a boxmaker.

I will stick to the less complicated life of my hens who had a happy time recently when Nelson the cockerel decided to go and live next door with another harem. He's back now though and they're a bit fed up as they can live very happily without his demands. The gossip in the village is that the peacock has been banished and will be leaving us soon for another more tolerant home. I think we'll miss him in an odd kind of way but he is very noisy.


April 2010

April  2010

I don't think that Peter is ever going to be competing with Samual Pepys as his diary keeping is far from impressive. I think it all needs taking in hand and maybe I should try and keep up with it now.

I should introduce myself - I'm Chris, Peter's long suffering box widow wife who has recently taken the plunge, given up my day job and started working with Pete. The job description  mainly involves keeping some semblance of order in the office, answering emails, making the tea, packing up boxes, making the tea, ordering supplies, making the tea - you get the idea. It's a varied role in that I sometimes make coffee....  I work just in the mornings which allow me time to get out into the garden, try and grow some vegetables and chase the peacock that continues to terrorise my hens. In fact he's got a wife now and she comes and joins in and they both eat all the hen's food. Poor Nelson, the cockerel isn't able to stand up to them and hides in the hen house.

Anyway, back to boxes. It's surprising how interesting they can be and it never ceases to amaze me what a variety of uses they can be put to and what gets put into them! The people who buy them are universally nice and interested in the process and end up really loving the boxes. One man admitted last week that he keeps his cufflinks in his wife's jewellery box just so he can open it occasionally and give it a stroke!

We've agreed that I should get on with the office work and leave Peter undisturbed - he gets a bit cranky if I pop my head around the corner to ask a question so I'm really trying. So, if you do call and I say "he's in a meeting" you know why!

Meanwhile I will try and keep up with this diary and let you know what he's up to and hopefully it won't be two years until the next entry!

October 2008

I thought I’d do another day-in-the-life-of. Hopefully it won’t be exactly the same as the last. I wouldn’t be that surprised if I went off on a tangent now and again……..

Up at around 0630 this morning, pot of tea made and off down to the computer. Check on the night’s mail - mostly junk but a couple of interesting ones that need a response. I really should ‘walk’ to work. I heard of someone yesterday who regularly walked about five miles a day as part of their journey to work and all I do is 20 metres! I know, compared with being squished into a tube train or sat in a six mile tailback due to road works I’m pretty lucky. No, very lucky. But I’m a bit worried about how little exercise I get. I really should go for a brisk half hours walk before making the tea... I do have a fair bit of self discipline – but not that much!

One of the first things to do this morning is to change the ‘news’ on the home page of this site. I made a rod for my own back when I started that because having ‘news’ that is months out of date is, I think worse than having no news at all but it is sometimes difficult to know what to say that’s new and exciting or even vaguely interesting! So it has to be done.

0820 I’ve done the ‘news’ not terribly inspiring but it’s done so I can tick that off the things-to-do-list.

I’m fed up with typing. It’s into the workshop for me.

1100 Well that was a couple of productive hours. I’ve finally finished a sewing box which I’ve had on the go since last October. I think it was promised for June. I’m not really sure why I’ve kept putting it off. Possibly one reason is that I’ve badly underestimated for it. I think it should have been about twice the price I’ve asked. You’d think that after all these years I’d get these commissions right but I don’t. I make the mistake of comparing them to the boxes I make in small batches and then just adding a little. Which looks fine from the customers point of view but these one off commissions probably take at least twice as long as something similar that I’ve done many times before and they always cause me great amounts of angst. It’s very tempting to say - no more commissions – I’ll go for the easy life and keep making what I’m familiar with and indeed what I know people will buy. But I think it’s important to throw yourself out of your comfort zone at regular intervals. Only then can you grow. Down the no more commissions line lies boredom; I think…..Certainly stagnation and a rut. ‘If you’re not living on the edge you’re taking up too much space’.

