Tuesday, 15 November 2011

We Had a Woodwork Teacher called him "Bulldog" Leese

After our formative year at the small village school, it came as a shock to mix with such huge groups of kids, (over 600) a big proportion town kids, some showing aggression to us village kids.
But we soon realised that they could only do that when they out numbered us, and one good BOOO at them was enough to stand them back..

We had always been used to working in school in one classroom, but here we all had to up sticks and move round to specialist classrooms that dealt with a particular subject. The classes I liked most were the woodwork and metalwork classes, although the two teachers could not have been more different.

Harry Nuttall was the metalwork teacher, he always seemed to me to be a bit short sighted as he wore heavy thick lens glasses, and a brown smock, he showed us how to mark out with a scribe in sheet metal, the first thing to make was a round washer and a square washer, going along the scribe marks with the centre punch making a row of small dots to file the metal down to the size marked.

Then we made a fire poker with a loop top to hang it up, progressing on to a brass toasting fork, and on to make a fancy bowl out of copper, first rubbing it with soap the heating it to soften it until the soap went black, more heat and it would melt. Next we hammered it with a planishing hammer on a leather cushion full of sand, gently hammering round and round and starting to hollow the centre. Rub with soap again and soften it again, repeating until it was rely hollowed out. Then we cut a bit of round brass rod and formed it into a circle and soldered it in the bottom so it would stand firm, and the same again round the top edge and the finished thing was buffed up and highly polished on an electric mop.

Mr Leese was the woodwork teacher, and because he wore a permanent scowl we called him Bulldog Leese. He showed us how to use a set square and scribe and how to saw a piece of wood following the pencil marks. Not being used to sharp saws we had the habit of putting pressure on the blade as you worked like cutting logs at home, but with his saws we were told in no uncertain terms that the weight of the saw was all that was needed. We learned how to make all the popular joint and dovetails and to match one lump of wood to fit exactly into the other then glue to make a firm elbow.

Some kids just could not get the idea of sawing straight, and Bulldog would not let them progress until they could. The same when using the plane, to keep it flat on the timber right to the end, and not let it tip as it went over the far end. Chisels of all sizes (he had twenty of every tool needed in woodwork lessons), these were kept in tall cupboards at the back of the class room hanging in rows on the inside of the doors.

Mortas and tenan joints were carved out with chisels so sharp and almost too dangerous for kids to use. Again there was always one or two who just could not do the job no matter how they tried, and this wound him up into such a rage. In fact to impress on us who was boss and who we had got to listen to he threw a chisel from where he stood at the front of the class, at the cupboard on the back wall in his frustration so hard it jarred like a dagger in the door. Nowadays he would have been dragged in front of the courts and suspended on full pay indefinably, but it was his way of making sure we listened.

At the ‘big' school we had metal work and woodwork these were our favourite lessons. You learnt very quickly with Bulldog Leese

We Had a Woodwork Teacher (1950 ish)

We had a woodwork teacher, we called him Bulldog Leese,
Had stern face and bad temper, no one dare to tease,
If he could not get class attention, throw a chisel hard,
Hit the back wall cupboard, like a dagger stuck and jarred.

All the class it stood and quivered dare not cross his path,
The respect was thrust upon you, dare not stir his wrath,
No one liked his lessons, even those who could push a plane,
Perfection in this man and all his tools, but he was a bloody pain.

Owd Fred

Knowledge and timber shouldn't be much used till they are seasoned.
Oliver Wendell Holmes.

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