Occupation of a musician during Corona Lockdown Gordon Mackay

Having been born into a musical family, I really wasn’t given much choice as to what path my career would take.  My late father was not only a Professor of Music, but before we moved to South Africa had, in his time, played violin with The Birmingham City Orchestra and  later, The London Symphony Orchestra.

He taught violin and viola and wrote a number of tutorial books that are still being used to this day in music schools and private institutions.

So beginning with violin lessons at age five and piano at age six my destiny was preordained!

When I entered High School in Port Elizabeth, among the usual subjects like History, Geography, Latin etc., there was Music, Art and Woodwork. Even though I say so myself, I did rather well at those latter three.   My achievements with the remaining subjects left a lot to be desired – I hated school, as we shall now see one of the main reasons why.

When I graduated to Standard 7 (Grade 9 in today’s parlance), I was given a choice between Music, Art or Woodwork. Why can’t I drop History, Science, Biology or anything I pleaded. There was of course no question about whether I would continue with Music or not. I mean, the fact that Beethoven was born in 1770 is of the utmost importance to the manner in which I organize my everyday chores…

So as a result, my woodworking was left alone for years, I dabbled in the odd sketch/drawing here and there and of course continued with the music.              

Over time I have built up a fairly comprehensive collection of woodworking tools and have constructed a number of pieces of furniture for the family, including a pair of bedside cabinets, a headboard , kitchen cupboards etc.  I would like to think my “skills”, for want of a better word, originated in Standard 6 (grade 8) with my Woodwork teacher – a Mr. Anderson.   Amazing that his name just popped into my head!  I remember a few of my other schoolteachers with the type of reverence reserved for people like Hitler…

The remainder of my woodworking ability has been self taught and later with the advent of the Internet, good old Google!

About twelve years ago, I was buying some wood for a project and found a pile of off cuts of some special woods. I returned home with Yellow Wood, Oak, Pin Oak, Oregon and a few other bits. I wasn’t sure what I would do with them, but I knew they would be good for something or other.

So, as I mentioned, it was about twelve years back and I decided that these off cuts could be turned into a rather nice looking bathroom cabinet – our existing cabinet was plastic, old and not particularly attractive; it was in the bathroom when we bought the house. Mind you, so was the studio floor, but that’s another story…

I cut all the pieces to size and here was the plan:                          Top – Pin Oak, Base – Yellow Wood, Sides – Oregon, Middle support – Oregon,  Doors – Yellow Wood and Oak. I made the doors and neatly stacked all the pieces, including the doors, on a shelf in the garage. Periodically I would glance at this collection of neatly positioned wood pieces and think, I must get that sorted.

Fortunately, I am married to a very understanding and patient lady who did not constantly inquire as to when her bathroom cabinet would be finished. One thing after another and the good old cabinet was more or less forgotten about!

About a year ago, I drew up a list of things that I would like to get finished and of course, not quite at the top of the list was the old bathroom cabinet.

Looking back, I think the main problem was that I was not sure how to finish the project. I had the plan in my head and that was all.

                                Along comes Covid 19 and Lockdown.

Music came to an abrupt end for everyone! No gigs, rehearsals, shows – nothing!!

Suddenly, and it was suddenly, we all had an inordinate amount of time available.

Where was that list?

I found the wood still neatly stacked where I had left it all those years ago, and began placing all the pieces together and discovered one of the Oregon sides was missing! I searched the entire garage, the shed – everywhere. Where on earth had I put it and more to the point, why was it moved?!

I never found it and of course, with lockdown, there was no way I could go looking for some more Oregon.                                                                                                                                    A couple of years ago Amy gave me some very nice wood (Philippine Mahogany), which I used to make a Loom for her. I still had a bit left over so I cut and laminated the pieces together and now the cabinet’s sides were going to be Philippine Mahogany. (Laminated is a fancy, expensive word for joining wood).

Everything was beginning to look good until I realized that I needed to varnish the insides before assembly. At that stage, the lockdown was nearing the end of the initial three weeks but there were rumours of extended time etc.  I found a tin of the varnish I use; Woodoc 25; gives a lovely Satin finish – as Laverne always says: it looks edibible. Except when I opened the tin it was old, with a solid skin over what was left of the varnish.   Must be my Scottish roots, but I thought: Dinna worry Jimmy, I’m sure we can make it work.

Well I managed the first coat and realized that this varnish was past the old sell by date, so I sent an email to Woodoc asking where I might be able to purchase a new tin during lockdown?   I received a reply from the General Manager informing me that I was basically out of luck till the lockdown level changd.  I felt most important receiving a prompt response from the Woodoc big chief until it dawned on me that like everyone else, he probably had an enormous amount of free time on his hands!

That night I was sorting through stuff in the garage and there on the one shelf, behind a box, was a brand new tin of Woodoc 25 that I’d bought and forgotten I had – too much stuff if you ask me… So there was the varnishing problem solved and as a result, the bathroom cabinet was varnished and finally finished!

It is probably the most unique cabinet ever with all the different woods and of course the length of time it took from start to finish.

Now, what shall I make next…

Editor’s note:  another Loom Gordon!!!

(Gordon made me a beautiful large stand alone loom that I am using to weave and create woven products – when not working on line etc.)