1405 after breakfast I tidied up the workshop and then sorted out the lids for the jewellery boxes on the bench. Matched each one to its box – the lids and boxes get separated after the wood is first cut – then planed one face and one edge of each lid. There’s several burr oak, a couple of ripple sycamore, a couple of burr elm and a couple of spalted beech. I think all the burr oak are sold already! Believe it or not that was all I got done in about two and a half hours! What was I doing I wonder? I sometimes think I should get a time and motion expert to tell me where all my time is going. Lunch was eggs – again... I shouldn’t grumble. Christine’s recently started to keep hens so we do have a ready supply of very good eggs. She does rather go on about them though. (Don’t worry – she never reads this)

1630 and still nothing done! After lunch I went down to the shop to get something to eat tonight – we’ve got friends coming -, I put some washing on the line then answered the phone to somebody who’d seen my work and wanted an 18 th birthday present for their daughter. Which meant taking some pics of boxes which I had on the shelf and emailing them to her. And then a paragliding friend called by just to say hi and of course we had to have a cup of tea and chew the cud a bit and now it’s nearly five o clock, my friends will be here soon so that’s just about it for work today! I’ll do better tomorrow – promise.

September 2008

Have I really written nothing since last December! I'm ashamed of myself.

Well you're not going to get a great deal now I'm afraid because I'm off to teach a boxmaking course in Maine USA tomorrow at the crack of dawn (actually a good bit before dawn....) and I haven't packed anything yet...or finished the box I promised I’d get delivered...

Isn't it a fantastic feeling though when you finally get to the bottom of the paperwork pile. And why did I put it off for so long??

I'll write something about Maine when I get back. - Well I'll try - maybe I'll do the paperwork pile first.

December 2007

December 2007

A while back I remember saying that maybe I should tell a typical day. So this morning, because recently I’ve been wondering where all the time goes I thought I’d write up a day in the life of a box maker.

At about quarter past seven I’m into the office with a pot of tea set the computer running and get the workshop fire lit, though for mid December it’s pretty mild still. See to the nights emails – i.e. Dump most of them in the computer bin. I check the junk folder just in case something legitimate shows up in there and dump all the ads from dubious sounding chemists and girls in Russia during the course of which the pot of tea is finished.

Suddenly three quarters of an hour have passed – still, the desk, both physical and electronic, is clear which always gives me a great feeling.

Into the workshop. By now it’s just about light outside.

Drill some holes in two strap hinges and then get the bench clear of tools before I start up the arbortech which I’ve been using a lot recently. The shavings from an arbortech can rapidly bury tools. I’ve just bought the ‘professional’ version of the arbortech. I’m not sure that it’s that much better than the original but my old blade has been sharpened rather a lot so maybe it was time to retire it.

I do like sycamore. It seems to cut so satisfyingly. Although maybe that’s just in contrast to the burr oak and burr elm I’ve been working with recently.

Written on the side of this box I came across moisture reading dated 2004! It was 12% then and it still is now so I guess it’s fine to use.

It’s now quarter past nine and I’ve just wasted twenty minutes looking at an email and website for commission a I was wondering whether it would be worth joining such an organisation. Certainly at the moment – probably not because I’m getting as much work as I can handle from my web site but there’s always the fear of it drying up. Actually the time looking at the site wasn’t wasted at all because I really enjoyed leafing through a couple of dozen pics of Fred Bayer’s work. Fantastic sculptural furniture with a sense of humour!

Back to the bench. Classic FM is on the radio and every time they play a carol I wonder how on earth I’m going to get five boxes finished. They’re all well under way but two of them have a lot of trays and I haven’t even started those yet.

A final check on the rotating of the two hinges then glue in the pivots.

Now’s a good time for breakfast – to give that glue time to go off.

Breakfast is at my desk – quick check for emails. The worst emails are those which for one reason or another I’m not sure about. They tend to stay in the inbox while I think about them and somehow they create a dam behind which others gather and very quickly I’ve got a screen full of unanswered mail all because of one that I couldn’t make a quick decision on.

