|Abid Ali, woodworking instructor|
Abid Ali, a sprightly tennis coach in his mid-Forties, can rightfully claim to be India's first DIY woodworking instructor. An avid woodworker himself, Abid has been instrumental in getting several people interested in woodworking. His story is best told in his own words:
What prompted you to become a DIY woodworking instructor?
I belong to a farming family and always saw my father and my uncles doing a lot of DIY stuff at home and at the farm. There were always tools around to tinker with. At 14, my uncle who is in England and an engineer by profession, got me some woodworking tools as a gift - a Stanley plane, a saw, two C clamps, a hammer, measuring tape and a combination square. He taught me the basics of woodworking and that's how I got hooked.
How qualified are you in woodworking?
I have no formal education in woodworking; I don't hold any degree or diploma. What I have is years of experience doing things with wood and tools. That is what I try and share with whoever wants to learn DIY and woodworking. The only reason to get into teaching was to help newcomers enjoy and learn woodworking. This is a way to share my passion for wood and tools and building things by hand. I also wanted to dispel the common misconception that woodworking is mainly about furniture making and that there isn't much that can be built unless you have a huge workshop.
|Abid's home workshop|
What is your background and what do you otherwise do?
I am a tennis coach by profession and have been teaching for over 25 years. I've been married for 14 years and don't have children. I was born and brought up in Delhi and moved to Gurgaon in 2003 when we bought a house there. That is when I made a dedicated work area for myself in the back balcony.
Do you think there are enough people in India interested in DIY woodworking?
I have seen a steady rise in the number of people wanting to get into DIY, especially women. It's a small but enthusiastic group.
What is the biggest challenge faced by aspiring DIY woodworkers in India?
There is a lot of interest in DIY and woodworking but the biggest challenge the DIY group faces is that they don't know how to get started and where to get tools and materials. They don't know if there are any classes for woodworking, what projects to take up to improve skills, etc.
I mostly teach private classes, but am not against group sessions either. However, I believe that ultimately you have to set up a work area or workshop somewhere in your house if you are going to pursue the hobby, so I help my students to identify and setup their work area. I also help them with tool procurement.
I start my class with an assessment of their level of knowledge of woodworking; then move to safety aspects; tool introduction and care; give them information on what kind of man made materials (plywood, MDF, particle board etc) are available; how solid wood is milled, seasoned and stored; how to calculate, select and buy solid wood, how to prepare a cut list; and the different characteristics of wood (soft wood, hardwood) species available in India.
|Pencil box: typical student project|
Who are attracted by DITY woodworking?
My students come from varied backgrounds. For example, Payal is a lawyer who wanted to try her hand at woodworking and DIY. She's very innovative and creative, having made a number of projects with just a handful of tools. Sanjive is an architect who has always been fascinated with wood. He likes to work on complex projects and takes his time with them, instead of working to a deadline. Sudhir is a retired CEO who pursued his passion for working along with his career. He collected a lot of tools during his travels abroad. He enjoys sharing his work by making gift items for friends, loves to work by dead line, and is a real perfectionist. He is mostly learning how to use hand tools from me. Most of my students came in touch with me through Swheta who has conducted summer workshops for children at Epicentre, Gurgaon. When I teach, it feels like I am helping a friend - it's a great feeling to see someone start their DIY or woodworking journey.
|Bench hook: first project for beginners|
Could you briefly tell us about three projects beginning woodworkers could take up?
The three projects that I like are a Bench hook, because it's simple to make but involves good measuring and marking techniques and is a very handy sawing aid; a Tray, as it will involve mixing mediums - solid wood with ply or MDF and is a good utility or gift item; and lastly a small box, as all cabinet work is ultimately box making. It gives a very good idea of joinery, assembly, hardware fitting, accurate cutting, finishing etc.
6 February 2016