Life as an Amateur Woodworker #1: UK to Colombia, the ups and the downs.

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Blog entry by PhilBello posted 10-14-2013 11:02 AM 4571 reads 0 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Life as an Amateur Woodworker series Part 2: The problems of a 'Micro Workshop' »

I retired from the UK Police in 2006 after 30 years, and I think I only survived that period of time, because of my love of woodwork, I class myself as a late starter, I used to tinker with bits and pieces, but it wasn’t until I was 21 and my first Father-in-law who was a Chippy, gave me lessons and a few tools, that I decided that woodwork was definitely the hobby for me.

In July 2006 I left the Police, and immediately moved to Spain, where I had had property for a number of years, I was fortunate enough to have a large and well fitted out workshop:

My first marriage ended at the age of 28yrs, and my second soon after I moved to Spain, after 22 years, because my then wife decided that family came first, and at the last minute, had a change of heart, four years later we went our separate ways, with no hard feelings, but as a result I spent more and more time doing what I loved, and that was woodwork.

I had kept photos of all my projects, but being a bit naive, only backed up some, and when my computer blew up, I lost a majority of my portfolio, but I still have the memories! Those photos I did have were in thumbnail mode, so I won’t try to put them on here, but I turned my hand to most things, bits of furniture, children’s toys, decorations, garden structures, and enjoyed every minute of it. Here are just a few:

I was very lucky that Spain was so close to the UK, I made two trips with car and trailer and emptied my workshop of everything I didn’t already have over there. I had the best excuse ever for spending all my time in the workshop during summers, it was nice and cool, and too hot to be outside.

I did a lot of scroll-saw work:

As well as making Planters and pyrography.

A Porch for my first storey back door

I even got roped in by Eduardo a local musician to make an Electric Guitar, I hasten to add, I was only responsible for the woodwork!

I was glad when this eventually came to an end, Eduardo spent his time taking photos from every angle, and I was ready to throw it out of the door! (the camera that is!)

I also helped out if anyone needed any furniture repairs, or some woodwork done on the cheap, it kept me occupied, and I enjoyed it, it certainly wasn’t for the money… there wasn’t any, except maybe for materials!

In late 2011, I decided that living alone, was not the life for me, and started looking for a soulmate, she found me, but lived in Colombia.

This lead to difficult decisions, I was a retired with no ties, and no children, she had a good job, and was close to her family, so it was a decision made for me, I couldn’t afford to ship more than a few clothes and sentimental items, so everything had to be sold, including my whole workshop, and it went for pennies!

I arrived in Colombia on a permanent basis in January 2012,( having previously visited) we were married six weeks later, and moved ‘temporarily’ into a first floor apartment, only we are still there, because there was a problem with the paperwork on my house in Spain, as there often is there, hopefully the sale goes through later this month.

I have persevered without much to do with woodwork, since moving here, with the exception of a bit of scroll-saw work, and filled my time, making lists of properties to view, as time progressed, those lists changed as properties were sold, and I was becoming depressed. I had been buying tools as and when I could afford them, but I was just storing them still in their boxes, until I became a YouTube addict, and I follow a number of excellent Carpenters on there, one in particular inspired me to get off my backside, and do something about it, and that was Izzy Swan…Thanks Izzy!.

I decided that first floor or not, I had put up with screaming kids, rowing Adults, horrendous music etc. for nearly two years from my neighbours, that I would turn our storeroom into a ‘micro-workshop’, and by that I mean small! because all the boxes from Spain, as well as what we have accumulated, had to stay there. With a bit of reorganisation, I had half the room, so built a 5’ x 2’ workbench.

I then didn’t have any excuse, I decided I would fill my time making jigs and home made tools, ready for when I eventually had a full sized workshop again, so that was that.

My first project was to make a temporary table saw, using my workmate, scrollsaw, and a half sheet of plywood, after a couple of hiccups, it is now installed and earning it’s keep.

Then it was time to start making something, I could use in the future, so the first project was one of Izzy’s a Hold-down Toggle Clamp

From that I moved on to C-Clamps made from Plumbing fittings, not strictly woodwork I know, but something I am always in need of, and for this I followed Cosmas Bauer on YouTube for this. I have finished all except the handles.

I am going to cheat, and buy a replacement spade shaft, cut it into sections, drill it, and attach with epoxy, since my saw blade can only be used at 90º at the moment, this is the easier option.

That just about brings me up to date with my efforts, I will add to the Blog as I progress, and hopefully before long, move to a workshop, I can again work in, although I know I will never be able to afford to replace everything I sold off, however I have no regrets.

-- If you want the rainbow, you got to put up with the rain - Steven Wright

4 comments so far

View NH_Hermit's profile


394 posts in 3574 days

#1 posted 10-14-2013 11:37 AM

An interesting read. Thank you.

-- John from Hampstead

View JustJoe's profile


1554 posts in 2517 days

#2 posted 10-14-2013 04:24 PM

You seem to be a pretty innovative guy, it will be fun seeing what you build next. It would be nice if you stumbled on some decent sized space, but I get the feeling you could build just about anything just using what you’ve got. What’s the market like for tools and lumber in Columbia compared to England or Spain?

-- This Ad Space For Sale! Your Ad Here! Reach a targeted audience! Affordable Rates, easy financing! Contact an ad represenative today at JustJoe's Advertising Consortium.

View PhilBello's profile


411 posts in 2445 days

#3 posted 10-14-2013 05:24 PM

Thank you both for your comments!
Just Joe, I certainly won’t be buying anywhere that either hasn’t got workshop space, or the space to put one. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately I have adopted the Colombian mentality towards prices, and they are not considered cheap, however when you convert back to £ or € the prices here are pretty reasonable, when you think the minimum wage here is only £123 per month, I guess they have to be cheaper.
I haven’t bought timber in the UK for many years now, but I suspect things are much cheaper here, you are looking at £28 for a sheet of 18mm ply, £4.20 for 3.2m of 2×4”.
One problem I find is sourcing tools, other than hand tools, many other quality tools are not readily available unless you pay a premium, because the workmen rather take their time and use hand tools, whether it be to dig a road, channel out a wall, or create something in wood, the end product is good, but you have to wait for it!!!!

-- If you want the rainbow, you got to put up with the rain - Steven Wright

View wyeth's profile


135 posts in 3706 days

#4 posted 10-22-2013 12:16 AM

I think woodwork has saved many a man’s sanity. You look like becomming a blogger to be followed.My story is very different yet in essence very similar. Cheers

-- David Australia

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