Looking at the shelves of boxes here in the office it’s occurred to me that there’s a box that I’ve just got back from a gallery that I haven’t put up onto my site yet – so it’s a quick trip into cyber space to put some text in there to say that it’s here and available.

Then the phone goes and it’s Andy Crawford wanting to talk cutters and machines and routers and things. It’s good to talk to someone else who’s in the same situation – boxes to finish before the 25th that is.

It’s 1100 – back to the bench. Working down the grits of sandpaper on the box lid and hinges of the sycamore chest. All pieces are separate at the moment – I’ll assemble everything once it’s been oiled and waxed. 1230 now and I'm back in the office – phone again – my son this time to wish me a happy birthday for yesterday……… while I’m in the office the postman has been so I’ll see if he’s bought anything exciting. A swatch of fabric from Soho Silks including a nice powder blue that would be a bit of a new one for me.( I normally go for dark and rich colours); a letter containing a bounced-back email. – I thought I’d fixed that problem! Why do some emails bounce back and using the same address others get through? - someone who had been given one of my boxes a year or so ago and now wants one for each of his grand daughters to keep their jewellery as they grow up. And a bill from Barclays merchant services – one o the expenses of being able to accept credit cards is that I have to pay nearly 3%to Barclaycard! I object to that – big time! I feel they (the banks) win every which way. Which is why I ask for a debit card now – at least then it’s fixed charge of 40p per transaction. Although they recently wrote to me telling me that I didn’t seem to be paying them much each month so they are going to charge me a minimum amount – whether I used them or not. I think that’s pernicious. How would it be if the grocery store decided to charge me whether or not I bought anything! – rant over. (I’m glad I got it off my chest though). It’s 1245 and I must get back to work.

I’ve just taken some pics of what I’m up to in the workshop and when this gets onto my site I’ll put one of those up too– you’re getting the full works here.

1430 now and I’ve had lunch – back at my desk; skimmed a couple of emails, taken a phone call, replied to the email that came by post – I think the machines like to remind us who’s in charge from time to time - and filed away the receipt from Barclaycard - they don’t need actually paying; they just help themselves from my account………

Must get back into the workshop. I was going to say back to work. I don’t think of time spent at the desk as work but I suppose it is.

Suddenly it’s 1730! Where did the afternoon go? Well I did completely sand a large box then at about 1530 I thought I’d nip down to the shop – we’ve got a brilliant co-op/post office in the village here – 2 minutes away and it sells everything! We’d run out of tea and it was a Friday so the local weekly paper was to fetch. It was just getting dark and I started to think about our central heating system which had more or less stopped working. I was sure there was an air lock in the system somewhere. So I needed a hose pipe – which was in the garden and it was better to do it in the daylight. So I bled radiators and let out water all to no avail – then sprung a leak which meant more tightening of nuts and bleeding of systems and then it coughed. And gurgled and spluttered. It sounded like an enormous belch. I’d cleared it! And it started working! Good news indeed. I was sure I’d end up having to call a plumber. Then Thomas rang about setting up a paypal account for me – I’m going to sell the ring boxes directly off the site. And now it’s 1730. But Chris, my wife, is going out tonight straight from work (a Christmas do) so I shall carry on. I’ve got another large pivot hinged box to sand.

1830 and the large box is sanded – on to a desk box that’s been ordered for Christmas but there’s a good programme on radio 4 so I’ll tidy up the workshop while I’m listening to that – no noise of machines. Then it’s 1900 and down to the other end of the house to cook some supper.

2000 – Back to my desk and I think I’ll do some paper work. Somebody rang this evening wanting a box for his wife so I’ll put the card details through and do the other various paperwork associated with that.

Well, that was where it stopped. I scribbled all of that down on sheets of paper on December 7th and nearly a month later I’ve put it onto the computer. Not perhaps a totally typical day but certainly a day… maybe I’ll do another next month.